SANTA CLARA — It used to be so easy to get Jim Harbaugh to say too much.
He used to love creating side narratives before big games. He was the side-narrative king, the Charles Dickens of football coaches. Maybe he didn't like the 49ers' chances of winning that particular game and he tried to even the odds by making the game about something else.
Last year the week before the 49ers played the Giants, Harbaugh actually wrote down his side narrative and his P.R. staff e-mailed it to reporters an hour before Harbaugh's Friday press conference. The final sentence of the statement was, “The Giants coaching staff's sole purpose is to use their high visibility to both criticize and influence officiating.”
The officiating never was an issue in that game. The Giants beat the 49ers 26-3.
Before the 49ers played the Packers Week 1 this season, Harbaugh created two side narratives.
Narrative No. 1: The NFL should change its rules regarding the read option. The Packers said they were going to deck Kaepernick during this play. Harbaugh said they shouldn't be allowed to: “My opinion is before the quarterback has declared being a runner, then he should be afforded the protection all quarterbacks are afforded.” And then he went on and on and got into specifics.
Harbaugh did the exact same thing he accused the Giants coaches of doing the previous season: He tried to criticize and influence officiating. Ironic.
Narrative No. 2: The Packers are a dirty team that will try to injure Colin Kaepernick: “You're hearing all the tough talk right now,” Harbaugh said. “You're hearing some intimidating type of talk, the same thing we were hearing a couple of years ago. It sounds a lot like targeting a specific player.”
The NFL didn't change its read-option rule, but Packers' linebacker Clay Matthews illegally hit Kaepernick out of bounds and seemed to validate Narrative No. 2.