Like Earl Campbell in his prime, Jim Harbaugh sheds off negative thoughts the way the former All-Pro running back shed tacklers.
Harbaugh just powers forward, the prince of positivity, intent on his goal.
Since becoming head coach of the 49ers, he’s been a one-man positive spin machine, telling all who would listen that Alex Smith would become a winning quarterback and that the 49ers could become a championship-caliber team while asking his players after every practice, “Who has it better than us?”
So far, Harbaugh’s 49ers have connected with his positive energy. No team in the NFL made a greater turnaround last season than did San Francisco.
Now, however, the positive wave Harbaugh has created for wide receiver Randy Moss might be his greatest accomplishment.
Moss, who sat out last season and has a long string of baggage scattered across his previous NFL stops, has become one of the coach’s pet projects. Harbaugh seems determined to burnish the receiver’s image with fans and media while getting the formerly great receiver to buy in totally to his new team and teammates.
There’s no question Moss, 35, has been the most dynamic wide receiver of his era. In 13 seasons, he has 954 catches for 14,858 yards and 153 TDs.
But can Moss – signed as a free agent in the offseason to bolster a thin receiving corps – be the game-breaker of his early years or the team-breaker he’s been reported to be in more recent seasons. Former teammate Cris Carter has called him a quitter.
Now Harbaugh is saying Moss is a leader.
Harbaugh recently told former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon on Sirius radio that, “This offseason, he (Moss) has been incredible. He’s our best receiver right now,” reported Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group.
Gannon reported that when Harbaugh first talked to Moss in March, after an on-field audition, that the coach and receiver talked about Moss’ past and what Harbaugh’s expectations would be.
At that meeting, Harbaugh told Gannon that Moss promised to do anything Harbaugh needed him to do – including sitting in the front row of every team meeting to set an example for other players.
That example, said Gannon, has led other players – such as Michael Crabtree – to also sit up front, pay more attention and be more “alert.”
“Randy is trying to do the right thing,” Gannon said, according to Inman. “Randy is tryng to be a leader. He’s trying to set a good example for these young players. It gets back to what expectations are. Jim Harbaugh doesn’t have a ton of rules, but what the expectations are for Randy.”
According to Gannon, Harbaugh told Moss that if he follows the rules and works hard, “We can get you back to where you were a couple years ago. You can be a huge addition for our offense.”
So far, Gannon relates, “Randy Moss has bought in.”
Said one 49ers observer, to NFL.com last month about Moss: “You can still see the Hall of Fame skills. At times he’s been unstoppable and he has very much quickly become the leader of the receiving corps. … He still has that major star power and his teammates definitely recognize that.”
If that’s the case, score another point for the prince of positivity.
Still, training camp has yet to begin – it opens July 26 – and a long camp, exhibition schedule and regular season are ahead.
Moss’ path has turned sideways in other NFL stops, too.
But if Harbaugh has indeed put Moss back on track, it will rank as one of his most surprising achievements.