When he was a young man courting prospective female mates, Jim Harbaugh likely talked to many free agents, as any good talent evaluator would. He continued this process even after sharing dinner with one of his potential signees several times, and inevitably when this woman discovered that he was still scouting the remaining talent in the free agent pool, serious questions were asked.
“I keep hearing it over and over. It’s silly and it’s untrue. It’s phony. Even the perception that I was pursuing. I was evaluating.”
It’s a wise and effective evasion, and evidently a life-long strategy. Use multiple words that mean nearly the same thing to confuse the listener, and divert attention away from your misdeeds. Classic male propaganda.
The above quote is, of course, a slightly modified version of the odd, unprompted mini rant Harbaugh gave yesterday after the latest 49ers practice while speaking with reporters. For whatever reason he was eager to finally kill the rumors regarding the team’s alleged pursuit of Peyton Manning earlier this offseason.
Here’s the full version, straight from the head supervisor at the 49ers ministry of thought.
“Oh one other thing: There’s a perception out there and it’s an erroneous perception that we were flirting with Peyton Manning. I keep hearing it over and over. It’s silly and it’s untrue. It’s phony. Even the perception that we were pursuing. We were evaluating. I’ve said all along that Alex Smith has been our quarterback. There’s no scenario, other than Alex choosing to sign with another team, that we would consider him not as our quarterback.”
Oh, he’s not done yet. Brace for the backtrack…
“Were we out there seeing and evaluating if we could have them both? Heck yeah. We evaluate and eliminate the possibility. For further evidence, we would not have given any player out there in free agency a sixth of our salary cap, and let six or seven of our own guys go. Hopefully that sets the record straight. I don’t want you to keep reporting the silliness and phoniness.”
No, Jim, it’s not phony. You’re the phony. A big fat phony.
Sure, every team evaluates everyone, even players who don’t seem to have any fit whatsoever. We saw this in the very early days of the Manning hunt, when pretty much every team was rumored to have interest.
But with the 49ers it went beyond that the second Harbaugh and the team’s brass watched Manning workout. They were then finalists for Manning, which is why they delayed signing Smith for so long, and nearly lost him. There was a courtship, and there was legitimate and serious interest in Manning, something Harbaugh himself confirms mere seconds after calling the perception of a pursuit “phony.”
Claiming that there could have been roster space for both Manning and Smith is just another case of gentle wording to build Smith’s confidence and soften his hypothetical fall. If there was serious interest in having both quarterbacks and it was enough to make the 49ers “see and evaluate” Manning, then there was, well, interest, and more than enough interest to categorize it as “flirting”.
If their evaluation evolved to the point that Manning was signed, then Smith would be gone. Harbaugh seems to either be in denial, or much more likely he’s making a lame and ill-timed attempt to corral public opinion. Smith was aware of the possibility that he could be unseated, and that’s why he hopped on a plane to Miami to explore another employment opportunity.
Harbaugh can use any word he wants, because they’re interchangeable. Heck yeah he wanted Manning.
And now the links part of the links post…
- Rex Ryan is the worst kind of sports fan. He’s a dirty team jumper, and even though he grew up as a Leafs fan–which is the least rewarding experience a person can subject themselves to–he surfaced in New Jersey last night with cushy seats for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, and he was proudly supporting the home team. Initiate gag reflex. [Deadspin]
- Mike Jenkins is still pissed that he’s been demoted. But our handy desk-side dictionary indicates that there’s a strong sense of obligation whenever a task is deemed to be mandatory, which is why Jenkins’ agent says his client will attend the Cowboys’ upcoming mandatory mini camp. [Charean Williams]
- Being Titus Young really sucks right now. [Detroit Free Press]
- Using Bills third-round pick T.J. Graham as the starting point, let’s look back on the success or lack of success of recent third-round receivers. Together we’ll discover that considering where they were drafted, an average year for a rookie at that point in the draft leads to fine production from a depth player. [Buffalo Rumblings]
- An NFL Films producer says that the Dolphins were the only team approached with a formal offer to be featured on Hard Knocks. This is another lesson in reading what’s hidden between carefully chosen words, kids. [Boston Herald]
- The Redskins have signed Kirk Cousins, meaning he can now officially go about the business of never playing a meaningful snap in Washington. [Aaron Wilson]
- Duce Staley is well-versed in the rapid decline of a running back once bruises and bone busts mount. He’s an assistant coach with the Eagles now, so maybe there’s hope that LeSean McCoy’s load will be lightened. [Paul Domowitch]
- Schematically, David DeCastro fell into the ideal situation in Pittsburgh. [Rob Rang]
- The ravens are still hoping that Terrell Suggs will return late in the season, and be available for limited deployment on passing downs. [Don Banks]
- The Cowboys’ pass rush is suffering from a lack of success on the “money down.” [Blogging the Boys]