San Francisco 49ers: Breaking Down What Makes Jim Harbaugh a Great Coach
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Did Jim Harbaugh really work magic with the San Francisco 49ers in 2011? He made the horrendous team from 2010 disappear, and replaced it with a championship contender right before our eyes.
It wasn't magic, and it certainly wasn't a fluke. This former NFL quarterback used what made him successful at the college level and implemented it into the pros. And as a result, another great head coach was born.
He's a Player's Coach
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The rapport that Harbaugh has formed with his players after just one year truly shows how great of a leader he is. He has gained his team's respect the right way. Harbaugh didn't use fear as motivation like Mike Singletary did during his tenure.
Instead, he used the drive that made him an eccentric quarterback, and he implemented that into his coaching style.
He understands his athletes and how they operate, and as a result they went to hell and back together in 2012.
In an article by Michael David Smith from NBCSports.com, Patrick Willis spoke about his coach's demeanor.
“He is crazy, but he’s a good crazy,” Willis said. “He’s the kind of crazy that there is not a player on that team that would not go to war with him...But most people would say, ‘How could somebody be crazy but it’s good?’ He’s crazy in that if he had to lay himself on the line to make sure that you’d live, the guy beside him would keep fighting, he would do that. That’s crazy, but he’s that type of coach for us and he has that with us.”
Experience with Resurrecting Teams
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After the Steve Mariucci era, the Niners became a team that no coach could revive. Between 2003-2010 the 49ers only mustered 46 wins with three different head coaches.
Harbaugh succeeded where these coaches failed, which shouldn't be a surprise. Before coming to the city by the bay, he resurrected two floundering football programs.
At the University of San Diego, Harbaugh led the team to two back-to-back 11-1 seasons. And after just four seasons at Stanford, he managed to make their football program relevant again by guiding the team to a 12-1 record and an Orange Bowl victory.
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The interesting thing about Harbaugh is that he has supreme confidence in every player he puts out on the field.
Whenever a player struggled, he didn't' abandon all hope and switch things up in a haste like his predecessor. Under coach Singletary, the 49ers played scared because of the fear of making mistakes; and as a result the team struggled.
Despite Smith's past failures with the red and gold, Harbaugh entrusted him with the Niners playbook before the NFL lockout. That small gesture pushed Smith to the best season of his career.
And Harbaugh didn't stop there.
This past season, Gore started off slow and averaged less than three yards a carry in the first three games. As a result, he only had 148 rushing yards before he exploded in the fourth game of the season with 127 yards.
Smart Play Caller
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One of the most obvious differences between Harbaugh and past head coach Mike Nolan was the play calling. Nolan coached like he was playing Madden. He constantly opted to run on third and long, and for some odd reason Nolan loved going for it on fourth down.
Harbaugh, on the other hand, was an excellent play caller last season.
Along with offensive coordinator Greg Roman, the 49ers developed into a smart team on offense that didn't commit silly turnovers. In recent years, the Niners were well-known for coughing the ball up. However, thanks to Harbaugh putting his players in prime positions to succeed, the 49ers were able to shed that tendency in 2011.