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Jim Harbaugh sticks to his Manning story, to chagrin of “diabolical” doubters

Jim Harbaugh

San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh listens to a question from a reporter during an interview at NFL football practice in Santa Clara, Calif., Tuesday, June 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)


If 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh was bothered by the fact that his explanation regarding the non-pursuit of Peyton Manning had become a “running joke” in league circles, there’s a good chance it has been knocked from the top of the list.

Thanks to Harbaugh’s decision to revisit his remarks.

In a recent interview with’s Mike Sando, Harbaugh suggested that anyone who disputes the truthfulness of his tale has taken a ticket from one of Dante’s circles of Hell.

“That you can concisely, exactly say it how you see it and believe it, and then somebody can call you a liar, that would make me wonder about the shadiness of that person,” Harbaugh told Sando. “You know, the seediness, the diabolical world that somebody would live in that would think that another man would come right to his face and lie to him.”

That diabolical world is called Earth, where people come right to other people’s faces and lie. All the time.

Lying routinely happens in the diabolical world of football, where deception routinely is used to secure on-field results (the zone blitz, the play-action pass, the surprise onside kick) and off-field advantages (feigning interest in a player that the team has no interest in drafting in the hopes someone higher in the pecking order will). Recognizing that reality and running facially implausible explanations through the B.S. filter isn’t a crime. Or even a sin. Only the completely naïve always take others at their word, especially when their word doesn’t seem to mesh with the available objective evidence.

“You don’t really understand another man until you’ve walked in their shoes, but I don’t understand that world,” Harbaugh added. “I don’t understand the world where somebody would lie themselves or be lied to to that extent where they could commit character assassination on somebody else that is telling the truth.”

There’s a valid point buried in those words (somewhere), but it doesn’t apply in this case, where all the available proof indicates that the 49ers did something much more than “evaluate” Peyton Manning.

Rather than personally attack with colorful imagery anyone (which also happens to be pretty much everyone) who doubted his words, Harbaugh’s better play would have been to acknowledge that he understands why people were inclined to not believe him, but that he knows he was telling the truth and that he can’t ultimately control whether or not anyone believes him and that all that matters is whether he can sleep at night and he can.

None of this means Harbaugh is a bad guy. He’s a great coach. But he’s apparently feeling a lot of pressure as he prepares for his second season on the job. The bar will be much higher in 2012 than it was in 2011, and it won’t be quite as easy to win 13 regular-season games, especially with a quarterback who may be looking over his shoulder (and in turn holding the ball a bit more tightly) after the 49ers’ pursuit/evaluation/whatever of Peyton Manning and the presence of many talented players at the skill positions and the availability during games of only one football. Throw onto the depth chart the guy drafted right after Pro Bowler Andy Dalton in 2011 and one of Harbaugh’s former pupils from the University of San Diego, and there’s reason for Alex Smith to be nervous.

Which means there’s reason for Harbaugh to be nervous.

And there’s nothing shady, seedy, or diabolical about believing that.