In my bedroom I have four posters hanging up: one of the Coliseum, one of van Gogh's Café Terrace at Night, one of da Vinci's Last Supper, and one of Dali's The City of Drawers. I find these posters to be comforting for the most part (the Dali is a tad weird when I'm trying to sleep), but these posters have become good friends. When I am lacking inspiration in writing, life, or whatever, I look at these posters. I have gotten to know them quite well and they compel me to action.
In some regards, I think of coaching as an art form. So many competing decisions and factors influence what happens throughout the week and on the sidelines during game day. Moreover, the landscape of the NFL changes so drastically, that one must continually innovate one's "artistic style" to keep up.
This is one of Harbaugh's strengths. On game day, he can evaluate and change the game plan accordingly. Singletary, on the other hand, either could not or would not. It was like Singletary was a 14th Century painter in Italy who just decided Giotto never existed. He was still trying to paint with the crude, two-dimensional Byzantine style, rather than the newly invigorated naturalism of Giotto.
Now this does not mean Harbaugh is above reproach, not by any means. I have no artistic ability in my bones, and yet I still think that the woman's hips in The City of Drawers are a bit too big. Just as it is a stretch to criticize Dali more than that, I think Harbaugh has proven himself an artistic master such that we find it difficult to criticize him.
So, let's take a look at a few of his key decisions from the Giants-Niners game.
Decision 1: The Onside Kick.
Here's the nifty thing about onside kicks - when they work, the coach looks like a genius; when they don't, you should put a frying pan right under him, because when he wipes that egg off his face, you can make yourself a nice little breakfast.
I like to try to evaluate onside kicks independent of such a factor. First, let me say kudos to the coaching staff (read: Brad Seely) for identifying the opportunity. That's good stuff and I'm not evaluating this either.
Rather I would like to suggest that even if the Giants did not present a favorable scenario for an onside kick, it would still be a low-risk/high-reward move.
The Niners had already proved that getting into the endzone against them was pretty hard. The Giants had already proved that getting the redzone was pretty easy. In a way, if the Niners did kick it off, it was almost inevitable that the Giants would march it to where the ball would have been recovered on an onside kick anyway.
Obviously this is a very reductionist view, as we did stop them short a couple of times, but the game was really won by Alex Smith and the redzone defense (with a nod to Carlos Rodgers' interceptions).
A Harbaugh masterpiece? Check
Decision 2: The Two-Point Conversion Attempt.
To me this is a no-brainer. I don't even feel like I need to say much about this one except that should the attempt be successful (go Crabs!), then the Niners go up by a touchdown. Should it not be successful and the Giants score a TD, then the Niners are still within a field goal.
A Harbaugh masterpiece? Put it in the Louvre, son.
Decision 3: Challenging the Catch.
Here's where I think most people in the comments will get at me like the wild, unthinking animals you are: I don't think that Harbaugh's challenge of Mario Manningham's catch on 4th and 6 in the dwindling moments of the Fourth Quarter was a good one.
I get the arguments: it's just a glorified timeout, and a longer one than that. It slows down the offense.
I'll be perfectly honest, if one wants to take a timeout and wants longer than the allotted time, then challenging a play is brilliant. This is the exact type of genius I expect from Harbuagh. It's such outside of the box thinking that I want to roll up into other geometrical, non-cube shapes and snuggle with it.
But let's not let the brilliance of this shroud the fact that this was just a bad time to call a timeout. They are a precious commodity and one that we conceivably could have needed. Badly. Oh so badly.
No, I'm not convinced that the timeout with the Giants' offense on the field was more valuable than its potential with the 49ers' offense on the field.
Now if somebody showed me some numbers to prove me wrong, I would be willing to change my mind. Fast.
So what do you think? Go down the list, 1,2,3 and rate Harbaugh as an artistic genius.