By Jerrell Richardson
Don’t let the recent headlines fool you. Jim Harbaugh has not lost the 49er locker room. After San Francisco’s impressive victory this past Sunday over an undefeated Eagles squad, NFL analyst, and former 49er Deion Sanders declared that Harbaugh is starting to get on the nerves of his players and that the team is no longer playing for him. Supporting Deion’s remark was another analyst and former 49er, Trent Dilfer, who referred to the 49ers as “toxic”.
In response to the rumors that he has “lost the locker room,” Harbaugh has denied them and he appears to be right. At this time Sanders has refused to name his source, and has even gone as far as to hint it’s not an actual player, meaning its not Michael Crabtree, the player inside the locker room whom Deion figured to have some ties to.
When asked to clarify his comments, Trent Dilfer said that he was talking about the offense and not the locker room, so all of a sudden this rumor is losing steam. Either way, the only story here is that the 49ers players and Jim Harbaugh are as united as ever. Sanders remarks may have a hint of truth to it, but even if Sanders source is correct, since when did it become big news for a player and coach to be at odds?
Harbaugh Has Earned His Players Respect
Jim Harbaugh is a unique individual. He is quirky, has a temper, and is stubborn to name a few of his many qualities. To think that 52 men, who for their entire lives have been the center of attention will all love the guy is misguided. Of course there are going to be some players who don’t see eye to eye with him, but there is a difference between love and respect, and it’s the latter that Harbaugh needs from his team. How does one get respect of an NFL locker room? By Winning.
After taking a team that was going nowhere and turning them into a Super Bowl contender almost overnight, Harbaugh has to be at least in the conversation as the best coach in the league. So not only would it seem foolish for any of his players to want a change, the question then becomes who would replace him and would the expectation be on them to win the Super Bowl in their first year? The answer to this is obviously no, so why even entertain a thought that will send the team backwards?
Veterans Have HIs Back
Two players who made it clear that Harbaugh does not have a locker room issue are Alex Boone and Michael Crabtree. Both 49er veterans have directly responded to questions about this issue and made it clear that they too are surprised from this recent allegation.
So what are the juicy details? What is so bad about Harbaugh? The only thing that has surfaced is that Harbaugh treats the players like children and the example given was that players are not allowed to play music or play cards on plane rides. Really? That’s the best those backing this can come up with? Last season Mike Tomlin banned all games from the locker room after his team started 0-4 and few batted an eye. If this is true, and the reason is to keep the team focused on the task at hand, and the results are 3 straight NFC Championship Games then what’s the problem? You don’t let something become a problem then fix it, you avoid it all together.
So how did this become a story in the first place? The 49ers were expected to have a great season and stumbled out of the gates. To make matters worse, San Francisco, (along with the referees), cost themselves two wins. It’s true that in some cases a team committing mistakes could be due to a team that no longer is playing for their coach, but that was and is clearly not the case here.
49ers Continue To Play Hard
Chicago’s second half interceptions were all worthy of Sportscenter Top 10 consideration, and the Bears offense, which is as explosive as any in the league got hot. Against the Cardinals it was penalties, the most glaring being back to back late hits on Drew Stanton, neither of which were legitimate calls that set up a touchdown pass that turned the momentum of the game. Last week against the Eagles, even in a win, a blocked punt, a punt return and an interception returned for a touchdown kept the Eagles within striking distance until the final whistle.
None of these miscues though show a team that has lost faith in their head coach. In fact in the last 3 games, despite a plethora of mistakes, the 49ers have played through them until the final whistle. A team that is not playing for its coach is one that folds at the first sign of adversity which is clearly not the case in San Francisco.
On Sunday, the 49ers handed the Eagles 21 points, were down at the half and had every reason to mail the rest of the game in. Instead they won the game by making plays on both sides of the ball as well as special teams. Not exactly the actions of a team that has given up. For a comparison, look at the Raiders game this past week to see what it looks like when a team gives up on a coach.
Harbaugh Still In Control
Deion said it, but with Trent Dilfer backing off his comments, the public support by Boone and Crabtree and the team competing on the field there is no way Jim Harbaugh has a team that doesn’t want to play for him. This story is the media making a mountain out of a mole hill. After all this is all about the 49ers record, and last year’s team that made it to the NFC Championship Game had an identical start to the season record wise. So until Mr. Sanders wants to name a source or actually put some support behind his comments this losing the locker room nonsense can be ignored.
For more 49ers news and updates, visit 49ers Central.
Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. Jerrell is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.