National Football League coaches are practiced in the art of prattling ad nauseum without uttering anything meaningful or enlightening. This not only keeps them off the banquet circuit, it ensures they won’t be fined or, worse, fire up an opponent, a fate devoutly to be avoided. San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh succeeded on all important counts Wednesday.
During his obligatory presser with Seattle media, Harbaugh scored a series of points on verbal returns of serve when asked about the Seahawks-49ers rivalry, Colin Kaepernick vs. Russell Wilson, Anquan Boldin’s impact, noise at CenturyLink Field, significance of Sunday’s game, the Clay Matthews incident last week, Harbaugh’s secondary and Seattle’s Legion of Boom.
To each of these pressing issues, Harbaugh delivered truncated remarks worthy of a White House press secretary, most failing to exceed 25 words:
- On if rivalries are a real thing in the NFL or just another game: “Well, we look at the next game as the most important game. The next game on the schedule is the biggest game of the year. That’s how we look at our opponents each week. The most important game to win is the next one that you’re playing.”
- On if he sees similarities between Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson: “Yes. Both of them are really fine players (thanks for that!). They’re both cut from the same cloth, they both are competitive, and both are extremely smart, they throw the ball extremely well, they’re very mobile and they’re winners (thanks so much again!). I think really the thing you say is that they’re football players (duh!). Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick — each guy has everything that you want in a football player.”
- On the importance of Sunday’s game: “The importance of winning your division games really counts as two.”
- On whether he sees similarities between the teams: “I’d like to think that. We have great respect for the Seahawks, their players and coaches, front-office decisions, the way they’ve drafted, the way they’ve constructed their team, and how they play. There is nothing not to respect there.”
- On Seattle’s secondary and if he has any contact with Richard Sherman lately: “I have great admiration for the secondary in Seattle. The safeties, the corners are outstanding; they’re one of the finest secondaries in the league.” (Note that he didn’t say anything about Sherman.)
The most interesting answer Harbaugh gave was his one-word response to the question, “Do you have one or two things that you took away from the last time the Seahawks and 49ers played in Seattle?
Said Harbaugh: “Umm . . . no.”
No? Well, selective memory can be a good thing for an NFL (or any) head coach. There is no point on Harbaugh dwelling, or even reflecting, on what the Seahawks did to his considerable ego Dec. 23. In a 42-13 Seattle romp, that included:
Four touchdown passes by Russell Wilson (11-for-12 on third-down conversions), two touchdowns by Marshawn Lynch (111 yards rushing), a 90-yard blocked field goal return by cornerback Richard Sherman, and the defense holding Frank Gore to 28 rushing yards.
San Francisco recovered from the hosing, went on to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, the Seahawks failed to play pass defense on Atlanta’s final drive of the fourth quarter in an NFC Divisional playoff game, and now the teams meet again.
“It’s a great challenge for us. We know what the task will be and I think our guys are looking forward to it,” said Harbaugh, stoking nothing.
Since Harbaugh’s training prevents him from saying anything remotely interesting pre-game, we’ll ask our readers to weigh in, keeping in mind that San Francisco is a Super Bowl team, is coming off three straight wins over the Green Bay Packers, has added Boldin to its arsenal (13 catches, 208 yards, 1 TD vs. Packers) and features the only quarterback, Kaepernink, in NFL history with a 400-yard passing game and a 150-yard rushing game in his portfolio.
Comments are encouraged, as is trash talk against Harbaugh, quickly emerging as one of Seattle’s great sports villains.