At this rate, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh’s infamous “who’s got it better than us?” victory cry eventually may become a “who hasn’t got it better than us?” lament.
With most of the last nine days devoted to a dissection of the dysfunction between Harbaugh and 49ers G.M. Trent Baalke, Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle identifies a new front in the organizational battlefield.
“One source with inside knowledge of the team says that Harbaugh’s act has worn thin in the locker room,” Killion writes, “particularly among some key ‘face of the 49ers’ type players. While the team is winning, that’s not a problem. But a few losses could expose a widening rift.”
No specific players are mentioned, but the obvious candidates are linebacker Patrick Willis, defensive lineman Justin Smith, running back Frank Gore, receiver Michael Crabtree, tight end Vernon Davis, and/or quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Speaking of the team’s hot-and-cold franchise quarterback, another source explained to Killion that there’s no real link between the Harbaugh-Baalke disconnect and the team’s inability to return to the Super Bowl this past season. “‘If Jim and Trent have a beer together, it’s not going to make Kap throw the ball four inches higher,’” the source said, referring to the intercepted pass from Kaepernick to Crabtree at the end of the most recent NFC title game, the second straight year that the failure of quarterback and receiver to deliver in crunch time ended a postseason run.
As a result, the shelf-life between Harbaugh and Baalke possibly mirrors the shelf life between Harbaugh and his players. If, as Killion points out, adversity arrives and stays, it could all implode.
Some think that, if the 49ers give Harbaugh the contract he covets, all will be well. There’s also a chance it could get worse, right away or in time.
“That’s just who Jim is,” a team source told Killion. “He’d probably like to redo his contract every year, just out of competition.”
At it’s core, that’s really the issue. Jim Harbaugh is intensely competitive.
“Jim is the greatest pure competitor, by far, that I ever met in my life,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh told Sports Illustrated in 2010. “At everything.”
Jim Harbaugh competes with everyone, about anything. It has made him wildly successful during his first three seasons as an NFL head coach, with three straight NFC title game appearances. But it could make this coming season his last one in San Francisco.
And then his competitive nature will be welcomed gladly by any of the various teams that would love to go to only one conference title game.