Recently, Fooch extolled the virtues of an ESPN article that investigated the psychological makeup of Jim Harbaugh. Seth Wickersham, writing for ESPN The Magazine, played catch with Harbaugh, asking the coach tough questions and generally attempting to understand Harbaugh's competitive nature. See also Can Inman's response to the original article, which does a service to the original article, and Dan Cahill's response, which does not.
Cahill's article was brought up in our original discussion of Wickersham's article, and Gailikk noted that his (or her, sorry if I'm getting this wrong!) reading of the article differed from Cahill's, concluding that this is because "I am a 49er fan so I have a bias." While I think Gailikk gives Cahill too much credit, it is obvious that 49ers fans love Harbaugh disproportionately more than most people. While it's expected that fans will like their own coach, should he be coaching well that is, the fact still remains that Harbaugh isn't that popular outside of the Bay Area.
But, Wickersham's article does a good job of showing why. Consider this paragraph, tucked quietly into the article but nevertheless illuminating:
Harbaugh sometimes brings glasses of whole milk to coaches meetings, believing it builds strength. While other staffs slave past midnight, he lets his coaches leave early a few nights a week so they can have dinner with their families; he even once babysat the toddler of one of his assistants so the coach and his wife could have a date. He eats lunch with a different group of players each day to get to know them. He buys cakes on birthdays and has a Will Hunting ability to calculate quickly how many days someone has been alive. Harbaugh's methods, haphazard as they are heartfelt, are as true as his record, but they still leave staffers, as a former one says, "with the constant feeling like they're going to get exposed."
It ends on an ominous note: this is how most people think of Harbaugh nationally. He is the guy always looking to yell at a ref (or a staffer or a player, etc.). But, we understand this in a context - Jim Harbaugh does all the little things right. These are the things that Jets fans across the country don't see, unless they are paying an odd amount of attention to the 49ers. We know the Harbaugh that gets lunch with his players. We know the coach who will flat-out lie in a press conference if it will help a player develop confidence. We know the coach who is wholly committed to his team.
I think of the shoulder pads hitting routine. What a brilliant move. That's the type of little thing that endears a coach to his QB, and it seems to be emblematic of how Harbaugh approaches his players in general. As 49ers fans, we get to see this. And, frankly, it's a delight. I really enjoy Harbaugh as a coach, and I earnestly hope all the locker room dissension rumors are not true because I don't want to see him leave. Jim Harbaugh does all the little things right, so we forgive him his larger - and more public - eccentricities.
Anyway, as a head coach, he's worth it.