Is Jim Harbaugh on a hot seat?


by Ron Borges

Talk of Fame Network

Word circulating (or is it seeping?) out of San Francisco these days is that there may be a brewing uprising among the workers over the often overbearing coaching style of Jim Harbaugh. That is what happens when A) you get to the Big Dance or at least to the doorstep too many times and then step on your toes and B) talk and act as if you not only invented football but also invented the rules of life itself.

That is Jim Harbaugh in a nutshell, a coach who wears out his welcome faster than Terrell Owens. A lifer any where he goes he is not because he rubs too many people – both above him and below him – the wrong way. Then again he’s not paid to make friends, he’s paid to win games. That he has done every where he’s gone.

Harbaugh has led the Niners to three straight NFC title games and won one before losing the Super Bowl to his more affable older brother. That gives him some cache. But he also has only one more year left on his contract and has been accused of flirting with every good looking offer that walks by and winks. When one operates in that fashion, you begin to lose some of your credibility and air of superiority with the troops when things go bad, as they have certainly done lately.

The Niners have lost two straight and folded in the second half both times. In three games they have outscored opponents 59-16 in the first half and been outscored 52-3 in the second. Their point differential is +32 in the first quarter, +11 in the second, -18 in the third and -31 in the fourth. Those kind of numbers speak to one of two things: a lack of halftime adjustments, poor conditioning or both. Each is more the bailiwick of the coach than the players.

Having said that, the 49ers’ players would be well advised to worry less about their coach’s irksome personality and more about their own because they lead the league in penalties with 36 (including 12 last Sunday vs. Arizona), and many have been of the brain dead variety. A case in point was Anquan Bolden head butting an Arizona Cardinal and then arguing with Harbaugh on the sidelines about it after he was flagged for impersonating a woodpecker.

“He asked me a question, I answered a question,” Boldin snapped after that loss when asked about the exchange. “He said, ‘Could you come to me, or come to the ref’ (instead of head-butting)? I said, ‘Coach, I’ve gone to the ref on three different occasions. That’s not helping at all.’”

So getting flagged is?

Cornerback Chris Culliver was penalized in the same game for taunting, i.e. running his mouth, then claimed “I ain’t say nothing at all. I just told (the Cardinal player) I wasn’t having none, he wasn’t going to run me over or truck me or something like that.”

I thought he “ain’t say nothing at all?” When did saying something mean “ain’t say nothing at all?” whatever that means in English.

You don’t need a translator however to understand one thing: those are signs of slipping discipline, a kind of cancer that can quickly spread if Harbaugh can’t get it under control. He is facing a test now and it’s one that’s not bogus.

I have always believed Marv Levy performed one of the greatest coaching feats in history when he held the Buffalo Bills together through four straight losing trips to the Super Bowl because losing on the biggest stages can wear on a team, as it did with Andy Reid’s Eagles after four losing trips to the NFC title game and another in the Super Bowl.

Harbaugh has led his team to some form of the championship game three straight times – be it conference championship or Super Bowl – and lost all three. The result now, whether he knows it or not, is his players are facing a crisis of confidence – in him.

When you are outscored 52-3 in the second half of your first three games it speaks to many things. One is quarterback Colin Kapernick, who in the first quarter of games this season has thrown four touchdown passes with no interceptions or sacks but in the remaining three quarters over three games he has no touchdowns, three interceptions and six sacks.

But a larger problem may be that the 49ers have become a team feeling entitled to victory when the job is only half done, as well as a team either out of condition or unable to make quick adjustments to changing circumstances.

Harbaugh may be 37-13 in San Francisco but this team is 1-2 with an offense that is not scoring in the second half and a defense that has allowed nine field goals in the first 30 plays per game and eight touchdowns and a field goal in the final 37 plays per game.

Monday, as Harbaugh began to prepare to face the Philadelphia Eagles’ non-stop offense this Sunday, he said the penalties called on his team were justified. He also said he felt his coaching staff was doing a good job. Without directly saying it, he was blaming his players for what is going on.

Maybe he didn’t mean it that way but that’s how some of them will surely take it, which leads to a simple question about the root cause of the 49ers’ second-half collapses this season.

Are Jim Harbaugh’s players quitting on him before he quits on them?

Minnesota Vikings v San Francisco 49ers

Courtesy of San Francisco 49ers

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