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Was Jim Harbaugh Right to Turn Down the Safety During 49ers vs. Seahawks?

Any comeback by the Seattle Seahawks ended last night when they were called for a holding penalty in their own end zone with under a minute left to play in the game. By rule the apparent play resulted in a safety giving the San Francisco 49ers a two-possession lead. While the play did in fact end any chance of Seattle winning the game, as it turns out, the play did not result in 2-points for the 49ers and a two possession lead.

The play also happened to be 4th down, and since Seattle came up short of the first-down mark on its completed pass, 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh declined the safety and decided to take possession of the ball. Harbaugh’s decision to take 2-points off the board meant that his offense would have to take the field for a kneel-down. What if there was a fumbled snap and the Seahawks picked up the ball and ran it back for a touch down? Don’t think that’s possible? Just a few weeks ago at the Fantasy Football Fest in Atlantic City, NJ, I had dinner with Joe Pisarcik and we spoke about that very thing for over an hour.

Harbaugh’s decision to take the 2-points off the board raises the question on whether he or someone he has an allegiance to had money on the Seahawks. While no one is accusing here, the question absolutely has to be asked (and answered) because there simply isn’t any sound strategic football argument you can make to take the 2-points off the board. San Francisco was favored by anywhere from 7 to 8 points depending on where and when you place the bet during the week. The bizarre decision to take points off the board resulted in a push for many gamblers and was the difference between a win and a loss for others.

According to sources, an estimated 65% of the money on the game backed San Francisco while 35% backed Seattle. That would mean an estimated $75 million was transferred from the hands of bettors into the hands of bookies as a result of the decision to decline the safety. You’re not a happy camper today if you took the 49ers as you went from having a win to a push or perhaps even a loss if you were giving 7.5 or 8.

Assuming the inexplicable scenario is just an odd coincidence, the question is still a fair one.

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