Harbaugh plowing ahead with plans, lockout or not
Jim Harbaugh’s new coaching staff is nearly in place and he is
in full-on, head-down planning mode. His normal schedule: a half
day spent on draft evaluation and the other half preparing
offensive and defensive schemes.
There’s not much else Harbaugh can do at the moment as a
first-year NFL coach heading into an offseason of uncertainty with
the league’s unsettled labor situation and a possible lockout for
2011. He has already met a handful of his players and even spoke
with quarterback Alex Smith, the 49ers’ 2005 No. 1 overall draft
pick who is an unrestricted free agent.
”This is a new time,” Harbaugh said Friday, exactly two weeks
after he was hired away from Stanford with a $25 million, five-year
deal. ”This is like the Etch A Sketch when you were a kid or the
plastic sheet that you lift up. There was a lot written on there
and once you lift it up there’s a new, clean slate there.
Everything to come is to be determined what’s going to be written
on there. Everything in the past is now in a bio.”
Harbaugh announced two more hires Friday and the retention of
four coaches already on San Francisco’s staff. Keeping their jobs
from fired coach Mike Singletary’s staff are offensive line coach
Mike Solari, running backs coach Tom Rathman, defensive line coach
Jim Tomsula and assistant offensive line coach Ray Brown.
The team also added Ejiro Evero as a quality control coach.
Harbaugh has received a commitment from Brad Seely to become
special teams coordinator.
There is much work to be done for a franchise that is counting
on Harbaugh to turn the once-proud 49ers into a perennial contender
and playoff team again. San Francisco started 0-5 and finished 6-10
this season after entering as an NFC West favorite following an
unbeaten preseason. The Niners haven’t had a winning season since
their last postseason berth in 2002.
Harbaugh just spent four years at Stanford transforming a
program that was 1-11 the season before he arrived on The Farm. The
Cardinal reached the Sun Bowl in 2009 for their first bowl berth
since 2001, then went 12-1 with a 40-12 Orange Bowl victory over
Virginia Tech this season.
Now, he must get the 49ers on the upswing in a hurry.
”That’s a hungry group, guys who haven’t been to the
playoffs,” Harbaugh said. ”That’s the way these guys are in the
locker room that I’ve found. I felt good about that. I had a
feeling that was the case and researched it as much as I could. I
felt good that I anticipated that.”
Harbaugh will be busy in the coming weeks evaluating potential
quarterbacks, a position he knows so well. The Niners are expected
to look to the April draft to add a quarterback to their roster,
The former Michigan quarterback spent 15 seasons in the NFL with
the Bears, Colts, Ravens, Chargers and Panthers. A first-round
draft pick taken 26th overall by Chicago in 1987, Harbaugh
completed 2,305 of 3,918 passes for 26,288 yards and 129 touchdowns
in the NFL. He also ran for 18 TDs.
”Do we need a topflight quarterback? Do human beings need air
to breathe?” Harbaugh said. ”I’m going to do my part and what I
feel is my knowledge of the position and make a great evaluation of
the quarterbacks on the current roster and those that are out there
that we could bring to the 49ers.”
New general manager Trent Baalke, promoted earlier this month
from his position as player personnel chief, said Smith will be
considered the same way any other free agent is this offseason. San
Francisco can re-sign its own free agents before the official free
agency period begins March 4.
Smith took over the starting job midway through 2009 and was
entrenched as the starter heading into 2010. After separating his
non-throwing left shoulder Oct. 24 at Carolina, Singletary turned
to 2006 Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith for the next five games –
even after Alex Smith was healthy again. Troy Smith went 3-2 as a
starter, then it was Alex Smith’s turn again for two games,
including a commanding win over eventual West champion Seattle.
After a flop at San Diego, Singletary turned back to Troy Smith
for a must-win game with the Rams on Dec. 26. That 25-17 loss cost
the coach his job with one week to go. Tomsula, serving a
single-game stint as interim head coach, went with Alex Smith for a
win against Arizona in the season finale.
Harbaugh isn’t about to guess what might happen with Smith,
other than to say their encounter was a positive one.
”I don’t want to speak for Alex,” Harbaugh said. ”He strikes
me as somebody who’s open. His vision for himself, his vision and
how that relates to the 49ers is to be determined. Going through
the process in his mind, what’s best for him and his career and how
that relates to us, that’s an exciting piece as we move forward
with not only Alex but all the players on our team. You hate to
keep using Alex as the only example. There’s several examples of