Honesty is the best policy, and in Jim Harbaugh’s case that policy is always front and center. During a group interview with the Bay Area media on Wednesday, Harbaugh, in an unprompted response, brought up the 49ers pursuit of Peyton Manning even though it happened two and a half months ago. Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman traveled to North Carolina to watch the current Broncos quarterback workout during the heart of the Peyton Sweepstakes.
Here is how the exchange about the 49ers approach to Manning started:
Oh, one other thing. The perception out there, and it’s an erroneous perception, that we were flirting with Peyton Manning. I keep hearing that over and over and over again. It’s silly and it’s untrue. It’s phony. Even the perception that we were pursuing him – we were evaluating him.
There would have been no circumstance were we would have let Alex Smith go. Now, were we out there, seeing, evaluating if we could have them both? Heck, yeah. You evaluate that and you eliminate the possibility. And further evidence — we would not have given any player that was out there in free agency a sixth of our salary cap and let six or seven of our own guys go here. So hopefully that sets the record straight. And we don’t have to keep reporting the silliness and the phoniness.
You cannot fault Harbaugh for being honest. In fact, I wish more head coaches in the NFL had Harbaugh’s honesty. What Harbaugh was doing with his spontaneous statement was what he has previously done with Alex Smith and most recently with Michael Crabtree, publicly stating his confidence in one of his players. Harbaugh just does it in his own unique way.
What was surprising and new in what Harbaugh said is this was the first time he has so strongly stated the 49ers were not seriously pursuing Manning. The only reason I would believe this is because 49ers fans thought it was a good move to go after Manning and the pursuit did not cause Smith to sign with another team in retaliation. Everything worked out in the end for the 49ers. The other new thing to take away from what Harbaugh said was his comments in response to this question: If Peyton had said he wanted to come here would Alex still be here as well?
That would have been the hope, yeah. Like I said, there was no scenario where we weren’t going to have Alex Smith on this team if we could help it. Now you don’t control all those factors. So I think that’s very clear, very concise, hopefully everyone can understand that.
If the 49ers had won the Peyton Sweepstakes, Smith would be competing with Peyton for the starting job, had he re-signed. I wonder who would’ve won that competition? My bet would be on Manning. But the confusing part is when Harbaugh said the 49ers would have needed to release six or seven players to be able to match Manning’s contract he signed with the Broncos. Why even evaluate Manning if you know you would have to sell the farm to bring in one player?
The 49ers have shown they like to stock pile players at any position they have a need, for example see the team’s approach to acquiring receivers, so I see the intrigue in “evaluating” Manning. However if you knew all along you were not serious about signing Manning, why take the risk to go watch him workout? Maybe risk is right up there with honesty when it comes to Harbaugh’s coaching philosophy.
Here is a video of Harbaugh’s comments: