So the 49ers have landed arguably the hottest coaching candidate to hit the NFL market in years in former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh.
It's a great accomplishment for young team president Jed York and new general manager Trent Baalke. It's a move that lends instant credibility to the new owner and front office, especially after all the drama that encompassed the entire Harbaugh sweepstakes.
But will the hiring of Harbaugh send the 49ers into the playoffs next year as a division winner in the NFC West? Only time will tell, as Harbaugh doesn't possess NFL head coaching experience, but has the pedigree that should excite 49ers fans—the son of a coach and brother of current Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh, he runs his own version of the West Coast offense that was on full display in the Orange Bowl, he studied closely under the late Bill Walsh, and he has paid his dues as a quarterbacks coach with the Oakland Raiders, as well as at the University of San Diego and at Stanford.
And he's known for developing quarterbacks, as he did with Rich Gannon and most notably with a guy named Luck at Stanford.
As anyone knows, however, college success doesn't necessarily translate to success in the NFL, as evidenced by recent failures like Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier, Bobby Petrino and the list goes on.
The true mark of whether Harbaugh will be a success or failure with the 49ers, however, will lie in his ability to scout and evaluate NFL-ready talent, much like how Jimmy Johnson was able to turn around the Dallas Cowboys. Johnson went 1-15 in his first season with the Cowboys, but was able to find talent through the draft in players like Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin.
Harbaugh has a similar task in front of him with this 49ers roster. While they are talented, the 49ers are lacking in several key areas. Everyone mentions the team's need for a quarterback, and for good reason (Alex Smith, anybody?), but the Niners are also in dire need of help in the secondary.
Nate Clements has proven to be a complete bust after he signed as a free agent in 2007, and safety Dashon Goldson was disappointing after his breakout year in 2009. Rookie Taylor Mays proved he's nowhere near ready to be an NFL starting safety after a six-game audition this season.
The 49ers could also use a strong right tackle to help block for Frank Gore and a pass rushing defensive end that can help put some more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. That's all.
It starts with the upcoming draft in April, and Harbaugh has a tall task in front of him. One that is made more difficult with the issue of the collective bargaining agreement, which will hinder teams' ability to sign outside free agents until a new CBA is agreed upon.
Regardless, Harbaugh has a great opportunity to turn around a once-great franchise, which is why he chose the 49ers in the first place. All he has to do is find and develop a franchise quarterback and repair a limited 49ers roster, all while trying to appease spoiled 49er fans hungry for a return to glory. Good luck, Jim.