Last Sunday was filled with questionable calls in nearly every game due to replacement officials working in place of the NFL's unionized officials and the work stoppage. The 49ers vs. Packers game saw it's fair share of marginal calls and that brought out "Angry Jim Harbaugh" (gif after the jump).
Not only did Harbaugh froth at the mouth over officiating in the game, but he also challenged a Packers pass early in the game that was ruled complete on the field. NaVorro Bowman was in coverage on the play and immediately jumped up after the tackle making the "incomplete" signal with his arms. Harbaugh threw the challenge flag before the next play began.
The replays weren't conclusive, something we all knew before Harbaugh even decided to challenge the call...something that his staff up in the booth surely saw as well, one would think. No, I think Harbaugh challenged the play for a different reason...He was doing something he's done all along, just in another fashion: Supporting his players.
More after the jump.
It might seem foolish to challenge a play that's not likely to be overturned just to show your players that you have their back. After all, you only get two chances to get a challenge wrong and then you're not allowed any more for the rest of the game.
But Harbaugh sees the bigger significance of this gesture. I think the reason he was kicking and screaming on the sideline, the reason he threw that flag, are the same reasons he gives such lofty praise to his guys in the media. The same reason last year he declared Alex Smith to be "elite", someone who deserved to be in the Pro Bowl. Don't forget he also said that Michael Crabtree had the best hands of any receiver he'd ever been around.
Harbaugh has built a unified team, from the top down. Everyone trusts everyone, everyone works hard for each other, they stick together, they don't quit, they love each other like brothers or fathers and sons. You know when your kid comes to you and tells you he "swears" he saw a tiger in the back yard. Sometimes you have to at least pretend like you believe him, and go take a look.
Harbaugh wants his guys to know he's got their back, that he'll take their word for it, that he believes they're capable of making these plays. Yeah, it cost him a challenge. But maybe part of the reason the team never quit, the deep passes defensed over and over again, the game-changing interception by Bowman himself...maybe his piss-and-vinegar demeanor on the sideline sparked everyone's inner flame and kept it burning all game long.
He knows that it takes everything you've got to beat a team like Green Bay in Lambeau, and that everything can be used for strategy. He's not going to pass up one opportunity to light a fire under his guys, to give them hope because he believes in them. And to prove to them just how much.
Scream, spit and swear-on, good Sir. Because I for one love it.