Two years ago, former USC safety Taylor Mays was dismayed (“I see what you did there”) when his former college coach didn’t select Mays with one of the Seattle Seahawks’ two first-round picks.
Now, the arch-rival of Pete Carroll may be dealing with a similar issue.
49ers coach Jim Harbaugh passed on former Stanford tight end Coby Fleener, opting instead for Illinois receiver A.J. Jenkins, whom Harbaugh said was chosen to be the pick before the draft began. While the 49ers have tight end Vernon Davis under contract, the use of two pass-catching tight ends has become fashionable in the NFL. Moreover, the 49ers arguably had an even lesser need at the receiver position, given a depth chart that has been bolstered by the offseason additions of Randy Moss and Mario Manningham.
“Coby Fleener won us games,” Harbaugh said in February. “I probably tend to be — I mean, I love these guys. Maybe I am the over-evaluator. My point was it probably takes us some checks and balances with those guys that I know so well.”
Apparently, the checks and balances won out in the end. The real question is whether and to what extent Harbaugh led Fleener to believe he’d be the pick. Before the 49ers’ failed pursuit of Peyton Manning, which came after Harbaugh repeatedly expressed his commitment to Alex Smith, we would have said there’s no chance Harbaugh would have said anything to get Fleener’s hopes up. In the wake of a fairly tangible piece of evidence that Harbaugh has the capacity to behave like the many other say-one-thing-do-another football coaches, it’s hardly a stretch to think that Fleener was thinking he’d be getting a call from the 415 area code when the Niners were on the clock.
The good news for Fleener is that he could end up being reunited not with the man who recruited him to Palo Alto, but with the guy who threw him all those passes. The Colts hold the second pick in round two; unless the Rams take Fleener with the 33rd selection — or use the 18-hour gap between round one and two to find someone who will trade up for the ability to do so — Fleener and Andrew Luck could be the new Dallas Clark and Peyton Manning in Indy.