Harbaugh's theatre of operations

Harbaugh's theatre of operations
September 11, 2012, 5:54 pm
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Jim Harbaugh will hug Detroit coach Jim Schwartz on Sunday. It will not be a long, lingering embrace, and they will not exchange long meaningful sentences on the value of living for the moment.It will be theatre, though, and Jim Harbaugh is not above using theatre for tactical reasons.This tactical reason will be just a sidelight, though, to the greater goals of winning a second consecutive game and establishing a personal to the outside world that the 49ers have moved well into the realm of You-Will-Adjust-Constantly-To-Us.It is a place few teams achieve for any long period of time, a place that puts the other team on the outside edges of their feet from the second quarter on. It is Harbaughs contribution to what is still a players game placing them in positions that confound the opposition and make the game easier to master.This state of being, though, isnt a perpetual state of intellectual bliss. It has much to do with beating a team backward first, and there is where Harbaughs essential coaching philosophy rests.He runs the ball to get and keep your attention, and once he gets the lead he runs to finish the job. Only two teams in Week 1 ran the ball a greater percentage of the time than the 49ers Tampa Bay (38.7 percent on 24 throws in 62 plays) and Washington (26 throws in 71 plays, 36.6 percent). Tampa doesnt really have a running game, and Washington was carefully breaking on a rookie quarterback with an almost game-long lead.The 49ers, though, have a track record of running this exact plan, and though the wide receiver upgrades make them more dangerous when they pass, they still would rather pass to counterpunch than punch.As a result, we still get people not understanding Alex Smith. He serves at the pleasure of his coach and offensive coordinator, as he did when saddled with defensive head coaches Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary. The first wanted Smith to save him from himself, the second wanted Smith to be just like himself. Harbaugh found what Smith does best (prepare) and honed that skill (prepared him). Smiths mistakes are mistakes of the body rather than the mind, and even though Harbaugh would cheerfully replace him if something better came along, the list of quarterbacks who are better continues to shrink.And though Harbaugh pretends not to care, he wants you all to notice this rather than whether he forgets the postgame niceties with Jim Schwartz or takes him for dinner and dancing. Since he cant have that, hell contrive a hug, or a slow waltz, or a genuflection.The message for his players is, This is showbiz, but it isnt what were here for. The message for the media and the outside world is, Oh, shut up. They are his two favorite messages, like using the run to set up surrender is his favorite in-game message.But if you must know how Sunday is going to play out on Tuesday, keep your eye on him in the final moments of Sundays game. If the Lions win, he will shake Schwartz hand perfunctorily and run off the field. If the 49ers win, he will reach for a breath mint. You know, so as not to offend. Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.comAP Images

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