Sideshow Jim: Why Jim Harbaugh’s Shenanigans Won’t Get the Niners Anywhere


Feb 6, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Detail view of the Vince Lombardi Trophy during the Super Bowl most valuable player and winning head coach press conference at the Super Bowl XLVI media center at the J.W. Marriott. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

Jim Harbaugh is a bad joke.

The Niners are a classy organization and they deserve better than this face-making clown on their sideline. Did this team learn nothing after the disaster that was Mike Singletary? A fiery coach can improve the performance of his players; hell, under Singletary the team went 5-4 and 8-8 in his first two years. But not too long after, the inevitable happened. His act wore thin and the losing started. The coaches that burn brightest, burn out their players quickest. This constant on-the-edge style is draining, and it almost never wins in the playoffs.

If you think that I’m being too hard on “Savior Jim”, just ask yourself this: could you really see Bill Walsh or George Seifert acting like this goon?

If as a 49ers fan, you’re just tired of all the losing and want to rack up some cheap regular season wins, then by all means stand by your coach. However, if you really long for the golden age of San Francisco football, be honest; this just isn’t your guy. He might have stolen some wins with his theatrics during the last two years, but when things get their toughest the 49ers will be wishing for a level-headed coach to guide them into the emotional roller coaster that is the postseason.

Since the end of the New England Patriots’ mini-dynasty at the start of the millennium, there have been eleven different coaches to the reach the Super Bowl: Bill Cower (Pittsburgh Steelers), Mike Holmgren (Seattle Seahawks), Tony Dungy (Indianapolis Colts), Lovie Smith (Chicago Bears), Tom Coughlin (2) (New York Giants), Bill Belichick (2) (New England Patroits), Mike Tomlin (2) (Pittsburgh Steelers), Ken Whisenhunt (Arizona Cardinals), Sean Payton (New Orleans Saints), Jim Caldwell (Indianapolis Colts), and Mike McCarthy (Green Bay Packers).

When I look at that list two things stand out to me — one is the professional way those coaches went about their job, and the other is the legendary status of most of those franchises. The only coach on that list who would make faces, like Jim Harbaugh loves to do, is soon-to-be Hall of Famer Bill Cowher, and he had the Rooneys to watch over him. To reach that level of recognition and acclaim, you need to respect the history of the game and you need to respect your opponent. The side-line tantrums thrown by Harbaugh show how little he thinks of both. If the 49ers want to rival the Jets or Raiders in sideshow drama, they are well on their way. If they want to stand next to the Steelers, Giants, and Packers, then they need a new leader.

One of the better contrasts between these two coaching extremes can be observed most Sundays in the fall in the Bay Area. Turn on the San Francisco Giants game and watch the stoic Bruce Bochy lead the Black and Orange to victory with class and a hard glare. Then flip over to the Niners game and see Harbaugh throw his headset, jump up and down and make faces like a spoiled brat. Remember in 2010 when, after beating the Braves in game 4 and clinching the NLDS, the Giants and Bochy stood by to honor legendary Braves couch Bobby Cox? It showed respect and humility in victory. It was a good example for players and fans alike of the importance of integrity in sports. Now think about Harbaugh’s first memorable moment on the big stage in the NFL. In a picture of teeth-clenching, vein-popping moments to come,  he was seen shoving opposing coach Jim Schwartz after a big win in Detroit.

In the last couple of weeks, 49ers legend Steve Young has been one of the loudest voices trying to get the real refs back. Meanwhile, Jim Harbaugh is probably sad to see the replacements go. Jim’s childish ways were rewarded last week, when he managed to bully the scab refs them into giving him five second-half timeouts against the Vikings.

This weekend the Red and Gold will travel to New York. There, you’ll have an opportunity to gaze into the crystal ball and foresee the 49ers’ future with Harbaugh. All you have to do is look across the field — but be warned; the two time Super Bowl champ, Tom Coughlin won’t be standing there. Instead, your gaze will fall on the loud, overrated blowhard, Rex Ryan. He and his Jets are always in the news, but it’s rarely for good reasons. The New York Jets are a second-rate team with a first-rate ego. They are the figurative “little brother” making faces at the Patriots and Giants because, let’s face it, they just aren’t as respected or as well coached as the more “mature” teams. Like a real little brother, they crave attention, complain when things don’t go their way, and tattle to mommy at the drop of a hat.

The good news for the Niner faithful is that the Jets made two conference championships in Ryan’s first two years. Maybe the 49ers can too! After all, they won in his first year with a talented defense (that he inherited), and just enough offense to get by. They surprised their opponents in the playoffs with their fierce attacking ways, and after years of teasing their fans they looked like they had finally become Super Bowl contenders. The bad news is that, while the Jets are still hated as much now as they were when they were making playoff appearances, these days it has nothing to do with winning. And if Jim Harbaugh keeps up the side-show shenanigans, the Niners might be headed for the same bleak fate.