SANTA CLARA -- Brandon Jacobs couldn't run, but he sure didn't hide.
Has Jacobs produced for the 49ers as a high-profile free agent acquisition this season? No, not at all, zippo.
But Jacobs carved out another unique role: He's a social-media star, an outlier personality, a tempestuous test-case stuck in the 49ers' tranquil seas.
Essentially, Jacobs took on Jim Harbaugh via social media, and everybody who saw Jacobs' comments had to wonder what Harbaugh would do about it and when he would do it.
Exactly how far can a little-used 49ers player go in the Kingdom of Harbaugh?
Answer: As far as Jacobs went, and then ... squash.
Now let's see what the locker room reaction is to the 49ers' suspension of Jacobs for the final three games of the regular season.
But knowing Harbaugh's control of this team, I expect barely a peep.
It's just the natural order of a winning team: The coach prevails, the locker room follows, and the bristling player is cast out.
Clearly, the 49ers don't mind big personalities -- the locker room is full of them, from Randy Moss to Joe Staley to Vernon Davis to Donte Whitner.
The coaching staff, too, from Greg Roman to Vic Fangio to Brad Seely.
But Harbaugh is the franchise's biggest personality, always, for lots of reasons, and to challenge his coaching judgment is to challenge the entire nerve center of this operation.
At his news conference Monday, Harbaugh
Then a few hours later, the 49ers announced that Jacobs had been suspended. He's eligible to play in the postseason, but it seems incredibly unlikely that he will ever suit up for the 49ers again.
By suspending Jacobs, Harbaugh and the 49ers take away his paycheck and deny him the chance to sign with an NFC rival.
No official reason for the suspension was given, but if you followed this on Instagram and Twitter -- or heard the tone of Harbaugh's voice earlier in the day -- no explanation was necessary.
For weeks, and particularly in the days leading up to Sunday's victory over Miami, Jacobs has complained on social media about "rotting away" in a nothing role for the 49ers.
And Jacobs has not been shy about pointing the finger in Harbaugh's general direction.
The stat line: Jacob was active for only three games and had five carries for 7 yards as essentially the third- or fourth-string tailback.
When backup tailback Kendall Hunter went down with a season-ending injury, it wasn't Jacobs who moved into the No. 2 role behind Frank Gore, it was rookie LaMichael James.
Jacobs was signed as a luxury item, then was pushed further in the background when the 49ers drafted James. Jacobs lost more ground after an Aug. 18 knee injury sidelined him for almost two months, and he was pushed back even further as the season went on.
Now, in the Colin Kaepernick offense, there's not much need for a bruising 250-pound back who doesn't play special teams -- the 49ers' bruiser is Kaepernick.
"This is by far the worst year I ever had," Jacobs said on Instagram a few days ago, "I'll tell you like I told plenty others."
So, even if Jacobs hadn't been issuing social-media barbs, his present and future with the 49ers would have been in question.
But after the Instagram/Twitter salvos, Jacobs clearly put him on one side ... and Harbaugh's "the team, the team, team" was on the other.
The two sides needed a break. It happened Monday.
Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke's response didn't come via social media, it came by official suspension.
And we now have a 49ers problem-player pattern:
Two seasons of Harbaugh, two grumbling high-profile players, two late-season 49ers moves.
Last year, Braylon Edwards was clearly unhappy in a reduced role (though he issued his thoughts in a much more elliptical manner) and was released late in the season.
Even after Edwards and Jacobs, the 49ers probably won't shy away from strong-willed veterans to fill luxury roles.
The Patriots (Sunday's opponent) follow a similar process: You try to add playmakers, and if they don't work out, you move on.
Especially if they're not making any plays.
Bill Belichick always runs the show in New England; Jim Harbaugh rules the 49ers.
You can challenge them if you want, but as long as the NFL kings win games, the challengers will lose.
Time change gives 49ers consecutive Sunday night games. Page 3