It’s all about winning in the NFL. Winning is everything to the coach, to the players, to the fans, and to the organization. The pride, the excitement, the hype, the unexplainable feeling that comes with winning, it all seems to be priceless. Does winning fix all? Is everything okay as long as the team is winning? Yes, just ask Jim Harbaugh.
He’s 41-14-1 in his 3 seasons with the 49ers with 3 consecutive NFC conference championship appearances. Successful, right? He turned a team in turmoil into a perennial Super Bowl contender through hard noise, tough love, drill-sergeant like coaching. All coaches have their issues here and there with their players and their organizations, but they seem to come out when the team is losing and not so much when they are winning. Harbaugh’s 49ers started the season 1-2 and the issues that are supposed to be private to a team’s locker room surfaced. Harbaugh set off the leaders of his locker room by dragging them to practice against his brother’s team the Ravens before the current season started. He failed to put the ball in the hands of star running-back Frank Gore during a critical point in a game this season leading to Gore giving Harbaugh some choice words. Former NFL star Deion Sanders on September 28th said that after speaking to many inside the 49ers locker room that the players aren’t truly “down” for their head coach. and that they want him gone. Players complained that he treats them like children by not letting them play cards or even listen to music. The critics say this all started when players first started complaining about Harbaugh’s treatment of former 49ers quarterback Alex Smith 2 years ago. Harbaugh worked out star quarterback Peyton Manning in 2012 when he was a free agent, without keeping current starting quarterback Alex Smith in the loop or respecting the fact that Smith had lead them to the NFC conference championship the season prior. He supposedly lost the trust of the players after this incident. But did he really?
No! He didn’t not at all. Why not? Because he was winning. Harbaugh went on to make it to the Super Bowl the season following the incident that caused his players to allegedly lose trust in him. Did they really lose trust in him? Doesn’t sound like it being that they made it to the championship game. So why is the issue coming to light now? It’s only an issue because they started off the season with a losing record. It was the first time the 49ers held a losing record while Harbaugh was coach. Machiavelli raised the issue of whether or not it is better to be feared or loved. He wrote that being feared was the safer option and that great things were done by leaders who have been mean. Jim Harbaugh is one of these feared coaches who has accomplished great feats. Loved coaches such as his brother have succeed too, as John Harbaugh beat Jim in the Super Bowl in 2013. So feared, loved, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you win. None of these issues arose until he 49ers started losing. Nobody really questioned Jim Harbaugh or his style of coaching all that much until the team suffered a losing record and a bump in the road.
Harbaugh’s players were quick to support him and back him up. Amidst the turmoil, the players reminded the public that they love Jim Harbaugh. He is their coach, their leader, and that they are focused as a unite. They LOVE the coach that they fear because at the end of the season they win and they are successful. They all pointed to recent victory as evidence of everything to be okay. This supports my idea that Machiavelli’s question doesn’t necessarily have a right answer. All that truly matters at the end of the day is that they team is winning. As long as there is success whether it is from a feared coach or a loved one doesn’t matter. Winning matters. Results matter. They are the be all end all. The ends in sports will always justify the means. There’s no right way to lead, because as long as you succeed and win you are a great leader.