Yesterday, James Brady had an excellent (and as is common with his work, funny) article up about Jim Harbaugh's predilection for playing a game of catch with new prospects, particularly QBs. It launched, in the comments, a brief conversation about Harbaugh's relationship with fans of other teams and fans of the 49ers.
This is not new ground; not at all. We all know how these relationships. Typically, fans of other teams dislike him. I know, duh. And - watch out, I'm going to blow your mind - 49ers really like him.
Not only do we like him, though; we are willing to defend him pretty heavily. If I learned anything from the "back-pat-gate," it's that 49er fans will exhaustively scour video tape of a post-game handshake in order to properly contextualize Harbaugh. And, this isn't a bad thing at all. This is the type of stuff that all fans should do. I am sure there were plenty of Lions fans doing the same thing.
But, I thought I would weigh in on the subject just because James' article made me think up another reason why I like him so much as a coach.
In the past, I would have come to Harbaugh's defense with arguments, well, about winning and QB development. I mean, these are still good arguments. Don't get me wrong; they are really persuasive. Since entering the NFL, he has been one of the best coaches in the league. And, if you look at his accomplishments in a historical context, you might notice how stellar he has been in the last few years. He still has a long way to go, of course. But, so far, I think it is fair to say that he has exceeded expectations.
But, I want to add a new (for me - I highly doubt that I am the first person to come up with this idea) angle to the conversation. I think Harbaugh suffers from a perception problem. Because he can be short with the media (and I, of course, say "can be" very deliberately because he can also be very generous with his time and answers), he occasionally gets bad press. Either the reporter feels tiffed and lets this affect his or her story or Harbaugh's curt answers don't accurately convey what he means.
49er fans, however, see a different side of Harbaugh; we see him playing pass with prospects, for example. We see how he treats his players (the wooing of Alex Smith comes to mind). We see - or, rather, hear - about his dedication to winning and all the ways in which this manifests itself. We hear about his work ethic and his competitive drive. And these qualities are endearing. When one sees the day to day Jim Harbaugh, it's pretty persuasive that he is a good coach who really cares about his team.
Now, I'm sure this is true about a lot of coaches. It just has to be. That's the nature of the media. It just seems that Harbaugh has perhaps exacerbated this problem beyond the typical point. I'm glad we know him for who he is. He's a fun coach.