Jim Harbaugh has a sworn enemy. I mean besides Pete Carroll and Jim Schwartz. His name is Frederick P. Soft. He’s apparently a 4″ tall guy that is waiting to derail progress, sideline successful seasons, and cajole players into a false sense of security. He stands on the players shoulder pads and whispers into their ears how great they are, and how the teams coming up on the schedule will crumble and fall by the wayside just by seeing their greatness. Complacency. Self-satisfaction. Smug arrogance.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it now. The 2 previous regimes fell into this trap over and over. A tough win, or even a close loss to a good team often resulted in the coaches filling the players up with false confidence. Nolan would give the players a day off after a win. Sing would profess their greatness to the world. Only to come out the next week and play flat, awful games. They consistently rested on their laurels. Nolan was the darling of the NFL in 2007. The Niners were poised for greatness. An 8 game losing streak derailed that season. Flash forward to 2010. The Niners were once again poised for greatness. The darlings of the NFL, and predicted to easily win the west. 5 straight losses later, and you have rats bailing on a sinking ship, anarchy, and Singletary pointing fingers at everyone.
Jim Harbaugh seems to have a grasp of how to deal with this phenomenon. The tough win over Philly was followed by a trouncing of Tampa. That was the mark of a guy who has his players prepared. Not reading their glowing press clippings, or standing pat while the next opponent schemes for them. This Cleveland game is another game that can easily be a pitfall game. Their last game was the Deetroit win. A BIG road win. Then the bye week. Now they play at home on front of what will be a crowd now EXPECTING great things. A blowout of lowly Cleveland. Shit changes fast. The perception is now that the 49ers are one of the top teams in the NFC. I’m sure Harbaugh has used Handshake-gate to build a perception of how the league doesn’t like or respect the 49ers. Early on, he was saying things like “the media ignores us” “ESPN doesn’t show our highlights” and the like. Now it’s this. Corny, manipulative, or whatever, the team is buying it. It leads back to Bill Walsh and the ‘us-vs-the-world’ mentality he cultivated. Us vs the other team, us vs the press, us vs the media, even us vs the front office of his own team. It was all about the guys in the locker room being united in the common goal. Walsh was no rah-rah type guy, but he instilled intense loyalty in his players, and they knew he had their back. Everything stayed in the locker room. If Harbaugh learned anything from his talks with Walsh, this appears to be high on the list.
As far as TO goes, no go. He’s got at least a month of conditioning just to GET into game shape. He ran what, 15 routes without pads, and no defenders around, and he was gassed. His shuttles were fine, but he’s got a long way to go to prove he’s ready for a real game. I’d say the Raiders or Tennessee may take a flier on him. Maybe even the Rams. But the last thing the 49ers need is a divisive presence like TO in the locker room.