Is 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh’s act already wearing thin, less than three years into his run as franchise resurrector? Depends how you define “act,” right?
For the purposes of this mini-discussion, let’s define it as the smug, frat-boy arrogance with which Harbaugh generally carries himself. His communication with fans, via the media, for which he obviously holds a great deal of contempt, consists of dispensing information about what he fancies to be some sort of secret society — as opposed to, you know, a professional football team — in meager, oft-meaningless or bizarrely tangential portions. It’s served with a heaping side of condescension and a tall, ultra-juvenile glass of that’s-for-me-to-know-and-you-to-find-out.
Now before you write off this screed as media sour grapes, understand something: I’ve never met or dealt with Harbaugh. He’s never treated me with the level of disdain and exasperation one typically reserves for the moments immediately after stepping in dog droppings, as he occasionally does with the poor men and women who cover the team on a regular basis.
When it comes to the 49ers, I’m nothing more than a fan — a born-and-raised Bay Area boy who still prays at the altar of Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. As such, I greatly appreciate what Harbaugh has done on a purely football level; he has, in fact, led a resurrection of supremely impressive proportions.
Take away the win-loss record, though, and what you have in Harbaugh is a coach whom only the fans concerned with nothing but wins and losses can really love. Those of us who’d like the coach to also be, at the very least, likable? We are left wanting by not just the aforementioned approach to basic communication, but also by incidents such as the decision to allow Aldon Smith to play the weekend after his most recent arrest, by his ridiculously reaching thesaurus metaphors and by the ludicrous sideline behavior.
Be honest: Is there an NFL coach you’d consider more likely to pull a Woody Hayes and clock an opponent right there on the field? Hell, no. Harbaugh exudes a similar on-the-brink-of-losing-control vibe.
Again, he’s a heck of a coach. That much is obvious and well-documented and appreciated. But the more you see of the entire package, the less you’re likely to like. Boil it all down, and the man seems a bit of a bully, and that makes any 49ers misfortune feel a lot like karma coming back to bite him.
SIMMER DOWN ON THE DUBS: Freaked out about the Warriors’ ho-hum record? Don’t be. They’re called growing pains, and painful as it is to watch, the end result will be something of exciting and wondrous beauty.
Barring catastrophic injuries, this is a playoff team. Right now. Doesn’t matter what the standings say. This is a team still feeling itself out. It lost some key guys — on the court and in the locker room — to free agency over the summer, and while those holes were capably filled, the transition takes some time.
We’re told that team chemistry couldn’t be better, and there’s no evidence to doubt that, but off-the-court chemistry and on-the-court chemistry are very different beakers. That team that thrilled you last spring in the playoffs? It’s changed in significant ways, by addition, subtraction and improvement.
Andre Iguodala is a new piece, yes, but to an extent so is a healthy Andrew Bogut, a more confident Harrison Barnes, a reshaped Draymond Green … just to name a few. They’re all still making adjustments, and in allowing for that we need to back off. This is going to be a ridiculously fun team for a long time.
And as a bonus, their coach isn’t a lunatic. Likable, even.
Mychael Urban has covered Bay Area sports for more than 22 years as a contributor to Comcast SportsNet, CSNBayArea.com, KNBR, MLB.com, ESPN The Magazine and various newspapers.