The San Francisco 49ers got a huge win on Sunday in defeating the Philadelphia Eagles, but it apparently would not be an NFL Sunday without national media getting in their Jim Harbaugh chatter. Ian Rapoport reported Sunday morning that 49ers veterans are still grumbling about Jim Harbaugh.
I say "still" because on the Sunday morning leading up to the 49ers Week 1 win over the Dallas Cowboys, Rapoport reported that some players were not happy with Jim Harbaugh, and did not feel he was "all in" with the team. This also comes amidst reports the Miami Dolphins owner is "covertly working to be positioned to potentially trade for" Jim Harbaugh. Guess it's no longer quite so covert.
Fooch's Update: Mike Silver also had this line from a veteran, "Let's face it: For us, it has to be now. Because after this year, a whole lot of us could be gone, including the head coach."
That Week 1 Rapoport report seemed to deal primarily with the fact that he is connected to other jobs, but also included an annoyance with the Baltimore practices. The Week 4 Rapoport report was a bit more specific on things that may be annoying players:
Some of the complaints include the fact that he kind of treats them like children. In fact, on planes, I'm told, they're not allowed to play music, they're not allowed to play cards. Small things, but these are the things that really can rankle players, even though the veterans do get to sit in first class.
I guess you can take what you want from that. Later in the evening, Deion Sanders went a step further saying the players were not "down for [their] coach". While this is all hearsay, and some might be overblown, I am pretty sure this is not entirely a media-created story.
The bigger issue remains the idea that there are concerns Harbaugh is not all in with the team. I have heard this kind of thing recently, but I heard it at least three times removed from any player, so feel free to take it with a grain of salt. I had not heard anything about some of the other grumblings, but the "all in" concerns are not coming out of nowhere.
Even if you don't buy the reports, would it really be all that surprising to think 49ers players don't think Jim Harbaugh is entirely committed to the team? Yes, he probably desperately wants to win a Super Bowl, but the repeated connections to various college and NFL jobs cannot do anything to assuage fears he is not 100 percent committed to his players.
In recent weeks, some Michigan rumors have started to percolate in light of Brady Hoke's performance this season (and really, he should be fired for this reprehensible negligence). We briefly addressed that on Friday, but that is just one of many rumors that have percolated during Coach Harbaugh's tenure in San Francisco. There have been mentions of USC, Texas, the Miami Dolphins and the Cleveland Browns.
While Jim Harbaugh has said he is not interested in another job, it is difficult to not at least figure where there's smoke, there's fire. Coach Harbaugh has denied this stuff, but I remain convinced his agent, David Dunn, has been operating extensively behind the scenes on a lot of this. I don't know what he and Jim Harbaugh have discussed in regards to what Dunn should be doing, but it is possible there is enough plausible deniability that Jim Harbaugh can say what he says, while Dunn does whatever it is that he does.
The players are professionals, and have their own goals in mind as they play. However, we cannot remove the emotion from the equation. When you're talking about the physical commitment players are making on a weekly basis, if they think their coach is on the lookout for the next big opportunity, it should be no surprise that they take it a little bit personal. Maybe this is enough to galvanize them to win in spite of the coach, or something along those lines, but either way, it does not strike me as the healthiest working relationship.
After the 49ers beat the Cowboys, there was not a lot of chatter about this stuff. If the 49ers can string together a few wins, I would not be at all surprised if this dropped off the radar for the time being. Winning has a funny way of providing a temporary salve to what ails a team. I highly doubt we have heard the last of this story, particularly if the 49ers go on another losing streak of any kind. However, if the 49ers can beat the Chiefs and Rams and get into the bye week with at least a 4-3 record, I think this simmers down a little bit, at least in terms of players complaining to the media.
Either way, this could be a long year for Jim Harbaugh rumors and speculation. Good times.