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By TED SILLANPAA

Jim Harbaugh was nothing more to me than a football coach who turned the 49ers around, led them to consecutive NFC Championship games. While members of the media who try to deal with him do nothing but complain about his bullying, all I really thought about was that the Niners started winning again when Harbaugh showed up.

The 49ers led the Falcons 28-24 with 3 minutes, 53 seconds in the fourth quarter Sunday. It was third down-and-2. Matt Ryan spotted Harry Douglas in man coverage down the right sideline. Then, 49ers’ defender Carlos Rogers lost his footing and Douglas appeared ready to catch pass and score a go-ahead touchdown.

Ryan lofted a pass toward Douglas, who was so open …. soooooooooo open. Ryan didn’t throw the pass out in front of his receiver, though. Douglas had to stutter-step and make the catch awkwardly, as he fell to the turf. He seemed to secure the ball with his hands, before it somehow moved to his chest then to his stomach before, as God alone was my witness, I swear still that the ball fell to the ground.

My reactions, in order, were:

Oh, *&^^!!” when Rogers fell down and a touchdown appeared certain.

“Oh, yes!” when I realized Ryan underthrew slightly and forced Douglas to make that acrobatic catch that would prevented a TD.

“He trapped it!”when I saw that Douglas trapped the ball.

Watching with my entire family, including my older sons who know cheer aloud in the living room and exchange high-fives like every Joe and Jerry SuperFan, I didn’t make a sound. It’s not my style when I’m just a guy with a couple bucks bet on a big game.

When I played ball, coached it and sat through those insufferably close games that often seem and seemed to be in the hands of my sons … I thought winning was a matter of life and death. Legendary NFL head coach George Allen once said that “Everytime you lose, you die a little bit.” I agree.

When things clearly didn’t go my way, particularly a judgment call or a rules interpretation, all I cared about was that my teams and I had spent hours (my sons and I spent years) preparing to win in big moments and nobody was going to steal a win without hearing about it. Got a problem? Too bad.

Jim Harbaugh’s insanely angry reaction to the Douglas call is what I want from the guy coaching the team I’m rooting for because it’s the reaction I would have, maybe even today if my youngest son got jobbed pitching in a big baseball game. (Go ahead. Click the link. Harbaugh’s reaction is embedded there.)

I fell for Harbaugh because he doesn’t care about anything but his players, his plan and winning. He is not of the generation of adults (many of whom have taken over major roles in the media) who believe that winning isn’t everything. Don’t tell Harbaugh that trying really hard and accepting the outcome is the goal in any game. And, don’t tell him that winners don’t make the rules in society.

We play to win the games. And, when you devote your life to getting to the Super Bowl and you think it’s been snatched from you by a muffed call, you’re not human if you sigh, adjust your headset and check the scoreboard for down and distance. (You are, however, an NFL coach not named Harbaugh.)

Society has tried to teach us that the outcome of the game doesn’t really matter that match. Be cool. Calm. Win and lose with grace. Set a good example. I disagree with all that and when I saw Harbaugh’s reaction I realized he’s a coach after my own heart.

If you were sipping a beverage and snacking on chips and salsa on Sunday, you have no idea how Harbaugh could get that upset. If you’ve spent days, weeks and years with teammates or coaching players with whom you’ve built relationships, you couldn’t understand how a coach could react any other way.

Well, I couldn’t understand how a coach could’ve reacted any other way because I would’ve reacted that way. I have reacted that way.

Harbaugh’s reaction, and his ability to coach football teams to championships, won me over Sunday. I know that if I met him and had to interview him for a story he would bully me and treat me with disdain. If his relationship with me or any other media guy ever has anything to do with winning, let me know.

It’s not Harbaugh’s job to please members of the media or fans who have no idea what leads to making a quarterback change late in the season. OK?

Harbaugh cares like fans want their coach to care. Then, he goes back to doing what his teams have done since he got his first head job and wins.

Winning is all that matters. Harbaugh coaches like it.

I love that.

 

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Comments

11 Comments

  1. KB

    “Be cool. Calm. Win and lose with grace. Set a good example. I disagree with all that and when I saw Harbaugh’s reaction I realized he’s a coach after my own heart”.
    Disagreeing with a call as he did is different than winning or losing with grace.

    Kinda like when I see a player throw a helmet after a loss. If he threw it because he lost, then he’s a jerk. But if he threw it because HE f__ked up and personally let his team down, then that’s a little different. Problem is, in that instance, we (the judgers) don’t know what’s going on in his head.

    January 21st, 2013 7:41 am

  2. The Bat

    I was watching the Raiders play one day, and I noticed their new coach, as a Raven defender brought his forearm down on Carson Palmer’s head, (for which no flag was thrown) just kinda deadpan and yes, adjust his headphones. I remember thinking to myself that if that were my guy, my QB, I would be screaming BLUE MURDER at whatever official missed that call. Harbaugh is that way, fiery, cares only about winning, and will go to any length to protect his guys.

    Great coach, great team, and a great run, no matter what happens. All Hail The Turlock Tornado! GO NINERS!

    January 21st, 2013 12:45 pm

  3. overtime

    Bat…Thanks for reading. You know…we’re passionate about the competition. Those guys have their livelihoods on the line and for us to think Harbaugh should be thinking about how he’ll be perceived…or worrying about making nice with media people (who ask the most inane questions, many times) is crazy. Bill Walsh seemed to be the epitome of grace and calm on the sideline, but was an incredibly intense competitor. Everybody’s different … so, I found myself liking Harbaugh more when he reacted that way…then got himself together and went about business. Ted

    January 21st, 2013 2:47 pm

  4. BillWilliamkill

    Wow. Really got that one wrong. 14-35 9er’s. I think I broke my machine. But, one last game and the damn thing says it’s a Niner’s 35 and a Ravens 14 game. I know! But that’s what it says. My confidence is shaky so I wouldn’t take anywhere near a bank. Well, maybe…

    January 22nd, 2013 9:07 am

  5. Chuck

    Ted, you wrote:

    It’s not Harbaugh’s job to please members of the media or fans who have no idea what leads to making a quarterback change late in the season. OK?

    And I wrote to you back in November when Harbaugh decided to go with Kaep:

    Jim Harbaugh’s job right now is not think back to when he was a player having been in Smith’s and Kaep’s positions, but to make the best decision as a coach for his team to win … and advance to and through the playoffs and to Super Bowl XLVII. Or as my best friend says to his sons, “My job is not to be your best friend; it’s to be your dad.”

    Welcome to the Kaep-wagon, my friend! :-) GO NINERS!

    January 22nd, 2013 10:28 am

  6. overtime

    Chuck…Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. I’m not on any bandwagon. I still feel the same way … it’s not Harbaugh’s job to please you, me or anybody else. He made the QB change and it worked out well. You’d still get an argument from the people who were upset with the move. They’d still tell you that Alex Smith would’ve gotten the 49ers to this point. Ted

    January 22nd, 2013 12:36 pm

  7. overtime

    Bill…I think there’s a reason I build my nut then wind up going months without placing, arguably, the smallest recreational wagers in sports gambling history. My system involves no betting more than I can really afford to lose. There’s also a reason I don’t know a gambler who retired wealthy. The system works until it doesn’t. Hope your system works for you next time around. Right? TED

    January 22nd, 2013 12:38 pm

  8. Chuck

    Ted,

    “it’s not Harbaugh’s job to please you, me or anybody else”

    I think we’re in violent agreement here. :-)

    “They’d still tell you that Alex Smith would’ve gotten the 49ers to this point.”

    Not saying you’re one of those people referenced above. I have a good friend (die hard NYG fan) who did not agree with Harbaugh’s decision to bench Smith and start Kaep. But he’s also the first person to admit that Kaep has now got the 49ers to where Smith didn’t. That’s probably as close to apples-to-apples as you can get. This year’s team is largely the same except for who’s playing QB in the playoffs.

    Bottom line: 49ers are playing in the Super Bowl for the first time in 18 years (has it really been that long???) For me, that’s what matters most.

    Cheers, Chuck

    January 22nd, 2013 1:04 pm

  9. overtime

    Chuck…No problem. I just find myself giving bandwagon-jumpers a hard time … whether or not I’m on the bandwagon when they jump on. I wrote that Harbaugh decided he wanted Kaepernick to quarterback and that he made a decision only a really good leader would make. Most leader’ish types would stick with the safer choice. He put his reputation and the team’s fate on the line, but a great leader makes forward-thinking decisions with confidence. So … realizing that, I ceased to see any reason to even consider the QB question. I’m still adjusting to the 49ers’ QB looking like the bass player from Anthrax, but it’s one of many things that reminds I’m getting older and older really quickly. TED

    January 22nd, 2013 1:17 pm

  10. Chuck

    “I’m still adjusting to the 49ers’ QB looking like the bass player from Anthrax”

    At least he doesn’t look like Justin Bieber. :-)

    January 22nd, 2013 1:24 pm

  11. overtime

    Chuck…Excellent point. However, if Justin Bieber was able to make field goals from 40 yards and in consistently, I suppose he’d be welcome to the 49ers’ roster. Ted

    January 22nd, 2013 1:52 pm

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