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Lowell Cohn: Jim Harbaugh forsakes 49ers' way

  • 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh has been unable to keep his team stocked with young talent, instead relying on veterans playing past their prime. (JOHN FROSCHAUER / Associated Press)

ST. LOUIS - I will get to tonight's 49ers game against the Rams in a moment. Consider what follows a preamble.

The other day, the 49ers tweeted a self-aggrandizing quote by Jim Harbaugh: “There's a lot of noise out there ... Sometimes you have to stand on the battlefield and do what your mission is.”

Stand on the battlefield? What war was Harbaugh in? Did he participate in the invasion of Normandy? Or maybe he stood heroically on the battlefield at Gettysburg.

Here's news for Harbaugh. In the 1990s, the NFL sent a memo to every team forbidding use of war metaphors. “We're going to war on Sunday.” That kind of crap. The league felt war metaphors about football trivialize real war, do not show the proper respect and awe. Soldiers come home in body bags. NFL football is not life and death.

Maybe Harbaugh never got the memo. He sees himself at war and that means he has lost perspective.

He sure doesn't do things the 49ers' way. He doesn't use the West Coast offense. That's obvious. And he has forsaken another 49ers' tradition established by Bill Walsh.

Walsh Axiom: Get rid of a player BEFORE he hits the downside of his career.

Walsh was ruthless about cutting ties with players, men he liked, men who still could play. He saw the team as a living organism and he wanted the organism vital and young.

Among the players he let go were Fred Dean, John Ayers, Jack “Hacksaw” Reynolds and Ray Wersching. There were others.

Wersching was upset with Walsh for years. One day, he came to Walsh's office at Stanford. I was there. He and Walsh spoke privately in a conference room. Afterward, Walsh sat with me, his face white, his hands shaking, He said he appreciated Ray giving him the chance to make things right.

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