By Brandon Niles Explore Big Sky Sports Columnist
I’ve been wondering for the past year or so why I can’t get on board with the San Francisco 49ers. They’re clearly a good team, making it to the NFC Championship game in 2012 and the Super Bowl this past February, before losing to the Baltimore Ravens. They have exciting young players and loads of talent on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick looks like a legitimate star in the NFL, and linebacker Patrick Willis is one of my favorite football players.
So, what about the 49ers bothers me? Why do I root against them and predict their downfall? After the first week of the 2013 NFL season, I figured it out: 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh is a whiner.
Harbaugh is a great coach whose success is undeniable. He worked wonders with the Stanford University football program, and he’s turned the 49ers from a “once proud and successful franchise,” into a legitimate Super Bowl contender and one of the best teams in the league. Despite this success, Harbaugh always has something to complain about.
When he was at Stanford, Harbaugh complained about everything from Michigan academic standards, to the officiating, to his rival and then-USC coach Pete Carroll. Since arriving in the NFL, he’s had a public spat with Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz, and he’s consistently complaining about referees, rules and just about everything else to do with the game. Harbaugh’s officiating criticisms are so animated that in 2011 he drew a response from former NFL VP of Officiating Mike Pereira, who on Fox Sports referred to Harbaugh’s antics as “good drama.”
He has been especially whiney in 2013. After the Super Bowl loss, he spent most of the post-game interview complaining about the referees. He complained about the calls for months, until he found his old friend Pete Carroll’s Seattle Seahawks getting in trouble for performance enhancing drugs. Then Harbaugh publicly questioned whether the banned substance in question was actually Adderall, as had been reported.
At the beginning of this season Harbaugh whined about the rules in regard to read-option quarterbacks, since he has one of the best in Kaepernick. Green Bay Packers All-Pro linebacker Clay Matthews stated on ESPN’s Mike and Mike that, “you want to put hits as early and often on the quarterback and make them uncomfortable” in reference to read-option quarterbacks. Harbaugh sounded off to San Francisco reporters by questioning the “legality” of Matthews’ statement and saying it sounded like “targeting a specific player.”
In week one, the Packers played the 49ers, and Matthews was flagged for a late hit on Kaepernick. There was a small scuffle in the aftermath, and Harbaugh spent the next few days complaining about the hit, even resorting to childish jabs at Matthews’ masculinity.
Harbaugh has been called passionate, fiery and a “savvy instigator,” who likes to stir the pot. I call him a whiner. He has yet to win a Super Bowl, and if he does, I wonder if the complaining will stop. Until that happens, I’m reminded of something a good friend of mine likes to say.
“You know who whines about officiating? Losers.”