Harbaugh talks up prized quarterbacks

49ers coach Jim Harbaugh discusses the NFL Scouting Combine
49ers coach Jim Harbaugh discusses the NFL Scouting Combine
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Nancy Gay

Nancy Gay is the Senior NFL Editor at She has been covering the NFL and other major sports for more than two decades. The first female member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee, Nancy also is an Associated Press All-Pro selector. She has covered 20 Super Bowls. Follow her on Twitter @nancygay.


The Scouting Combine’s top two quarterbacks – all but assured to be selected 1-2 in April’s NFL Draft – each have a connection with San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh: He coached Andrew Luck at Stanford, and he recruited Robert Griffin III, the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner who starred at Baylor.


Get wall-to-wall coverage of the NFL Scouting Combine, including experts on site.

Luck may be locked up and signed by the Indianapolis Colts – keeper of the No. 1 overall draft pick – as early as Friday, thanks to the new rookie wage scale that makes the torture of negotiating first-round contracts largely obsolete.

Harbaugh confirms Luck is a keeper. You just have to cull through some vague Harbaugh-speak to read between the lines.

He loves to reference the card game Spades, hence, “He’s holding a lot of aces and a lot of suits,” Harbaugh said of Luck.

The 49ers coach left Stanford after a wildly successful 2010 season in which the Luck-led Cardinal rolled to a 12-1 record, finishing with No. 4 in the final Associated Press poll as well as with a victory in the Orange Bowl. Luck, a junior that season who opted to remain at Stanford in 2011 after Harbaugh left for the NFL to rebuild the beleaguered 49ers, was the MVP in that 42-12 bowl victory over Virginia Tech.

What makes Luck ready for the NFL?

“He’s got all the qualities, really,” Harbaugh said. “He’s prepared as anyone you’re going to find. That’s my opinion.

“He’s really good — how about that one? He’s talented."

Is Luck being unfairly compared to NFL greats such as John Elway and the quarterback he’s expected to replace in Indianapolis, Peyton Manning?

“Fair or unfair, it’s the nature of the business. He’s very equipped to deal with it — very mature,” Harbaugh said.

Luck’s maturity, leadership and talent grew under Harbaugh’s watch at Stanford, but the coach believes those traits are God-given.

“He’s one of the finest football players I’ve ever been around,” Harbaugh said, “and he’s even a better person. One of the top five guys I’ve ever been around. He’s just a joy to coach.

“I’m not going to like playing against him — not looking forward to that.”

Harbaugh also made a run at Griffin, who now becomes the hottest commodity on many draft boards. The St. Louis Rams have the No. 2 overall pick and that selection will be in high demand because of the lure of RG3, a redshirt junior who has displayed tremendous ability, intelligence and leadership at every level.

Griffin leaves Baylor with his degree in political science (he finished with a 3.67 GPA) and a lot of teams clamoring to draft him.

“We recruited Robert out of high school (Copperas Cove in Texas),” Harbaugh recalled. “Robert was a 4.0 student, great parents, comes from a great home. He’s had great success at Baylor.

“I think past performance usually indicates future success and he’s had nothing but a history of success. So you would predict great achievements in the future.”

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