I am troubled about Brandon Jacobs, troubled how the Niners squashed him, troubled about the quotes I read from Ray McDonald today. When asked about Jacobs, he seemed afraid to answer. I could be reading into it. I wasn’t there.

I’m troubled that readers and journalists take management’s side so readily, dismiss Jacobs so easily. I grew up in the 60s. I am leary of authority, don’t automatically accept authority’s word as gospel. I always have been that way.

Readers portray Jacobs as a bad guy. I read he was a “cancer” in the locker room. People never should use the cancer metaphor to refer to behavior. Cancer is way too serious.

I don’t know Jacobs — he was a bit player in the Niners drama. But I never heard he was a bad guy. So, he tweeted or whatever he did. He didn’t choke the coach. He didn’t call him a bad name. He expressed frustration for not playing.

This was a bad situation which the 49ers created. Baalke signed the guy. Baalke has some responsibility for this not working out. And so does Harbaugh.

I believe there were middle grounds short of what the Niners did to Jacobs. If Harbaugh didn’t like the tweets, he could have told Jacobs to cease and desist, spoken to him grown up to grown up. Maybe Harbaugh did, but he hasn’t said so. He could have fined Jacobs.

I’m saying there were intermediate levels. But Harbaugh and Baalke went to an immediate death sentence. Are they so sure they are correct?

People who wield a heavy hammer frighten me. I try to see the other person’s point of view — I’m not always successful, but I try. In my personal relationships, I try to find compromise and common ground. I rarely invoke the death sentence.

Was it so necessary here?

It troubles me that Baalke and Harbaugh found it so easy to destroy Jacobs.


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  1. htwaits

    Is it possible that your “death sentence” label is just as bad as the “cancer in the locker room” label?

    You don’t know what went on in the lead up to this situation, but you are willing to jump to conclusions about the 49er management. Is that just because they represent authority? Or, does it give you a controversy to write about? We all love a controversy, especially writers.

    December 11th, 2012 2:39 pm

  2. Dan

    ..it also kills any support of Smith there may have been remaining in the locker room……..

    December 11th, 2012 2:47 pm

  3. Michael

    This is the NFL Lowell. Its a cut throat performance business with Billions of dollars on the line. Jed/Baalke/Harbaugh have been very consistent in their message about: The Team, The Team, The Team. When a player complains multiple times about his playing time he is deemed a selfish player. He is putting himself above the greater good of The Team for personal gain. Both players that have done this Jacobs, Edwards, have been “squashed”. Both these players have a history of this behavior and its not the first time a team chose to move on without them.

    December 11th, 2012 2:48 pm

  4. CohnZohn

    htwaits, You need to cool your jets. I didn’t condemn Harbaugh or Baalke. I said what they did troubles me. Quite a difference. I also admitted I didn’t know the whole story. I wish Harbaugh had been more forthcoming. You seem to be jumping to conclusions.

    December 11th, 2012 2:52 pm

  5. Michael

    To add to my above comment: The 49ers signed Brandon Jacobs in March before the draft. They could not have know they would get LaMike in the 2nd round. LaMike is a +5 year 49ers player/project. Jacobs was a 1 year insurance policy which they never had to cash in. I have no problem with the Baalke signing him given the timing. It was a small low risk contract by NFL standards. He didn’t workout so we move on. Baalke has hit home runs with other Vet FA’s like: Carols Rogers, Johnathan Goodwin, Donte Whitner, Takeo Spikes, Randy Moss (For his locker room/Vet leadership) etc., it makes it ok if he has a few free agent duds (Jacobs/Edwards) from guys who had 1 year deals and low expectations to begin with.

    December 11th, 2012 2:55 pm

  6. CohnZohn

    Michael, You reflexively take management’s point of view. That’s your business. Vernon Davis sometimes says he’d like to be more involved in the pass game. Does that Make him selfish and not a team player. Alex Smith said it “sucks” not to start. Should the Niners suspend him, too? Does the insubordination rule only apply to marginal players? I find your position shallow.

    December 11th, 2012 2:57 pm

  7. RednGold1

    The world has moved on from the 60′s. You can question authority, but the answer doesn’t change.
    You can find compromise and common ground but the result won’t change.
    The world is now big business. Big companies. Big corporations. Cold and uncaring. The next individual that a company cares about will be the first in a long, long time.
    So, to me, it doesn’t really matter if Brandon Jacobs is at fault or not. The big business NFL franchise wants him gone, he’s gone. Cold. Ice. No waves allowed. No waves possible.
    I mentioned to a friend Sunday morning, when I first heard the news that Jacobs was tweeting negative, “He’ll be gone in 24 hours.” A super easy prediction. I bet I was just one of a million that all said the same thing.

    December 11th, 2012 3:07 pm

  8. Richard

    Even an employee in private business better be irreplaceable if he is going to be disgruntled. Jacobs is far from irreplaceable.

    December 11th, 2012 3:16 pm

  9. Michael

    Lowell – Have you seen what he wrote? This is much worse than anything Alex or Vernon has said. Come on Lowell:

    Asked why he is only posting Giant pictures of himself he responded: “I am on this team rotting away so why would I wanna put any pics up of anything that say niners.” Jacobs shot back on Instagram. ”This is by far the worst year I ever had, I’ll tell you like I told plenty others.

    When asked in a follow up to that post why he doesn’t leave the 49ers he responds:
    “They won’t let me out, I tried.”

    There are many many more quotes I could cut and paste on here if you would like referencing “hating his boss” and “Hating work”.

    December 11th, 2012 3:20 pm

  10. tiredact

    they did try intermediate measures: they obviously talked, then they activated him against the Giants, then they played him against NO and STL, but hunter went on IR and they needed to activate a hunter-style back in james. then jacobs ran his mouth again and it became a cold-hearted business decision.

    December 11th, 2012 3:20 pm

  11. RednGold1

    Lowell, I think Michael is right. It doesn’t matter if Jacobs was right or wrong. If the big machine wants someone gone, he’s gone. If the big machine wants someone to stay ( Alex, V Davis) he stays.The big machine is the big corporation. There is no emotion.
    The question is: What’s best for the company, corporation, team, whatever?
    Answer: We are a better team if Alex stays for now. So Alex stays for now.
    Answer: The team has no need for Jacobs. Jacobs is gone.
    Simple, emotionless decision making.
    No looking back. The team is going forward.

    December 11th, 2012 3:22 pm

  12. Kommon Senze

    I understand the concern, Lowell, and I think it’s very fair to question if Jacobs was treated fairly. I don’t know, though, that there is evidence that they’ve been inconsistent or heavy-handed. There is a lot of information that we don’t have. I don’t see any similarity in Smith’s mentioning “It sucks” in an answer to a question he was asked at a press conference to Jacobs having gone to Twitter and Instagram to repeatedly post his displeasure, which was something that goes back over several weeks, if you include his earlier comment about “liking your boss” which seemed like a veiled comment about Harbaugh and the 49ers.

    Given how little the 49ers like to discuss in house matters (and I think it’s entirely fair for them to keep those matters in house), it’s entirely possible that Jacobs had been asked to tone down his public comments nicely before. Ask many Giant fans (and I’ve had discussions with many on other forums over the past year given the rekindled rivalry between the two teams), and they’ll all tell you Jacobs has had a history of being a disgruntled sideline player. He’s had his run-ins with Coughlin (and a quick search will find several articles referencing Jacobs’ history of having a quick temper over his playing time).

    My concern is not really that they have a heavy hammer, because, to me, as long as they are consistent, that’s a matter of their own policy. My concern is that they could earn a reputation around the league as a ‘difficult’ organization for veterans, even if that reputation isn’t entirely fair or accurate. Perception isn’t reality, but it can certainly influence how people respond, and Harbaugh’s brashness and competitiveness combined with the perception of a cold-calculating hand with personnel could unravel a bit of the good will that he’s built up in his two years as a NFL head coach. Then again, winning is the ultimate trump card, and if the 49ers continue to show they are competitors each and every year, a lot of these side issues may not come into play.

    In any case, while I also have been raised to have a healthy ‘skepticism’ for authority, I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on this issue, if only because Jacobs has had a long history of being anything but a ‘good soldier’ on the sidelines. I guess you could blame Baalke and Harbaugh for not realizing this when they signed him, but I don’t have a strong reason to believe this punishment came out of nowhere.

    December 11th, 2012 3:33 pm

  13. htwaits


    “Whose got jets!”

    “I got no stink’n jets!”

    Lowell, I’ve read your work from day one at the Chronicle. There is no “jump” left in my step.

    Actually, I’m more interested in your “death sentence” comment while you justifiably pointed out that the “cancer in the locker room” references are inappropriate.

    Have you ever been interested in studying law? Your debating methods remind me of movie and TV courtroom battles.

    As for Harbaugh ever getting more forthcoming, I probably won’t live that long. It’s my hope that you will.


    “Smith and Davis? Come on Man!”

    December 11th, 2012 3:53 pm

  14. Mark M

    The thing that gives Harbaugh and Co. credibility is their willingness to embrace big personalities. Moss could easily be a “cancer” given his track record, but has not been. There are big egos all over this team and on staff. Yet this has been a rare event since Harbaugh took over.

    I appreciate your trepidation about authority, but am inclined to back Harbaugh on this one.

    December 11th, 2012 3:58 pm

  15. Smitty

    This has been a somewhat peculiar season for the Niners and these types of actions don’t scream eventual Super Bowl champs to me.

    December 11th, 2012 3:59 pm

  16. CohnZohn

    htwaits, You’ve got good jets. God love you.

    December 11th, 2012 4:07 pm

  17. Tiburon Dave

    You don’t have to be a hippy to question authority!

    How many of these staunch defenders of the 49er leadership would be so quick to support their own employer’s abusive behavior?

    Come on Stan…you do POWER TO THE PEOPLE better than I do…

    December 11th, 2012 4:27 pm

  18. Dennis

    Lowell, I am surprised that you would over react like this without knowing the facts. You have none – zero – nada yet you readily place the blame on Harbaugh. I don’t like authority myself but this has nothing to do with it. I look at the situation for what I see. In this particular case I take Harbaugh’s side because I have seen nothing from you or anyone else that tells me he did anything wrong. Brandon Jacobs on other hand … he certainly helped facilitate his suspension.

    On the same subject, who called him a cancer? If you are referring to me, I suggest you go back a reread what I wrote. i never called Brandon Jacobs anything other than a competitor.

    December 11th, 2012 4:28 pm

  19. Scott

    Give it up Lowell…Brandon Jacobs doesn’t deserve the space wasted on this page. Looks like he got paid quite well to contribute nothing.

    Then rips his employer in a public forum. Two words for him.

    See ya…

    December 11th, 2012 4:29 pm

  20. Dennis

    One more thing, if you want to be troubled be trouble about the way they benched Alex Smith. If you were you might have more credibility with me on this subject. What I saw was unfair and ill advised in dealing with injuries going forward.

    December 11th, 2012 4:33 pm

  21. Kathy

    Lowell, I have to say I think you’re guilty of leaping to conclusions here like you’ve said others are doing. What proof do you have that no intermediate steps were taken? Perhaps you have it but I don’t think you’ve presented it here.

    On Nov. 15 Jacobs tweeted: “Never work in a place where you hate your boss so much, you should always be happy at work.”

    I think it’s quite plausible that the Niners coach and management spoke to him about that. Well maybe not the coach, in an episode of not-great-timing on Jacobs’ part, that was the day Harbaugh was zapped for his atrial fibrillation. But I would imagine–don’t know for sure–that tweet merited a conversation. The behavior continued, they suspended him. That alone could be viewed as an “intermediate” step–they didn’t release him. Although they may have suspended him just to spite him and make sure he doesn’t play anywhere else, no way to know for sure at the moment–the Niners could always play him later if they need him.

    As for Harbaugh not revealing more, c’mon, let’s be serious. This employee is filing a grievance, anyone from the Niners who commented in public on it beyond a simple “he’s suspended” would fail Management 101.

    I think you’re letting your bias against Harbaugh sway your analysis to see malfeasance where there is none. His tweets were out of line for a team situation, not to mention fairly immature. I read today on the NYT website that he had a history of doing the same when playing in NY.

    December 11th, 2012 4:47 pm

  22. Paul C. Garrett


    The 49ers put themselves in this position. I made this point on Grant’s blog way back. When Jacobs was signed they already had: Gore, Hunter, Dixon and Miller in the backfield. Jacobs had a history of venting over playing time in NY. So why sign him to ride the pine?

    Part of it too becomes what was he told before signing. If Baalke gave him the, “we really see you as being a key part of this offense” speech — then shame on them. And shame on Jacobs for being an idiot. But if Baalke was honest, “Gore is our starter, Hunter is our backup, we plan to use you in short yardage packages and as insurance if Gore goes down…” then that’s a different expectation for Jacobs.

    The reality is … none of us feel bad for Jacobs, who this year will earn over 1.5 million to rehab his injury and practice for a few weeks.

    December 11th, 2012 4:54 pm

  23. Jim

    I am going with the reasoning I heard some talking head mention: He was not released so he couldn’t be picked up by a post season opponent. After all, he has had all season to study our playbook.

    December 11th, 2012 4:55 pm

  24. Loneraider78

    He has more tweets than carries this season. Is it really a big deal?

    December 11th, 2012 5:03 pm

  25. CohnZohn

    Dennis, They are still paying Alex Smith a lot of money. Your indignation is highly selective.

    December 11th, 2012 5:03 pm

  26. Che Cazzo Stai Dicendo?

    Please, anybody, to be pointing to the sports tweet that has advanced anyone’s career. They’re either mind-numbingly bland or self-inflicted, sometimes fatal, wounds.

    December 11th, 2012 5:05 pm

  27. mbabco

    I’ve also read in Peter King that Jacobs had a history of being a complainer about playing time. It does seem like something Baalke could have (should have?) paid more attention to before signing him since it’s a bit of a red flag that he’s not the type of player they’re looking for. On the other hand, Jacobs might have convinced him that he was a reformed character. Moss seems to have done so: but then Moss is acting like a reformed character. I wonder how much input Harbaugh had. (We never seem to have the full story: something to consider.)

    Off-topic, I was curious what kind of a year Jerry Rice had when he was 35. Bad year to pick: he played only 2 games. But when he was 36, still with S.F., he had 82 receptions for 1157 yards (14.1 Y/R) and 9 TDs. He would surpass 1000 yards again with Oakland when he was 39 & 40. (Might Moss have a bit more in the tank?)

    December 11th, 2012 5:08 pm

  28. Gary

    The issue here is that the writer doesn’t have any facts to support the player or management. Why should we assume that the player was handled unfairly or that management over reacted? Nor should we assume that it was an easy decision to make. If you have been in the position to let someone go it is never easy whether they have merited it or it is just a series of unfortunate events. I just believe that one needs to have all the facts before a proper opinion can be formed.

    December 11th, 2012 5:09 pm

  29. Dennis

    Brandon Jacobs was paid a whole lot more than Alex Smith on a per play basis. Please. Lets be serious.

    December 11th, 2012 5:14 pm

  30. Kommon Senze

    I actually think you’re missing Dennis’ point here, Lowell. His indignation is not with what Alex is being paid or not paid, but about the precedence set by giving a job to a backup and not giving the starter a chance to reclaim it after injury.

    I, personally, don’t find that precedent to be as troubling, but I think his point is less about Alex (at least in how he’s presented his point) and more about how it could be interpreted in the future. To me, as long as the team is clear about it’s policies and is consistent, I don’t have a problem. I didn’t think Alex deserved to lose his job, but I understood the reasoning for choosing to go with Kaepernick.

    In any case, I can’t say I have followed Dennis’ history closely, but that’s how I read that last comment.

    December 11th, 2012 5:25 pm

  31. CohnZohn

    Dennis, That’s logic?

    December 11th, 2012 5:31 pm

  32. Frank in Minnesota

    Lowell, i think it’s unfair that people are unloading on Jacobs when we don’t know what’s really going on…and this 49er group reminds me of the Oakland Raiders of the past ….they are so secretive and vindictive…hard to root for them as i have in the past few decades…sad.

    December 11th, 2012 5:32 pm

  33. George

    Please don’t jump to conclusions. You have no idea what transpired behind the scenes. None of us do. That said, Jacobs has a history of complaining and getting on management’s nerves. Baalke no doubt knew that, but remember what happened last year? We had trouble on third down conversions. Yah think? So over the offseason Baalke did what he could to remedy that, including hiring a back who weighed two tons. It was a calculated risk, nothing more or less. Then Jacobs got injured, and who knows how seriously they thought he was trying to get back on the field? Please also keep in mind that while he was sitting on the bench, they paid him a king’s ransome. Is that something that is meaningless in the equation? Please.

    December 11th, 2012 7:50 pm

  34. lameduck

    I don’t think that Jacobs is destroyed. We’ll see if he plays another year. I bet he does…Seattle?

    December 11th, 2012 9:28 pm

  35. ollie hoop

    Perhaps what might trouble you is the lack of information. But since a grievance has been filed, straight answers will be hard to come by.

    December 11th, 2012 9:41 pm

  36. Johnc

    I can understand Brandon Jacobs frustration. To me the Niners never gave him a chance. He had five carries for 7 yards but who knows what kind of blocking he had. The man is 30 years old , stands six feet four inches tall and weighs 263 pounds. Are you kidding me that he could not be given more chanches to spell Gore in some games? The tweeting messages just showed how frustrated he was and rightly so. Where is Harbaugh’s sense of team when he lets a player rot on the sidelines? Did we see that kind of example from Bochy in the way he handled his players. He gave them all enough opportunities to prove themselves on the field.

    December 11th, 2012 11:33 pm

  37. Ryder

    All I have to go on is what I can read in the press. Harbaugh doesn’t publicly admonish players. They players appreciate that, I suspect, and leads me to believe this sort of thing (suspension) would be a last resort. If I had to guess, which I do, I would guess Jacobs unhappiness started to spill out into the locker room somewhat, prompting the Niners to choose this action. I don’t feel all that troubled over it, honestly. Maybe a bit disappointed, I was hoping to see good things on the field from Brandon Jacobs.

    December 12th, 2012 3:28 am

  38. Dennis

    Lowell, my logic is just as valid as yours. I am not sure what money has to do with it but if you want to talk about money, Brandon Jacobs was paid a lot more for what he contributed to the team than Alex. But that really wasn’t my original point. Kommon Senze summed it up for me better than I could which is why I enjoy reading his post. He usually makes a lot of senze. Thank You Kommon

    December 12th, 2012 6:56 am

  39. tkh

    I agree with your point here, assuming for discussion purposes that the only thing Jacobs did was tweet. Actually I really didn’t think his tweets were all that bad. Wouldn’t you want a player unhappy he is not playing, not getting the ball, etc. Who wants a guy who is content to be a backup? The problem is we don’t know the details. However, you shouldn’t be surprised. We are talking about a league that fines players for wearing their socks too low…the NFL (and its teams) are very protective of their image…which is hilarious given that the players are humans and are going to have the same troubles, opnions, mistakes as everyone else. I feel the same about the NFL fining coaches/players for being too critical of the referees. It is an insult to the intelligence of any fan. I recently watched a show on NFL Network that had the greatest thing about the 80′s or something like that. And one of the best things was the league was full of characters, end zone dances, crazy coaches and players. The NFL has legislated all the richness right out of the game. Hey, I am all for the Matt Williams head down home run trot but isn’t it fun to watch a Ricky Henderson once in a while. The NFL has removed that kind of richness from their sport.

    December 12th, 2012 9:09 am

  40. chris

    the quote from Jacobs in mid November that Kathy posted is the one that I recall got this all started. Sure he didnt use a cuss word towards Harbaugh and Ballke, but saying he hates his boss is pretty bad, especially in sports where team unity is crucial.

    December 12th, 2012 9:12 am

  41. JNC1975

    When a serial killer kills a beautiful girl and a fat ugly guy, no one cares about the fat ugly guy.

    December 12th, 2012 10:38 am

  42. Neal

    Not much about anything Lowell, a disgruntled player, says he is a unhappy camper, insults the boss and the organization, gets a kick up his rump, end of story. I know you are trying to milk this baby till the cows go home , but a non-story to me.

    December 12th, 2012 10:47 am

  43. Ryder

    We’re all assuming this is about the tweets and instagram stuff. I might be. But isn’t it also possibly to do with something we have no idea about? I expect that Jacobs would fairly represented in his grievance, and should get any justice he is due. But, perhaps I’m naive about that.

    December 12th, 2012 12:29 pm

  44. lflong9erfn

    I agree with Neal, a non-story. If Jacobs hadn’t gotten hurt and been a part of the mix from the beginning it might be a story. He got hurt and by the time he gets back they don’t need him, oh well. Keep your mouth shut in the social media, heal up for a year and someone will hire him next year.

    December 12th, 2012 12:34 pm

  45. KauaiRobert

    ‘It troubles me that Baalke and Harbaugh found it so easy to destroy Jacobs.’
    It troubles ME that you ended with that line.
    First, Jacobs hasn’t been destroyed; he’s been suspended.
    Second, how do you know that they found it easy?
    Just saying…

    December 12th, 2012 12:50 pm

  46. Tommy CostaRica

    Lowell I think you are spot on with this one. Look at “Bountygate” I was all for hangin’ those guys especially that our own Alex Smith was supposedly one of their targets. Now turns out it should of been handled differently. There had to have been a better solution to keeping this one in house.

    December 12th, 2012 1:50 pm

  47. Joe H.

    It’s all a conspiracy. Don’t you see. It was all about weakening the NY Giants by stealing their best players, if possible (i.e. Manningham and Jacobs).

    But otherwise, Jacobs could not unseat either Gore or Hunter through his performance and the 49ers were probably looking for a good backup just in case someone (i.e. KHunter) might go down.

    But then, when someone says something quite distrubing, as Jacobs did in his blog/post/tweet/whatever; that proved to management they didn’t need him or would even use him. But then, you might recall…LAST YEAR…when they cut Braylon Edwards at probably the worst possible time to get rid of a WR, but then I’m sure Edwards had a real nice bonus coming to him if the 49ers made the playoffs….

    Jacobs truly would have been a negative influence, and quite possibly already was infecting some of the team.

    But then, I think they have a similar problem with ASmith right now, and if Vernon Davis doesn’t get more passes thrown his way, there might be a temper tantrum soon.

    December 12th, 2012 2:18 pm

  48. b4huxley

    face it, this isn’t about Brandon Jacobs at all it is about Jim Harbaugh. You do not like the man, you may like the coach but you have been offended by his treatment of the press and how he has cut you guys out of the inner workings of the organization. Anything you write will be jaded by this fact of a percieved slight from Harbaugh. All your praise will be dulled and all your criticisms will be sharpenned, one serious mistep from Harbaugh and you will be sharpening your knives and moving in for the kill, then you will be crowing at the top of your lungs about how you knew he was never good for the 49ers organization. Give this guy a chance put aside your feelings against him and just bathe in the 49ers being relevant again.

    December 12th, 2012 5:10 pm

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