Guard Alex Boone, who was former coach Jim Harbaugh’s most outspoken defender last year when reports about 49ers locker room schisms surfaced, now says Harbaugh “wore out his welcome” in San Francisco.
“He does a great job of giving you that spark, that initial boom,” Boone said on an episode of HBO’s “Real Sports,” which airs Tuesday at 10 p.m. and which Pro Football Talk previewed. “But after a while, you just want to kick his a--. ... He just keeps pushing you, and you’re like, ‘Dude, we got over the mountain. Stop. Let go.’ He kind of wore out his welcome.”
“What does that mean?” Boone was asked.
“I think he just pushed guys too far,” he said. “He wanted too much, demanded too much, expected too much. You know, ‘We gotta go out and do this. We gotta go out and do this. We gotta go out and do this.’ And you’d be like, ‘This guy might be clinically insane. He’s crazy.’ ... I think that if you’re stuck in your ways enough, eventually people are just going to say, ‘Listen, we just can’t work with this.’”
The rhetoric from Boone is far different than what he said during the season, including, “I know for a fact that everybody loves Harbaugh.”
“He’s a great guy, a great coach,” Boone said on 95.7 FM radio in September. “How could you not want to win for a guy that wears cleats during a game? Have you not seen that guy’s energy? He’s exciting 24/7. You’ve got to love playing for a guy like that. That’s what’s football is all about.”
Boone had similar comments – and warnings to anyone who spoke ill of Harbaugh – in October.
One episode that wore on players, according to one source who asked to remain anonymous, was last year’s training camp scrimmage in Owings Mills, Md., against the Ravens. The three-day session followed an exhibition game against Baltimore, and players said it was more about Harbaugh taking on his older brother, John, than improving a team that was just coming off its third straight appearance in the NFC Championship Game.
Boone’s most recent comments underscore what many always knew about Harbaugh and what Harbaugh cops to in the HBO piece – that he can grind away on people. It also shows that 49ers executives weren’t the only ones suffering from Harbaugh fatigue. Still, there was never any push from players to have Harbaugh removed last season, and many players consistently defended him.
Cornerback Chris Culliver, now with Washington, went on Instagram on Monday to chime in on Boone’s comments: “Funny how ppl talk about u when You not around but quite (sic) in ya face!! 3/4 years went to NFCchampionship/Super Bowl, that’s what we play for!”
Still, there has been no hue and cry now that Harbaugh is gone or a sense the 49ers are doomed without him. One offseason move that seems to indicate this is the way Anquan Boldin, one of the team’s most respected veterans, recruited fellow wide receiver Torrey Smith to join the 49ers.
Sure, Boldin benefits from having Smith in the offense. But he’s also very good friends with Smith and entering the final season of his contract. It’s difficult to see him pitching the 49ers to Smith – “A first-class organization, a place where they care about you, a place where you have an opportunity to win,” he said he told Smith – if he thought the team would suffer without Harbaugh.
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at sacbee.com/sf49ers.