Jim Harbaugh Needs a Bill Walsh Infusion

Glenn Franco Simmons@fotodifrancoAnalyst IFebruary 4, 2013

Before my brother was stricken ill with a terminal disease in his 30s, I remember losing a chess game to him.


He would pass away before we could play another. I never beat the son-of-a-gun at chess or golf.

Even today, when the 49ers play the Rams, I “talk” to my brother.

Sometimes, what I say is not very nice and I earn very delicate rebukes from my lovely wife Kathleen.

She probably knows my comments are attempts to hide the anguish at losing him and the fact that I still, nearly 20 years later, miss him.

Mario and I also had a little board football game (this was before video games).

He often beat me and would yell foul when I’d go for it on a fourth-and-35 with a long bomb. My brother would argue that no coach in his right mind would do that.

When I would laugh and pump my fist, Mario would become incredulous when such non-conformist plays led to my victories.

In golf, I would resort to making noises on the green as he was putting.

One time, his putt went way wide thanks to my noise-making, and it put me ahead.

He picked up his golf bag and launched it WWE-style into the nearby pond. (He was very strong.)

After he fished his bag and clubs out of the mucky drink, as I rolled on the green in laughter, my big brother proceeded to trounce me with a focus and determination that showed he was every bit as competitive.

I was not laughing then.

In chess, golf and sometimes on that board game, he would beat me because he was much calmer, which means much clearer-thinking.

He stayed calm when I would resort to immature antics, or when I would abandon my regular chess-playing game plan to try something new to outflank him.

When pressured, I would abandon my board-game football game plan in favor of something new that I thought I would “will” to work.

In watching the Super Bowl as a Niners’ fan, I wondered, watching coaches Jim and John Harbaugh, how my brother and I would have competed as coaches.

I identify with Jim Harbaugh and my brother would have identified with John Harbaugh.

When a game comes down to play-calling as the Super Bowl did on that last series within the 10, was it impatience that caused the Niners to abandon the run?

Frank Gore was gaining nearly six yards a carry. He gashed Baltimore’s defense on that series to put the ball at the seven-yard line. Baltimore’s run-stuffer, Haloti Ngata, was out.

And you pass it three times? Why not put it in the hands of your most trusted player and win or lose on his back?

On the other side of the ball, it’s almost as if John Harbaugh and his crew knew that Jim Harbaugh would abandon the run in favor of the pass.

He knew his brother would gamble on the possibility of Colin Kaepernick pulling down the ball and sprinting into the end zone for the go-ahead score and glory.

John Harbaugh knew San Francisco’s receiving corps had been decimated by injuries earlier in the season.

Baltimore’s defenders, in the condensed field of play, could easily cover the 49ers with man coverage and a run defense.


Ask San Francisco’s players if they had confidence in three consecutive pass plays with Frank Gore healthy and ready.

Most, I believe, would shake their heads in disbelief if they could be truly candid.

Better yet, ask the offensive linemen.

Ask Gore.

What does this say about San Francisco?

On KNBR radio this morning, one host made the comment that Jim Harbaugh needs a little more Bill Walsh coaching style in him and less emotion.

A team can play on emotion but it burns out, which may be a reason why the 49ers were flat in the first quarters of the NFC Championship game and the Super Bowl.

Gore knew he could have pushed it in, and that belief will haunt Gore and the Niners as much as Roger Craig’s fumble against the New York Giants in the NFC Championship game at Candlestick haunts the Niners.

Can Jim Harbaugh become less emotional and more cerebral, as was Walsh?

As is John Harbaugh, the victor?

A lot depends upon this necessary transition.

Only Jim Harbaugh can answer that question.


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