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Harbaugh’s comments on Manning now a “running joke” in league circles

AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am - Round One

PEBBLE BEACH, CA - FEBRUARY 09: San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh (L) walks with caddie and San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith on the 18th fairway during the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am at the Spyglass Hill Golf on February 9, 2012 in Pebble Beach, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

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More than a week after 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh declared that his team didn’t “pursue” or “flirt with” but merely “evaluated” quarterback Peyton Manning, folks throughout the NFL are getting a kick out the comments.

No one believes it. No one. As in not anyone.

Per a source with knowledge of the Peyton chase, no one should. And the total disbelief in league circles has made the issue a “running joke.”

The Niners didn’t simply kick Manning’s tires. They were in it until the very end. Though the Broncos, 49ers, and Titans were regarded as the finalists, it actually came down, we’re told, to Denver and San Francisco.

But the point isn’t to rub Harbaugh’s face in it (again). He’s one of our (or at least my) favorites coaches. He’ll will the team into being a contender every year he works for the 49ers. The point is that, elsewhere in the league, John Harbaugh’s younger brother lost some significant style points on this one.

The real question is whether Jim Harbaugh lost any credibility in his own locker room, specifically with his own quarterback. With Smith being represented by Tom Condon, who also represents Peyton Manning, Smith has fairly immediate access to the truth. Even without the ability to talk to Condon, Smith is smart enough to see what was going on, when it was going on.

The question is whether there will be any discernible impact on the coach-quarterback relationship as a result of the pursuit of Peyton and the post hoc effort to pretend it didn’t happen.