For Jim Harbaugh, it appears any time is a good time for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
That includes during a covert free-agent meeting with one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game.
When Peyton Manning was released by the Indianapolis Colts on March 7, 2012, several NFL teams lined up to court the future Hall of Famer. Among them were the 49ers, who did so via a secret meeting at former Tennessee and current Duke head coach David Cutcliffe's house in North Carolina.
Manning, Harbaugh and former 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman recounted the meeting as part of an oral history to The Athletic. First, Harbaugh and Roman met Manning and Cutcliffe at the Duke coach's house to watch film of Manning throwing after his latest neck surgery. As they were about to leave, Mrs. Cutcliffe came down to ask if anyone wanted some food. While Manning, Cutcliffe and Roman politely declined, Harbaugh opted for a PB&J.
"I remember this -- I remember weird things -- we were leaving to go throw and Mrs. Cutcliffe, who I’ve known forever, just a sweet lady, she said, 'Would y’all like anything to eat before you go?' It was one of those when somebody offers you, you kind of get the feel maybe she really didn’t want to make you something to eat, but she felt like she had to offer, that kind of thing," Manning recounted to The Athletic. "So I was like, 'No, thanks, Mrs. Cutcliffe, I’m fine,' and Greg Roman’s like, 'I’m fine, Thank you for offering.' And coach Cut’s like, 'I’m fine, honey.' And I remember Harbaugh just said, 'Yeah, I’ll have a PB&J.”
To Harbaugh, he felt it was the polite thing to do.
"I always feel like, at least in my mom’s house, when she asks if you want something, she’s offended if you don’t let her make you something. I do love PB&J. Absolutely," Harbaugh said.
The group then went to Duke's facility to watch Manning throw. It was the first time Manning had thrown for a team during the free-agent courting process. In order not to be seen, Harbaugh and Roman tried watching him throw from their car. But that didn't work, so they threw on hoodies and walked over to the field to watch Manning throw. Afterward, Harbaugh wanted to play catch with Manning to judge his arm strength and offered a humble brag about a recent workout with Randy Moss.
"Jim Harbaugh asked if we could play some catch," Manning told The Athletic. "I think all this talk about arm strength, he wanted to see it and feel it himself. I remember too, Randy Moss had just worked out for the 49ers, and I said, “Hey, how’d the Moss workout go?” He said, “Oh, he looked great.” He said, “But I threw it to him. I made every throw perfect. He didn’t come out of the break on one route. That was the only throw that we missed.” I thought that was a pretty good line. “Moss looked good, but I threw the ball pretty good, too.”
Manning admits, in the end, his decision came down to the Denver Broncos and the 49ers, as both were poised to contend immediately. Manning eventually chose the Broncos due to the connection he felt with general manager and former Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway.
The 49ers went to the Super Bowl that year and lost to Baltimore Ravens. Manning and the Broncos would lose to the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl the next season before defeating the Carolina Panthers two years later in Super Bowl L.
[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]