Something has been bothering me about Jim Harbaugh, about the way he released QB Josh Johnson. After he and Trent Baalke cut down to 53 players, the media asked Harbaugh why he kept Tolzien as his third QB and why he let Johnson go. Harbaugh, as is his custom, said he did not want to compare the two QBs because inevitably someone gets diminished. I respect that. But Harbaugh did not see the big picture and now I understand how he blew it.

He didn’t have to compare them. He could have said, “This isn’t about Johnson. He’s a fine quarterback. We kept Scott because he has a strong pocket presence, he sees the whole field, he’s incredibly smart, he has a future.”

Something like that.

Harbaugh could and should have used the occasion to praise Tolzien who is the third QB and craves praise. The other Niners would have heard that and might have thought more of Tolzien. It was in everyone’s interest for Harbaugh to praise Tolzien at that point.

Harbaugh’s error was not what he didn’t say about Johnson. It was what he didn’t say about Tolzien.

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  1. Brett

    Slow day, huh? I’m sure Harbaugh, being a good coach, takes the time to pump up Scotty in private. Even if he didn’t, how much lower can a third string QB’s confidence possibly go? Is this really an issue or is it just a reason to take a shot at Harbaugh?

    September 3rd, 2012 12:48 pm

  2. Brady

    I definitely see your point, but Harbaugh strikes me as someone who tells players what he wants them to hear, rather than expecting them to hear it through the media. My guess is that Tolzien, and the other 52 players on the team all know that JH thinks very highly of him.

    September 3rd, 2012 1:05 pm

  3. Justin

    Mr. Cohn,

    I do not think you understand what your readers are interested in. We are interested in football related news. The fans do not care if Harbaugh blows an opportunity to praise a player or what ever games he plays with you guys to protect his team.

    What we care about are the things that affect wins and losses. You operate under the belief that the team gives a dam what Harbaugh says in the media.

    I think you criticize for attention because it is the only thing that makes you relevant.

    September 3rd, 2012 1:33 pm

  4. htwaits

    Others in your profession have seen a different explanation for keeping Tolzien over Johnson. The reason Harbaugh kept Tolzien may have little to do with the praise that you are suggesting that Harbaugh should have given.

    Is it possible that you crave negative Harbaugh topics?

    September 3rd, 2012 1:39 pm

  5. Brandon Conway

    I think you’re blowing this out of proportion Lowell. Tolzien spends hours every day around the coaching staff. I highly doubt a couple minutes of Harbaugh’s press conference where he didn’t go out of his way to overly praise him will make much difference compared to the literal days of conversation Tolzien’s had with the Harbaugh and the coaching staff the last couple months, not to mention all of last year.

    September 3rd, 2012 1:41 pm

  6. Streetglide

    You don’t know what was said behind closed doors Lowell-san. I respect Harbaugh’s commitment to his players; he will never throw anyone under the bus. And he did Johnson a huge favor by putting $350K in his pocket, coaching him up and featuring him in the last pre-season game.
    Tolzien may very well be (don’t you hate that construction? Why do I still use it?) a stone assassin, it’s too soon to tell. But I get the feeling he’s a special one. And Tiger Woods is losing as I write this. Huzzah!

    September 3rd, 2012 2:20 pm

  7. Dennis

    Lowell, I think you are reading it wrong. I think he gave a very honest answer. I think it was about money. Johnson signed a 2 year contract worth over $2mil. That is ok money for a 2nd string QB but it is a lot of money for a 3rd string QB. Especially when you have a much cheaper, fairly decent, option. When Kaepernick became the number 2 guy Johnson was on the way out. I don’t think this was ever about Tolzien. Johnson needed to be Smith’s back up or he was gone. He was too expensive for to be the backup to the backup.

    September 3rd, 2012 2:26 pm

  8. sledpunchingback

    Since Harbaugh isn’t that gifted with language and public speaking, I hereby nominate Mr. Cohn to be his ghostwriter and there should be an intern that carries a teleprompter wherever JH goes.

    Jim’s an accident joker, who’s all in, on his game of poker.

    I don’t think Tolzien needs praise from the coach publicly, because if my peers, especially veteran players, said things that both Whitner and Rivers have said about you, that’s far more important or would be me to me personally.

    September 3rd, 2012 2:27 pm

  9. Larry Zanatta

    Mr. Cohn
    I am beginning to believe that the only thing Jim Harbaugh could do with our your kvetching about it would be to resign while offering you a personal apology for not being as all knowing and insightful as you are. It takes a certain hubris to complain about every move the man makes.

    September 3rd, 2012 3:02 pm

  10. CohnZohn

    Brett, Scotty?

    September 3rd, 2012 4:10 pm

  11. CohnZohn

    Justin, If I don’t provide what you want, you should seek out another blog.

    September 3rd, 2012 4:11 pm

  12. CohnZohn

    sledpunchingback, I happily will be Harbaugh’s ghostwriter. He’d have to make it worth my while for me to quit my day job.

    September 3rd, 2012 4:13 pm

  13. Bob In Portland

    If you’re on the roster and the other guy isn’t that’s praise enough.

    September 3rd, 2012 4:17 pm

  14. Stan

    Sign Vince Young!

    September 3rd, 2012 4:36 pm

  15. Dr. Feelgood

    Lowell, were you a psychology major?

    September 3rd, 2012 4:53 pm

  16. CohnZohn

    Dr. Feelgood, I was an English major. Harbaugh could find a place in a Dickens novel.

    September 3rd, 2012 4:54 pm

  17. Hank

    Eh? Comment moderated for what?

    September 3rd, 2012 5:09 pm

  18. CohnZohn

    Hank, you can’t call me names on my blog. What were you thinking?

    September 3rd, 2012 5:15 pm

  19. Brady

    I’ve got to agree with Bob in Portland here. Jim Harbaugh could call Tolzien the second coming of Montana with the looks of Brad Pitt and the smarts of Einstein and that would mean nothing compared to him earning a roster spot.

    The players know where it counts. Making the team is a bigger compliment from the coach than anything the coach could ever say.

    I played sports and that’s how it is. The player getting yelled at in practice but then plays every minute feels complimented. The player getting praise in practice who then sits on the bench all game feels insulted.

    Words from coaches are mind games and psychological tactics. The players know where they stand based on actions.

    September 3rd, 2012 5:28 pm

  20. Zak

    “Harbaugh could and should have used the occasion to praise Tolzien who is the third QB”

    How much public praise is warranted given the fact that he is the 3rd QB? If he heaps a ton of praise on him publicly – which isn’t his style – it rings hollow. Plus there would be suspicion amongst the other clubs that there was something amiss with one of the other 2 QBs. I don’t think Harbaugh is unfair to the QB privately the way that Singletary unquestionably was. The knowledge he has to give at this point is better than any praise he gives publicly.

    September 3rd, 2012 6:12 pm

  21. htwaits

    For what it’s worh, this is a theory that was alluded to in an earlier post.

    “The week’s short. I mean, it goes fast,” Tolzien said. “And (Smith) doesn’t have time to go through every last bit of film. It’s not possible. So anything I can do to complement that is for the better of the team.”

    The 49ers trust him (Tolzien) as an extra set of eyes, and he’s good enough to simulate Aaron Rodgers, Matt Stafford and so on in practice.

    From: Darin Gantt on September 3, 2012, 12:50 PM EDT

    Google: “49ers kept Scott Tolzien for awareness more than ability”

    September 3rd, 2012 6:12 pm

  22. Hank

    I did? Oops. I’m sorry. Maybe I didn’t proof read it. I was just trying to say Harbaugh does weird things but seems to be okay with most fans. Sorry again.

    September 3rd, 2012 7:47 pm

  23. Tommy CostaRica

    Lowell, you gotta give up on Jimbo! He’s cool. We don’t buy the media being slighted by Jimbo theories anymore. It’s beginning to sound like we’re going to have to hear that all year long! When he said he didn’t know what PEDS were he blew his cover, now we can just wink along with him for the rest of the season. And watch him pull Alex so fast it will make your head spin! I’m a major Alex rooter as a matter of fact I just think that he and Zito should start a band!!!!!!!

    September 3rd, 2012 7:47 pm

  24. Gopal

    Opting to keep Tolzien is a statement in itself.

    A bigger statement than flowery praise, in fact.

    September 3rd, 2012 7:48 pm

  25. 9erSurf


    September 3rd, 2012 8:01 pm

  26. Mark M

    Every once in a while, I feel you split hairs to an extreme. Isn’t the only important thing here that they made the correct decision long term? Tolzein was clearly superior in running the West Coast Offense. They way they handled it with the media is secondary at best.

    September 3rd, 2012 8:24 pm

  27. CohnZohn

    Hank, all forgiven.

    September 3rd, 2012 8:33 pm

  28. mike

    As a player of several sports some 45 years ago, my mother, other extended family members and friends and neighbors always enjoyed reading an article where a coach had something nice to say about me as a person/player. Obviously, they were not in the coach’s office or lockerroom to hear what he may have told me, so it was nice for them to see it in the paper.

    There is no harm in a coach saying something nice and/or positive about a player in a public forum.

    Didn’t any of you posters have anything positive said about you publicly by a coach during your playing days? If so, weren’t your family and friends proud to see something good about you in the news?

    September 4th, 2012 9:21 pm

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