Jim Harbaugh made a radio appearance on the Murph and Mac KNBR 680 morning show, which aired Tuesday morning. It is no secret Harbaugh is generally vague with the media, but fresh off a tough loss to the Colts, I wanted to hear what he had to say. You can listen to the full interview if you are so inclined.
There was nothing earth shattering, but toward the end of the interview -- Murph asked Harbaugh about Aldon Smith. Specifically, Murph wanted Harbaugh to respond to the message it sent to the community and the team. He asked Harbaugh if he wanted to "counter the criticism" of Harbaugh's motivation to play Smith on Sunday.
We all know the criticism of the 49ers' decision to play Smith. It is easy to be critical. I was less than thrilled about how they handled it. However, none of us are privy to all of the facts or the conversations between the team and Aldon Smith. Much of the criticism, in my opinion, has been intensified because of the teams' unwillingness and/or inability to explain its position on Smith's behavior. With everyone in the dark, it generates more speculation and criticism. I have read so much about how Aldon Smith needs tough love. Many have questioned the 49ers' motivations, some have gone as far to accuse the team of being unethical and lacking in human compassion. So what did Harbaugh have to say?
Harbaugh emphatically stated he was not looking to explain or justify anything, he was not "looking to win the story." He went on to say, "we did what we felt was best for our team and felt was best for Aldon in the long run..... [W]e felt like he needed to come to work, we felt like he needed to face his teammates."
Now, whether or not this was the right decision, I do not know. I am not an addiction specialist. But, neither are coaches. We are all aware of the 49ers' well-known blue collar work philosophy. Harbaugh's response gave me a little more insight into the decision to put Aldon back in the trenches. While everyone remains critical of Harbaugh's win at all costs mentality, I cannot get behind the notion Harbaugh does not care about Aldon as a person. After all, he is a human being.
Moreover, one part of recovery is recognition of those you've harmed with addiction. In fact, facing those people is important to the healing process. It is entirely plausible the disciplinarian in Harbaugh wanted Smith to understand who he has harmed by his reckless behavior.
Harbaugh stated, "I don't think that there's anybody that doesn't want to see ... a good outcome. Is there anybody that doesn't want to figure out what's causing this and get it healed? And that's the process we're going through." He further stated, "If somebody doesn't respect that or doesn't want that, then question their motivations because that's what we want the outcome to be. We want it to be a positive outcome."
The media was quick to jump on Harbaugh's back about the second to last line.
@knbrmurph That's so football coach; always right even when not, and if questioned, sees sinister motives behind the questioner.— Ray Ratto (@RattoCSN) September 24, 2013
On KNBR, Harbaugh questions the motives of anyone who questioned the 49ers playing Aldon Smith on Sunday. Circle the wagons time.— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) September 24, 2013
In all sincerity, how can the media possibly know the inner intentions of Jim Harbaugh? Everyone is quick to impute bad motives, but is it not equally possible the team thought it was the right move for Aldon and the team?
As I have said before, the situation with Aldon Smith is a delicate one. Whether or not the decision to play Aldon was right is questionable, but to infer Harbaugh does not care about the players is takes it to another level. 49ers may have made the wrong the decision in playing Aldon, but intentionally tearing down Harbaugh's character over a decision (he believed was right) is unnecessary and sinister.