What happens when an incompetent QB meets a brilliant coach? Well, a NFC Championship game. How Jim Harbaugh restored life in a once forgotten bust.
All kidding aside, Jim Harbaugh is a fantastic coach. When 49ers CEO/President Jed York defended his decision to stay with struggling QB Alex Smith, he insisted Harbaugh’s influence would benefit the 2005 first overall draft pick.
“You can’t leave out Harbaugh. Jim is the guy that evaluates quarterbacks. That’s one of the top reasons we wanted Jim as a head coach, because if you can’t develop a quarterback and have a quarterback that wins, you are not going to win in the NFL. If Jim feels comfortable with Alex, then I feel comfortable with Jim.”
Harbaugh is probably the most competitive coach in the NFL. He once said about himself, “I just concentrate on doing a good job at what I’m doing, I’m just very superficial in that way. I’m as transparent as a baggie. There’s nothing deep. You can’t peel back the onion.” Players respect a head coach who is straight up. The no-nonsense approach only works when the head coach holds himself accountable.
Harbaugh has learned from his mistakes on the job. He drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for throwing a challenge flag disputing a touchdown in Detroit. He took heat for keeping 3 points in Week 2 instead of accepting a 15-yard penalty against Dallas. The 49ers eventually lost in OT. He replaced Bill Belichick this season as the “handshake” goat after he rambunctiously showed up Jim Schwartz.
It goes back to Harbaugh’s persona. He’s a ‘hit you in the mouth’ style coach. His defense didn’t allow a rushing TD all season holding RB’s to a meager 2.6 YPC.
It’s almost as if Harbaugh instilled his mentality in every 49er. For Smith, it’s Harbaugh’s leadership. During the lockout, Smith organized two separate four-day mini camps at San Jose State with most of the first team offense. Alex Smith, the draft
bust…leading? It’s a remarkable story.
San Francisco’s offense is not going to overwhelm anybody. The defense forced 5 turnovers Saturday and only won by four points. It seems to have potential though. Alex Smith’s 14-yard TD pass to TE Vernon Davis was as good a throw there is. The 49ers are 6-0 this season when Davis catches a TD pass.
Smith’s 28-yard TD run truly defines Harbaugh’s creativity. Fourth quarter, 3rd down and 7, Harbaugh calls for a naked bootleg. Sure enough, Smith bolted left, benefiting from some athletic offensive line play. Veteran tackle Joe Staley looked like a freight train pummeling rookie safety Isa Abdul-Quddus. Guard Mike Iupati and WR Michael Crabtree sealed the edge. What a beautiful, gutsy play design from Harbaugh.
STAT: Alex Smith’s 28-yard TD run was the longest 4th-quarter or OT go-ahead TD run in a playoff game by a QB since 1972.
Harbaugh has revitalized a quarterback that Mike McCarthy, Norv Turner, Jim Hostler, Mike Martz, Jimmy Raye, Mike Johnson, Mike Nolan, and Mike Singletary failed to develop. Smith has seen seven offensive coordinators in seven years. One found a way to build an offense around his QB’s skill set, rather than force-feed a game plan.
Harbaugh’s 49ers are just one win from Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis. Funny, his brother sits in the same position with the Baltimore Ravens. I wonder if they’re doing something right.
The message was “believe and conquer”–and that they have, but not to the fullest extent, yet.