San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh is not a big talker -- he once upbraided a reporter who asked him how he felt after a loss by insisting that such concerns were too prevalent in touchy-feely California, and he was not interested. The former NFL quarterback and current AP Coach of the Year does things his own way -- very much under the radar -- and it's certainly worked for him. In his first season with the 49ers, Harbaugh guided the team to a 13-3 record, and a near-Super Bowl appearance.
After the season was over, and with quarterback Alex Smith mulling over the three-year, $24 million contract he had been offered, Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman went to North Carolina on Tuesday, March 13, to watch Peyton Manning throw at his workout headquarters at Duke University.
That the 49ers were one of the teams interested in Manning's services was not big news, but the way in which Harbaugh and Roman disguised their intentions was very original, and Harbaugh-esque all the way.
From Peter King's excellent dissertation of the Manning audition process:
That night, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman came to see Manning throw on a lighted field at Duke. First they watched from a car by the side of the field, then, to get a better view, they came onto the field, hoodies pulled over their heads so as not to be recognized by some nosy iPhoner. Manning texted his mother, Olivia: "You'll never guess who I just worked out for. He was wearing a hoodie."
"Bill Belichick?" she responded.
Good one! Nope, Jim Harbaugh.
Well, we certainly hope Geraldo Rivera doesn't get wind of this.
The most interesting thing about the 49ers' interest in Manning was that it went unreported for so long; it wasn't until Friday the 16th that ESPN's Chris Mortensen broke the news, via Twitter, that the workout had happened at all. And with every move taken by the Denver Broncos, Tennessee Titans and other interested parties reported in round-the-clock real-time fashion, it must have made Harbaugh very happy that his own interest in Manning was a sub-story.
Of course, the Broncos wound up with Manning, Smith re-signed with the 49ers after further negotiations, and everyone moved on. But be aware out there -- if you see several gentlemen in hoodies at any upcoming Pro Day, they could be members of the 49ers' coaching staff. Don't be alarmed!
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