Week 16 NFL rewind:

Shutdown Corner

Jim Harbaugh sheds light on his Sharpie, the latest in a line of famous coach accessories

Frank Schwab
Shutdown Corner

The weird thing about 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh's omnipresent red Sharpie pen around his neck during games is that nobody seems to remember seeing him actually use it.

"No, I've never seen him use it. I haven't," fullback Bruce Miller told USA Today. "He's got everything written down already."

[Related: Morning Rush: Harbaugh brothers not No. 1 sporting siblings]

Because there's a lot of press conference time to kill during Super Bowl week, someone asked Harbaugh about the history behind the red pen, but made the mistake of referring to it as a necklace.

"I take great offense that you call it a necklace," Harbaugh joked. "It's a whistle. It's a coach's whistle that coaches have long worn around their neck. I believe every coach should have a whistle. It's hard to imagine going to practice without a whistle. Then I just put a pen onto the whistle string.

"It's not complicated at all," Harbaugh said, laughing. "Then if you need a pen it's just right there."

If you've seen Harbaugh coach a game you've probably noticed - and you may have noticed that he almost impaled himself with it freaking out over a call in the NFC championship game - but here's photographic evidence:

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(USA Today Sports Images)

So what's your deal with the pen, Jim? More than likely, it has more function as a superstitious prop than a functional tool.

At this point, Harbaugh's Sharpie has taken its place in coaching prop lore. Here's a partial list, (and feel free to add any we missed):

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(USA Today Sports Images)

Jerry Tarkanian's towel

Red Auerbach's cigar

Bill Belichick's hoodie

Mike Ditka's sweater vest

Steve Spurrier's visor

Les Miles' baseball cap

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• Mike McCarthy's own Sharpie tradition, which goes behind the head (and sometimes writes on his neck)

Bum Phillips' cowboy hat

Bear Bryant's houndstooth hat

Tom Landry's fedora

However, most of those had some purpose. Tark used the towel to stay hydrated. Auerbach used the cigar to talk trash at the end of victories. The various hats can keep the sun out of a coach's eyes. Belichick's hoodie lets him go incognito as a homeless man.

With Harbaugh, all eyes will be on him to see if he actually uses the Sharpie in the Super Bowl. But we can be sure of this: Harbaugh's not gonna ditch it Sunday. You don't mess with a winning streak.

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