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Judging from the early returns — exit polls? — on my Jim Harbaugh column, readers are upset with me for asking Harbaugh about his in-game behavior and for writing about it. I’d like to add two points to the column.

1. Harbaugh is the CEO of the Niners during a game. A CEO should act more calmly when he is performing his job.

2. Harbaugh’s team laid an egg in the first quarter against the Falcons and Ravens. The 49ers were able to come back and beat the Falcons. They could not overcome the big early deficit and beat the Ravens, who led the entire game. Here’s my theory for what it’s worth. The Niners play to the personality of their head coach. Harbaugh is tightly wound and doesn’t loosen up until later in the game. The team comes out tight just like the coach and cannot get into its rhythm until later. If Harbaugh were calmer, the team would — might — do better early and not have to claw its way back.

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51 Comments

  1. Mark M

    Let’s see, off the top of my head:

    John Madden
    Vince Lombardi
    Hank Stram
    Bill Cowher
    Jimmy Johnson

    All of those guys won Super Bowls and had plenty of freak-out moments on the sidelines. In fact, some of those men are considered amongst the best coaches of all time.

    In addition, it may or may not be Harbaugh’s job to notice things like receivers lining up incorrectly to start a play. Your implication that his freak out moments blocked the team’s ability to see that is a huge and dubious assumption. I’m assuming his assistants have had some duties delegated to them.

    This whole freak out theory is a major stretch for me.

    February 6th, 2013 10:27 am

  2. Tiburon Dave

    After a successful two year run Coach Harbaugh has demonstrated what he is good at and what he is not.

    He is very good at putting together a better than average coaching staff.

    He is very good at getting into the heads of today’s NFL players.

    He is very good at communicating with them and infusing them with his own brand of passionate commitment.

    He is very good at creating a “war room” mentality…an us versus them theme that Al Davis applied to perfection during his earlier years.

    Coach Harbaugh is not good at precision and he is not good at demonstrating to his team that he has the capacity to be the dispassionate “adult in the room” and lead them through a crisis when “all around him are in panic”

    I think he lost more than a game the other day…I think he lost a good measure of cred with his players…those three play calls and his sideline behavior before and after those three fateful plays…

    When 25 year old Michael Crabtree comes off as “the adult in the room” for his viewpoint on that last play…something is clearly wrong…

    Perhaps you could send Coach Harbaugh a copy of Kipling…you know the one…He needs to read it…

    February 6th, 2013 10:35 am

  3. CohnZohn

    Tiburon Dave, This is a smart and fair analysis. I wish mine had been as good.

    February 6th, 2013 10:37 am

  4. Tiburon Dave

    Thank you Lowell…I’m honored…

    February 6th, 2013 10:41 am

  5. Ryder

    Tiburon Dave, you’re hired. Lowell – you’re outa here!

    February 6th, 2013 11:12 am

  6. mike

    Tiburon Dave – Excellent comments. Obviously Harbaugh has built up some “politicalcapital” with the fans and the organization over the past two years with his successes; however, that does not allow for or excuse his “juvenile” behavior and antics. Maturity, for some, comes later in their professional lives. Would hate to think that Warren Buffet and T. Boone Pickens, as CEOs, would act the way JH did on their “game” days. Also, those SB trophies are tough to win, and some of the members of this current squad won’t be back next year and others may not ever have a chance again to get a shot at the Lombardi Trophy. It hurts to think how close actually they were to winning the game, and those players who may never win a ring never will forget how close they were nor how they lost the game. Hopefully, the way they lost and his own actions will haunt JH so that he is prodded to change for the better.

    February 6th, 2013 11:17 am

  7. Ed B.

    Dennis Erickson was calm. Calm enough to puth togehter a 2-14 record!

    February 6th, 2013 11:29 am

  8. LA9er

    LC!
    Man I loved reading you on the Green when I was kid!
    You are 100% spot on right with JH. Who can be a brilliant coach. But he is not quite there as a leader.
    JH has a lot to do with the success of the team. But not all of it. He inherited talented. Add a few more pieces with Aldon, Kendall and of course Colin.
    But now he has to lead. That’s twice there was unfinished business. And it will be even harder to get back to the SB. Talent is not enough. You have to be focused. How can you be focused when your mind is on the previous plays?

    February 6th, 2013 11:32 am

  9. Dan

    A major motivation for many successful people and teams is the fear of failure. Making sure one is prepared for all possibilities that may arise, no matter how small the possibility. The team did not look ready to play. With the issues on offense and defense, they would have won the game if it weren’t for special teams failures – now two years in a row.
    The window for a coach to be successful is rather small. Will last Sunday be the zenith of Harbaugh’s time with the 49ers?

    February 6th, 2013 11:38 am

  10. Dennis

    Lowell, I thought your original question at the press conference was fair and asked in a very respectful way. I also thought Harbaugh gave you a very honest answer – he is emotional. The rest of this is all baloney. He didn’t lose the Super Bowl because of his demeanor. And losing the Super Bowl does not make him a bad coach. For me I would much rather have Harbaugh as our coach, with all the flaws you fairly point out, than Mike Nolan who did indeed dress and act like that CEO type you desire. I do not believe there is one person on this blog, I am talking about fans of the 49ers, who would be willing to trade winning football for a head coach who dresses and acts like a CEO on the sidelines. We had that and it didn’t work out that well. So to everyone complaining about Harbaugh, I say enjoy the winning and stop the whining. It is what it is. Get over it and enjoy the ride.

    February 6th, 2013 11:41 am

  11. gary

    No one can be thinking clearly while having
    an emotional melt down. His temper tantrums at
    officials do cause some harm—the end of the Super Bowl highlighted this problem.
    (I wonder who leads in “head phones ripped off during a game” between him and Singletary?)

    The 49ers looked bad at the start of the Packers game too.

    I give Harbaugh and his staff, high marks, for quickly improving the 49res level of play.
    However, if Harbaugh does not act more mature on the sidelines, more often, the 9ers will relatively under achieve.

    February 6th, 2013 1:01 pm

  12. Dave T

    @ Mark M

    Chuck Noll
    Don Shula
    Tom Landry
    Bill Walsh
    and even Bill Belichek

    All even more successful coaches than the ones you listed that won even more Super Bowls and even one perfect season and one almost perfect season that have more credibility than Coach Harbaugh. And I would even add Mike Tomlin to that list (Two Super Bowl appearances and 1 win)

    @ Tiburon Dave

    Very well said and completely agree.

    When I was asked before the game my thoughts of how it would go, my opinion was that if the solid and mistake free Joe Flacco showed up, the balance was in the Ravens favor. Up until the power outage and even after, his steady hand and experience paid off. If he gets rattled he makes mistakes and the Niners D never rattled him.

    At the end of the day, despite what Gore said, the better overall team won the game. Offense, defense and special teams, one team with one goal and on that particular day, the Ravens were the better “Team”.

    February 6th, 2013 1:03 pm

  13. Dave T

    And just a side note, made as a sports fan. I thought it was very intersting while listening to a local sports talk radio station here in the Bay Area, and how many fans kept wanting to say the headline for a winning Niner team would be something to the effect of “A Dynasty Reborn”. First, win something of note and then do it with consistency, then you can claim any kind of dynasty. The Buffalo Bills lost four straight Super Bowls and I do not think anyone would call them a Dynasty. And more importantly, in this era of free agency and salary caps, there really is no true dominant teams in the NFL. It is truly an “any given Sunday” league and that makes for better television and a better end product in my opinion. One factoid: This was first time since 2002-03 season that a QB not named Brady, Manning or Roethlisberger was not the starting QB for the AFC team in the Superbowl. The team that bookended those? The Baltimore Ravens. So if you want to see what a more recent “dynasty” looks like, look no further than the Patriots, Steelers, Colts (I include them even now with Luck, as they have shown they can rebuild quickly) and even the NY Giants. The Niners are not there yet, not even close.

    February 6th, 2013 1:32 pm

  14. Dave T

    Oops. Sorry, forgot about one appearance by the Raiders in 2003. Point remains, those other AFC franchises are far more consistent and are far closer to being a current NFL dynasty than the Niners.

    February 6th, 2013 1:36 pm

  15. Stan

    His game demeanor doesn’t bother me. Its his postgame Super Bowl presscons this week that were so intense. It was like he was traumatized with the glazed look he had..in and out.
    His coaching? I repeat it again..I think Harbaugh is the best playcaller on the team. Its just that he wont show up Roman and overrule him in public,and he has that share the glory with his coaches.Fine.. But I bet that will change. How many bad calls in the red zone can Jim let go by? He can only take so many big game defeats before he steps up. Just watch.

    February 6th, 2013 1:45 pm

  16. Daddio

    Have to wonder if the 49ers score on that last drive if anyone would be discussing Harbaugh’s demeanor? I think not, unless of course it would be as a plus.

    February 6th, 2013 1:59 pm

  17. CohnZohn

    Hey, Daddio, They didn’t score.

    February 6th, 2013 2:21 pm

  18. Mark M

    Dave T, is it just possible there is more than one way to skin a cat? I say Harbaugh has to be himself and not try to emulate any one of the characters on our lists. Perhaps there are more important attributes to being a good coach than sideline composure.

    btw, Shula belongs more on my list. Some of the best histrionics I’ve ever witnessed were produced by that man.

    February 6th, 2013 2:27 pm

  19. Daddio

    No Lowell they didn’t. But my point is your argument that Harbaugh’s demeanor is hurting the team rests precariously on a questionable non-holding call.

    February 6th, 2013 2:44 pm

  20. CohnZohn

    Daddio, They lost the game. They didn’t win. They flopped in the first half and couldn’t make it back. Don’t blame one call or many calls. Fans need to grow up on this.

    February 6th, 2013 3:06 pm

  21. Dave T

    Mark M, I will buy that when Harbaugh wins a Superbowl or two or three. Until then, he is a good coach, a very good coach, but not a great coach. I am a Harbaugh fan (born in Ann Arbor to a U of M grad) and had hoped he would go back there instead of the NFL. But he needs to win something first. Heck, Cowher was a screamer, but he spoke to the media (why he is a member of the media) and won a Superbowl and played in another. It is a different NFL, just like the NBA, NHL or MLB. The screamers don’t seem to win as much or often anymore in any league or sport. You are more likely to get a winning coach like a Bruce Bochy than you are a Jim Harbaugh. Just saying….

    February 6th, 2013 3:14 pm

  22. Paul

    The head coach is responsible for all that goes on the field, all of it, the play calling, the game plan everything. If the team fails because of poor time management, failing to get plays called in time or crapy plays called at the most crucial time of the game , then something needs to be different.

    By the way Lowell ,thank you for your spot on observations.

    February 6th, 2013 3:22 pm

  23. terryc

    “MIGHT” is a pretty big word! Most of the time it comes from a doctor after a prognosis.

    Are you a psychiatrist or psychologist, Lowell? The team comes out tight because Greg Roman doesn’t have a clue about what it is to be a good play caller. He couldn’t even get the 49ers in the right formation to start the Super Bowl game after 2 weeks of getting his offense ready.

    The 49ers team has eaten and lived on every word and emotion Harbaugh has given them and they have been consistent winners since he took over the team. Yea! they lost the Super Bowl. Somebody has too. It’s the nature of the game of football.

    I might be right or maybe you are, but the bottom line is we’ll never really know. Again ‘MIGHT” is a pretty shaky word.
    Read my comment below your Harbaugh #1 article:

    February 6th, 2013 3:37 pm

  24. michel

    I really could care less how he acts on the sidelines or to the press. It the big scheme of things – does he win. He does and I will take him anyway he is.

    February 6th, 2013 4:50 pm

  25. lameduck

    Yep, believe it or not Jim Harbaugh is human.

    February 6th, 2013 5:03 pm

  26. CohnZohn

    michel, I could be wrong but I don’t think he won the Super Bowl.

    February 6th, 2013 5:24 pm

  27. Loneraider78

    Lowell,

    It’s all about what works within the team’s chemistry.

    If a coach were supposed to be calm all the time, then Bob Knight would’ve never won a game.

    I’m no professional, so I’m in no position to dispute your theory. But I do know that players need to make plays.

    Harbaugh’s attitude wasn’t the reason Jones raced 108 yards for a score. His attitude was not the reason his DBs were so far out of position that Jones was able to catch the ball, fall down, get back up and beat three 49ers to the endzone.

    Whatever went on during the very last 49er possesion, I have no clue. But the play calling was so Raider-like, I actually felt bad for the 49er fans.

    I mean, the endzone fade route is the worst playcall in all of football–a cop out play IMO– unless you have such a favorable match-up–or Megatron–that the defense is begging you to try it. If they were going to run it why not throw it to 6′ 4″ Moss instead of 6′ 1″ Crabtree?

    The running ability of Kaepernick and Gore was a big reason they got there, so why they abandoned the run on that series will forever be a mystery to me.

    February 6th, 2013 7:26 pm

  28. Loneraider78

    Having said what I did in my previous post, I’d like to add that I was really a lot more impressed with John than Jim. But, like I said, it’s all about what works within the team.

    February 6th, 2013 7:33 pm

  29. Ned

    Harbaugh is one crazy coach, I’m just glad he’s our crazy coach. I think you are correct, he will have to tone it down or he will not last, and he will never ever get a close call. He has to pick his spots. You think Jed likes watching his coach go nuts? That act will be oh so tiring when they are 7-9… I love the Niners but they better win it soon…

    On the end of the game play calling, he says he wouldn’t change a thing but his players are wondering out-loud why they called the same play 3 times. That doesn’t sound like they all drink the Harbaugh kool aid.

    Keep up the interesting and oh so popular writing.

    February 6th, 2013 8:41 pm

  30. Ned

    One other thought….

    Is Harbaugh the exact opposite of Singletary?

    How they dress, playing success, how they act on sidelines and with media and how successful they coach?

    February 6th, 2013 8:48 pm

  31. Randy

    If Jed wants to give his team the best chance to win, he needs to hire an experienced front office NFL lifer to mentor Jim. Walsh had McVay and Jim needs someone like that instead of relying on his Dad. Maybe not Holmgren, but someone who has coached at the highest level (a Parcells type), to tell Jim when he is wrong and acting like an ass. When Jim was on Madden’s radio show, he was asking him about preparing for the Super Bowl. He is looking for help. Who in the front office can he turn to? There is no one there to say — hey, you are not going to survive in this league if every ref’s call is a travesty. Or, when I was coaching in the Super Bowl, this worked. Lowell, you are right, this team feeds off of its Coach and that is why they rarely won more than two games in a row all season. He needs someone to give hiim some wisdom and perspective on baiting the media and being a sore loser. Who didn’t watch the past two weeks and think John was the grown-up and Jim was the child.

    February 6th, 2013 9:17 pm

  32. Jim Bancroft

    Interesting how the 49ers secondary has taking it on the chin (not necessarily by Lowell) despite holding coverages for 5 or 6 seconds on Sunday.

    Calm or not, if your team doesn’t have a pass rush you will lose– SB 47 being exhibit #1.

    February 6th, 2013 9:26 pm

  33. B-Rad

    You have commented that at times it’s difficult to come up with ideas
    for 4 columns a week.

    Harbaugh’s antics, which I thoroughly enjoy, provide you with a treasure trove
    of material of which you frequently take advantage.

    To the best of my recollection, you’ve written only once about Dennis Allen’s
    personality. “After every loss, he stands at the podium robot-like………
    Listening to him, you want to die of boredom.”

    I think the ideal coach in your mind might be George Carlin.
    - Interesting to the nth degree
    - Humorous and fun
    - Of course he knows nothing about football
    - And he’s dead

    “Think of how stupid the average sports writer is, and realize
    half of them are stupider than that.”

    On second thought, you’d probably complain about him too.

    February 6th, 2013 9:47 pm

  34. Johnc

    I agree that the Niners were too tight in the first quarter of the SuperBowl and I did wonder at the time if that was a reflection of their coach because Harbaugh was certainly wound up tight as a drum as all could see.

    February 6th, 2013 10:06 pm

  35. Jumbo Shrimp

    Lowell
    Harbaugh is the Chairman of the Board of Directors. Kaepernick is the CEO. The Chairman is not subject to removal by the board in the same way the CEO is. As long as the CEO brings in solid returns, he stays. As Chairman, and not as CEO, Harbaugh may act with impunity as to his immediate demeanor. Lucky for the Niners, Kaepernick is unflappable.
    Lowell, I don’t care when you charge Jim with being arrogant or misguided, because your position is neither mean-spirited nor objectively implausible. What does get me all fired up, however, is when you get all uppity about the role of journalists as reps of the fans and in the next breath insult the fans.
    Fans do NOT “need to get over the officiating.” What needs to happen is JOURNALISTS, who, when you’re not insulting fans, so clearly represent the fans’ interests, need to get to the bottom of why the league chose a ragtag group of mediocre officials, the leader of which had an existing, well-documented beef with the losing head coach; need to find out why the officials called such a lopsided game; need to inquire about two identical infractions separated by 2 minutes at the end of the game, one called, the other not.
    Lowell, quit being so high on yourself. The Superbowl was the second worst officiated game of the season. The Niners got the #2 seed because in the very worst officiated game of the season, officials literally gave the losing team a victory. It’s very apparent to most objective observers that certain calls that should have been made were not made. Why don’t you look into it? Maybe you can do some investigative sports journalism.

    February 6th, 2013 11:17 pm

  36. Albert Park

    I have received negative e-mail comments about Jim Harbaugh’s sideline behavior from friends across the country who normally don’t pay attention to the 49ers. I don’t think that’s a good sign.

    February 6th, 2013 11:56 pm

  37. Huzhumuh

    Am I the only one who finds this kind of stuff amusing? The guy leads his team to the Super Bowl where they come up just a little short, and then it’s nothing but, “See? I told you he wasn’t a very good coach.”

    February 7th, 2013 6:20 am

  38. Rob

    I recall another “successful” coach who also was wound up tight as a drum and threw child-like tantrums on the sidelines. His name was Woody Hayes. And Ohio State University put up with his antics until one game he blew his lid and chased after an opponent’s player. Tried to hit him too, as I recall. That was the end of Woody Hayes’ career at
    Ohio State. Harbaugh’s got issues. They affected the team significantly during Super Bowl Week and the Super Bowl itself. If this team under Harbaugh is to succeed longer term, and not implode, these issues are going to have to be addressed by Baalke and York.

    February 7th, 2013 7:10 am

  39. Nancy R

    Similarly, John Harbaugh got all uptight during the black out and sure nuff his team faltered in the second half of the game even though they managed to eek out the win by default. Yes, I agree, the tenor and tone of the coach will impact the team.

    February 7th, 2013 8:10 am

  40. Nancy R

    Something was amiss with the niners from the first play. Super QB Kaep throws a great pass that is rendered null by a dumb formation boo boo. I thought at the time, “This is a bad omen. They screw up on play number 1?” And it continued all through the game. They need to get more disciplined on the small stuff which cost them. And they were timid and small minded when it mattered at the end. It was heartbreaking to go out with a tepid thud.

    February 7th, 2013 8:17 am

  41. Stan

    I bet there wasn’t a snowballs chance in hell Harbaugh thought,that he would EVER lose a Super Bowl as coach. Maybe why catatonic was on his mind. I know that post game, he’s walked into a few walls oblivious,while thinking of the game.
    I didn’t think he would lose a Super Bowl as coach..but that brother of his matched him. The “With an even GREATER fanatical will” as answer to Jim’s joke was dead on.

    February 7th, 2013 10:39 am

  42. George

    The teams worst opponent was itself. Miscues, lack of pass rush, Culliver, James’ fumble, the pass to Moss in the endzone that was tipped by Crabtree, the offensive play calling at the end. Despite that, they almost won. For some reason — and I won’t attribute it to the head coach — they lacked focus.

    February 7th, 2013 11:06 am

  43. Stan

    Jim should have comeback to John with “Oh yeah bro? An even greater will to infinity!” He would be the winning coach right now.

    February 7th, 2013 11:35 am

  44. Stan

    And THAT question you asked? Was leading topic on radio and TV. Provocative. I never once heard a sports cast lead off with something Ray Ratto -for example- asked at a presscon.

    February 7th, 2013 11:53 am

  45. Rob

    Lackasaidical, lacking focus, undisciplined etc. Look at how they all got off that plane — that’s as telling a snapshot of their frame of mind as anything.

    February 7th, 2013 1:03 pm

  46. michel

    Lowell, you are correct – coach did not win the super bowl. The guy has made the 49ers a winner again. That is cool. Do not care about anything else he does.

    February 7th, 2013 1:33 pm

  47. Stan

    A senior moment. Radnich kept repeating the 49ers won the Super Bowl..Krueger had to remind him they lost…

    February 7th, 2013 2:05 pm

  48. Rob

    I do care about something called “class.” And under Walsh and perhaps a lesser extent Seifert, the 49ers had it, win or lose. I doubt that in my lifetime — I’m a contemporary of Lowell’s — I will ever see again. Gosh, but I miss those years. Had such confidence in and respect for the team back then.

    February 7th, 2013 2:08 pm

  49. Nancy R

    I think Jumbo Shrimp is onto something….I always wonder about officiating and bias for whatever reason. While the niners made a lot of dumb mistakes there were still a lot of uncalled penalties. Maybe that is why Harbaugh was going bananas.

    February 7th, 2013 2:30 pm

  50. Dave T

    Steve Young commented today on the radio about the last play and call or debated lack of a call by the official. He said basically: I was right there on the sideline and as soon as it was in the air I knew it was too far and out of bounds. Not a catchable ball. And you are just not going to get that call on that pass which was not catchable, on a game deciding play, ever.

    So there you have a Hall of Fame, Super Bowl winning qb telling you, nope, not a good call and not good play. That one is on the Niners for not calling a better play.

    On a side note- Kind of makes plays like the Montana to Taylor and even more so, Roethlisberger to Holmes that much more inpressive, as they got the job done, in the Super Bowl, at the end of the game. Go watch those again and you can really appreciate just how great they really were. Heck, I would include “The Catch” in that list too.

    February 7th, 2013 10:05 pm

  51. haha49ersfans

    Jumbo shrimp, nancy R, only fans will blame the refs after a loss, in my opinion the refs gave them the win against the falcons, and in the superbowl they made it clear that they were going to let them play, there were numerous missed calls for both teams, stop blaming the refs for losing, if you want to blame somone blame the team, as when they are on the field they are 1, they played and lost as a whole, no need to investigate the reffing, maybe investigate why the power went off, as that was the reason they even had a chance, sure 1 call could change everything but that’s not in their hands, they however have control over how they play and in the first half that was poor, yes you need to get over it, the only thing jumbo shrimp is onto is how the head coach is affecting the fans, since your all so worried about reffing and not playing

    February 21st, 2013 3:17 am

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