Here is a link to my Sunday column explaining Jim Harbaugh is a bad influence on Colin Kaepernick. The full text runs below:
Jim Harbaugh is hurting Colin Kaepernick.
You could argue Harbaugh is hurting Kaepernick as a quarterback. Clearly, Kaepernick has not improved and seems to be getting worse. You could argue the new head coach next season — if Harbaugh is as gone as he seems to be gone — better be a quarterback savant. Because Kaepernick sure needs one.
But Harbaugh isn’t just hurting Kaepernick as a quarterback. Harbaugh is failing Kaepernick as a life tutor. Harbaugh is sending Kaepernick in the wrong direction, and it’s preventable and it’s a crying shame.
At Friday’s news conference — I did not attend — Harbaugh went out of his way to challenge the media, really to put them (us) down. He doesn’t like how the media portray Kaepernick and, yes, belittle him. The sportswriters in attendance did not initiate this topic. Harbaugh did. It was burning him up. Here’s how it came about.
Q: What kind of sense did you get from your players this week in terms of how they’re looking to bounce back after Seattle?
Harbaugh: Determined. Determined to do well. I saw that there was quite a bit of sport made of Colin Kaepernick. People were even tallying his responses. It’s sad really because you don’t know him. And he’s a determined person. He’s a spiritual person. He’s a very hard worker and he wants to do well and works extremely hard at it. And you get the honest person when you deal with him. If he’s not chatty, he’s not going to be chatty. He’s single-minded when he’s playing the game of football and preparing for the game, and I appreciate that. I appreciate that he is who he is. He is his own person.
Instant analysis: Harbaugh changed the subject from the Raiders game to Kaepernick. He didn’t like that ESPN and other outlets made “sport” of Kaepernick. ESPN diagrammed Kaepernick’s answers to questions on Wednesday. The questions were longer than the answers. Kaepernick answered in single words, a few words, or grunts. His tone was contemptuous. He seemed to be making some kind of statement, and it could be summarized as “screw you” to the media and fans.
Harbaugh characterized Kaepernick as “honest.” That is just the wrong word. On Wednesday, Kaepernick said nothing that enlightened anyone or moved along the conversation. He ducked every serious question and he gets no points or praise for that.
The media naturally followed up on the topic Harbaugh initiated.
Q: You bring that up. A lot of us who don’t know him nearly as well as you didn’t know what to make of that — what message was he was trying to get across or why he responded the way he did on Wednesday. Can you shed light on how you read it?
Harbaugh: He’s very professional. He always stands up. He never dodges or deflects criticism. He takes accountability. He’s honest. He tells the truth. The questions you were asking, he was telling the truth. You’re not going to just be at somebody’s beck and call or bidding. He’s going to act the way he acts. He’s his own person. I appreciate the honesty.
Instant analysis: Harbaugh hammered home the theme he’d already established. Kaepernick is honest, although monosyllabic answers and grunts hardly equate with honesty. And Kaepernick is not at anyone’s beck and call.
No one asked Kaepernick to take out the media’s garbage or wax their cars or fetch pizzas to the media room. The league requires him to speak once a week. So he speaks to the media once a week per his contract, speaks in his rude fashion and almost never says anything real or honest. Unless you consider the one-word answer “execution” honest.
Q: Just one more on that. Right before you came in here we were watching a national TV show where they were talking about that’s not the way the face of the franchise should be, the image he should give off. What would you say to that, to people who would think that a face-of-a-franchise quarterback should be more accommodating?
Harbaugh: Face-of-the-franchise quarterback should be a great leader by example, the way he works. A team player all the way. What’s in his heart is about the team. It’s not about himself. And then, you get the raw honesty. He is telling you. You ask him what his mindset is, it’s to work. That’s his approach.
Instant analysis: Face of the franchise — now we’re talking.
A face-of-the-franchise-quarterback concept does exist. It is significant. It involves quarterbacks who represent their teams, and represent them well. Here’s a quick list of great face-of-the-franchise QBs: Steve Young, Rich Gannon, Peyton Manning, John Elway, Kurt Warner, Jim Plunkett. Every one of those quarterbacks is/was better than Kaepernick. Every one knew how to talk politely, in complete sentences including a subject and predicate. And each one knew how to engage the media — was gracious and expansive.
Joe Montana was shy but not rude. He tried to answer questions. And face it, if Montana chose to be terse, he had earned the right. He was a great player. He was Joe Montana. Kaepernick has earned nothing.
Let’s be brutally clear. Kaepernick does not have to be the face of the franchise. He chose to play quarterback in the big leagues. No one forced him. If he has contempt for talking, let him play quarterback in a beer league. Or let him change positions and be a tight end. Tight ends are not the face of the franchise. Kaepernick chose a role he is ducking and denigrating. Kaepernick made himself a national joke last week because of actions he freely chose.
I blame Harbaugh for ruining Kaepernick. When Kaepernick joined the 49ers he was an open, smiling, innocent kid. I use “kid” affectionately and to describe who he was then. The day he got drafted, he showed up at 49ers headquarters with his mom and dad. What a lovely interaction we had with that lovely family.
I felt Kaepernick was malleable. I still do. He can improve. He had the misfortune to be molded by Harbaugh who, at the time, had dislike, fear and disdain for the media. Harbaugh taught Kaepernick dislike, fear and disdain for the media.
There’s a sad irony in all this. Harbaugh has improved. Vastly. He understands the necessity of good public relations, of representing the franchise and himself well. He can be likable, even charming — I like him. And he’s very funny.
But he never got any of that across to his quarterback, a public-relations liability and an overall drip. Harbaugh has reinforced and supported every bit of Kaepernick’s bad behavior. He has retarded his quarterback’s social growth and his growth as a man.
He is not the coach for Colin Kaepernick.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn firstname.lastname@example.org.