Cohn: Jim Harbaugh's hands-on approach a hit with 49ers players

  • San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, left, runs drills with wide receiver Ricardo Lockette, right, during NFL football training camp Thursday, July 25, 2013, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

SANTA CLARA -- I compare Jim Harbaugh to Bill Walsh. The comparison is inevitable. I watch Harbaugh work in training camp and I think of Walsh. I compare them.

On Sunday, Harbaugh participated in a special teams exercise. He did not supervise the work. He participated, as if he still were a player. Holding a red foam pad, he crouched in front of a player and the player ran around Harbaugh and the red pad. So did another player and another player, etc.

You wonder if this pad holding was good use of the head coach's time. A teenager could have held the pad just as well. Or better yet, Harbaugh could have told Eric Mangini to hold the pad considering Mangini began his NFL career as a ball boy and gofer and has valuable pad-holding experience. You might even say Mangini has a pedigree in this particular enterprise.

I am not knocking Harbaugh for being an involved, hands-on — or pad-on — head coach. I merely am comparing his style to Walsh's style, a distant, godlike style.

I never saw Walsh hold the red pad. I never saw Walsh participate in a special teams drill. I never saw Walsh participate in any drill. Walsh stood at the edge of the action. He stood alone. He almost never spoke to players, unless the players were named Montana or Young. He watched. He watched silently.

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