A lot of things happened on the way to this “not-to-be” Superbowl quest year:
- Distractions associated with legal matters of 3 defensive players
- Injuries galore both offensively and defensively
- Constant rumors and press innuendo that Coach Harbaugh was in his final year of coaching the team
- 49ers player didn’t exhibit passion or enthusiasm for the opportunity to play
- Quarterback Kaepernick (Kap) seemed to not be himself all year
- Receivers dropped a lot of passes; a lot of passes were poorly thrown
- Impact players in prior years seemed to have fewer opportunities to be impact players this season
- Kap’s running game was pretty much non-existent until Game 15
- 49ers scored no touchdowns in the 4th quarter for the first 14 games of the season—so much for “come-from-behind” victories
- Lack of support for the team and coaches on Thanksgiving night after a loss—owners apologized to fans for poor performance against Seattle Seahawks
To win, you have to believe. At some point, the 49ers stopped believing. Where does the problem lie?
- It’s not with Harbaugh—he’s a one of the best coaches in the NFL
- It may lie with offensive coordinator, Greg Roman. It’s hard to support him when the offense struggled so hard all season to put points on the board
- It’s not with the players—the 49ers have a lot of talent albeit the injuries were substantial this season
- It’s not with the new $1.2 billion Levi’s Stadium
The owners have fostered uncertainty and doubt about Harbaugh all season long. The lack of synergy and seamlessness between Harbaugh and team ownership contributed to this losing season. Who wants to work for a owner who second guesses you? Who wants to give their all for an owner who berates the team?
The San Francisco 49ers face an owner leadership issue, not a talent issue. The ownership’s lack of support for Harbaugh knocked Harbaugh and the team out of its center and derailed their ability to feel balanced and comfortable in playing the game. There were too many times this year when, after the team fell behind, I had no confidence that the team could execute a “come-from-behind” victory. It’s as though they didn’t have the will to do something for themselves, their coach or the owners.
For the fans hoping Harbaugh is gone, be careful what you wish for. He may be gone because he is no longer willing to work for the owners. Most people leave jobs because of their managers, not because of the job itself.
We don’t know what’s been said behind closed doors. We do know what has not been said. I don’t recall the owners voicing unequivocal support for Harbaugh all year. That’s a huge problem and a good reason for Harbaugh to leave the team. Instead, they hung him out to dry. He had to succeed or fail on his own while the owners sat in their luxury suite grousing all the way. That’s not a formula for winning.
I hope the 49er’s owners come to their senses and keep Jim Harbaugh. And, get some counseling and leadership training alone the way.
What do you think?
© 2014 Dave Gardner
Photo courtesy of Intel Free Press on Flickr