SANTA CLARA — 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh made a request of the media at Wednesday’s press conference: Direct their criticisms about young players at him — before labeling or bullying them.
Referring to the “bust” tags placed on former first-rounder A.J. Jenkins – traded to the Chiefs yesterday for another first-round pick Jon Baldwin – Harbaugh said:
“I don’t think it’s fair to bully or label a young player. Though I fully understand people are entitled to their opinion and their perspective. However I’d prefer that the criticism, I would appreciate if the criticism was directed toward me. I’m responsible I accept that.”
Bullied, labeled, or simply ineffective, Jenkins earned the label through his inability to produce, ineptitude on game days, and a generally confused look on his face in practice.
Hopefully his new opportunity in Kansas City will be good for him as he reconnects with Alex Smith, someone who has dealt with everything negative that can be thrown at an NFL player.
Coaches can only be blamed so much — even if they’re willingly accept the player’s faults as their own.
The 49ers may have righted the wrong by bringing in the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Baldwin, who has played in 26 games over two seasons and has the big play ability downfield the 49ers had hoped Jenkins would provide.
If Baldwin falters and forces the the not-so-kind headlines to be written, Harbaugh is now on the hook to come to his defense as he did with Jenkins, stating:
“Of course I’m going to defend a young player when I think he’s being bullied.”