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Jim Harbaugh: ‘A penalty is a penalty no matter when it occurs in a game’

Feb 7, 2013, 1:33 PM EDT

Super Bowl XLVII - Baltimore Ravens v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

I haven’t written on the 49ers’ last offensive play of the Super Bowl because A.) I’m not totally sure a penalty should have been called there, and B.) After the way the Niners played in the first half, I’m not comfortable blaming the refs for the loss. But Jim Harbaugh believes the fade route to Michael Crabtree in the end zone did include a penalty that should have been called, and he’s still steamed about it. So we’ll agree to disagree.

But Harbaugh also said something in a radio interview on Wednesday with which I agree totally: sports officials who won’t call late penalties because “the players should decide the game” are totally wrong. The 49ers’ coach appeared on 95.7 The Game in San Francisco on Wednesday, and was asked about that. Harbaugh:

“I would say it exactly like Bill Polian: A penalty is a penalty no matter when it occurs in a game. It could occur in the first play of the game. It could occur on the last play of the game, or any play in between. That’s the rules of football. You let ‘em play or let ‘em get away with something. Which would you rather have? Let’s play the rules of the game. … If there’s a penalty then it’s a penalty — doesn’t matter what kind of game. … It’s the rules of football. If it’s a penalty, you call it. If you see it, you call it. That’s how I feel about it.”

I’ve heard it often at the high school level in basketball, and you even hear it from college and pro officials in basketball and football: officials saying they won’t call anything but hard, obvious fouls very late in the game because they want the players to decide things.

Translation: “We don’t have the courage to make the difficult decision in crunch time.”

Because games are decided on every play, not just the late ones.

I also hate the fact that in Major League Baseball, you have four umpires during all of the regular season, then for the World Series suddenly two extra umps sprout up in the outfield. So, it’s extra super double important to get those foul calls exactly right in the postseason, but not so important that we use instant replay. Got it.

The playoffs should be called the way the regular season was — perhaps if there were umpires on each foul line in May, different teams would be playing in the postseason.

But the bigger question here is, has the Super Bowl grown so big that it can’t be officiated? I may have missed one, but it seems to me that not a single holding call was made during the game. This in a sport in which players say a hold could be called on every down. Are the stakes too big? Too much money involved to slow the action with flags? As David Puddy would say, “That’s bogus, man.”

Then during the Harbaugh interview, some actual news happened. Asked if he thought he would be able to retain his entire assistant coaching staff, Harbaugh responded:

“We’re very confident. There’ll be teams that will show interest and have shown interest, but our coaches are committed to what we’re doing here.”

That’s the first time I’ve heard that. Perhaps Greg Roman’s stock went down following that final series inside the Baltimore 9? Anyway, good news for Niners fans.

  1. tyler4richardson - Feb 7, 2013 at 2:44 PM

    With all that being said, Jim is still very happy that the refs didn’t call Navarro Bowman on 4th down for his blatant hold on Roddy White late in the NFC Championship game. That missed call was way more obvious that anything shown on the Crabtree pass.

    • Rick Chandler - Feb 7, 2013 at 3:31 PM

      I disagree that Bowman was guilty of a blatant hold. I wouldn’t have thrown the flag on either play.

      • tyler4richardson - Feb 7, 2013 at 4:25 PM

        Yeah I think no flags should have been thrown either and you’re right, the Bowman play isn’t blatant, but I don’t see him any less “guilty” than Jimmy Smith.

  2. skids003 - Feb 7, 2013 at 3:26 PM

    I officiate 3 sports. I hear way more coaches complain about late game calls saying “let the kids decide the game” than I hear officials say it. Even obvious ones. It depends on whether or not its on their team.

    • Rick Chandler - Feb 7, 2013 at 3:36 PM

      Ha … yes. I’ve never heard a coach say “let the kids decide the game” when the foul went in their favor.

      That being said, you should probably just tune out all youth coaches. Mostly they’re insane when it comes to refs.

  3. michiganhockey11 - Feb 7, 2013 at 3:56 PM

    This is exactly why Jim Harbaugh comes across like a gigantic douche.

    Jim, let it go. You can’t claim to be graceful in defeat and berate the officials for the next 5 days. The replay clearly shows Crabtree pushing off as well. If a penalty is a penalty, then you’d be ok with offensive pass interference as well?

  4. myopinionisrighterthanyours - Feb 7, 2013 at 4:00 PM

    Wonder what Jim thinks about the blantant hold his team got away with on the same drive. The refs had their flags in their pockets the whole game. You and your team have to adjust to how the game is being called.