Since taking over the 49ers last season, head coach Jim Harbaugh has developed a team culture that has worked.
It’s a sort of an all-for-one and one-for-all mentality that means players buy into a team concept and Harbaugh’s rules.
With a regular-season record of 22-6-1 since he joined the Niners, Harbaugh obviously has a method that works.
What doesn’t work is players who don’t buy into it.
Last season, it was wide receiver Braylon Edwards, who fell out of favor and was released. This season it’s running back Brandon Jacobs, who was suspended for three games on Monday after going to social media recently to voice his displeasure with the way he’s being used (or not used) this season in San Francisco.
The suspension solidifies the primary backup running back role for rookie LaMichael James as the 9-3-1 49ers prepare to play the 10-3 Patriots Sunday night in New England.
Jacobs, who signed with the 49ers as a free agent this past offseason after playing seven years with the Giants, wrote last week about his lack of playing time – just five carries for 7 yards.
First, Jacobs wrote on Twitter that he was “rotting away” this season. Then, he reacted to critics onTwitter by writing: “I don’t understand why people are angry at me because I wanna do what I am paid to do, I am a competitive person, I think people should be mad if I didn’t wanna play, but I forgot the people that’s pissed they don’t have (an) athletic bone (in) their body. …”
On Monday, when Harbaugh was asked to comment about Jacobs’ complaints about playing time, he simply offered a “no comment.”
But later Monday, the team announced Jacobs' suspension for the final three games of the regular season, which means he loses his paycheck and the chance to play for another team (if the 49ers had just released him). The team offered no explanation for the suspension.
USA Today reported Tuesday that Jacobs plans to file a grievance against the 49ers in an effort to get reinstated or released – and that he would like to re-sign with the Giants.
According to Mike Sando of ESPN.com, Jacobs on Monday night posted on Twitter: “Thank you for all your support, I am doing wonderful it’s not a big deal things happen, I am strong enough to get through this, again thank all of you for your support. #IWLLBEBACK.”
Sports Illustrated Tuesday reported that Jacobs, who signed for a base salary of $950,000 this season, would lose $167,000 for a three-game suspension.
Though the 49ers again have been a run-oriented team this season, and rank No. 2 in the NFL in rushing, Jacobs has been a forgotten piece. He was injured in the exhibition season, then never worked his way into the rotation that primarily featured Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter. When Hunter was lost to a season-ending injury, James and Anthony Dixon have gotten more playing time, while Jacobs has just made token appearances.
Tim Kawakami, a longtime Bay Area News Group columnist, wrote Monday night that the 49ers’ reaction to Jacobs’ complaining was predictable. Harbaugh has built a winning team and a winning culture. To challenge it is to invite yourself off the team.
“Harbaugh is the franchise’s biggest personality, always, for lots of reasons,” Kawakami wrote, “and to challenge his coaching judgment is to challenge the entire nerve center of this operation.”