A recent report from Ann Killion of the SF Chronicle that “[Jim] Harbaugh’s Act Has Worn Thin in the [49ers] Locker Room, particularly among some ‘key face of the 49ers’ type players” is at the most an overstated concern–and at the least a serious worry for 49er fans.
Harbaugh definitely has a grating personality. That much we know. We also know that 49er fans, for the most part, love his competitive, in-your-face style. He won over Alex Smith and turned him into the Pro-Bowler he now is. Yet he also did not refuse to change quarterbacks when he felt it was necessary. In other words, he will do whatever it takes to win–which can strain relationships, stress others out, and make life difficult for all involved.
Still, though, this is the guy who has averaged 12 wins a season in his first three years, has never done worse than the NFC Championship Game, and has a wardrobe that inspires April Fools Pranks from 49ers.com. He also this season, for the first time in his NFL career, seemed to be more genial with the media. Just when he started to get a bit more likeable, these stories of clashing personalities and locker-room conflict appear, making it hard to see Harbaugh long-term with the 49ers–or anywhere. He clashed with Mike Ditka, flew through the college ranks–though that was based on success, not frustration–and now is the center of much debate with his 49ers’ future in limbo.
So what are the 49ers to do with such a hard-nosed competitor? Killion makes some fantastic points on the 49ers’ desire to open Levi’s Stadium with wins and without conflict, especially with the high ticket prices. She also quotes source, who said
“That’s just who Jim is. He’d probably like to redo his contract every year, just out of competition.”
That quote, though perhaps true, seems to hold some level of jest and respect for a man who has competed his way to victory after victory. Let us hope that continues.