So far this year, for every positive Jim Harbaugh conjures up, a con arises:
Re-sign Alex Smith? Great, but then we won't be able to stretch the field.
Don't attack the free-agency market during its initial phases? Okay, but we're going to miss out on quality players.
Before the Philadelphia game, we had seen the same ol' run-up-the-middle type offense with Alex Smith playing not to lose the game.
And then, almost too easily, we destroyed a decent Tampa Bay team. But in the meaningless minutes of the game, we lost a starting wide receiver for the rest of the year.
Yet still, for every con that arises, solutions are implemented.
Harbaugh mentors Alex Smith gradually, and from once barely controlling the game, Alex now has led strong, fluid offensive drives for a comeback win at hostile Philly and a Golden Era-style thrashing of the Buccaneers.
Harbaugh's Offseason Moves
Passing on overrated free agents and their bloated contracts may have been a blessing—and the plan all along.
The team economically signed quality professional footballers (Carlos Rogers (CB), Donte Whitner (S), Jonathan Goodwin (G), David Akers (K)) and returnees (Alex Smith and Dashon Goldson (S)); let the malcontents go (Nate Clements, Manny Lawson, Taylor Mays, Aubrayo Franklin); and drafted players to make an early impact (Aldon Smith (LB), Chris Culliver (CB), Kendall Hunter (RB)) and not to simply "hit 'em in the mouth" (thank you, Singletary). It has turned out to be a positive and reinforcing initiative—one that seemed empty of hope at the beginning of the year is now one full of belief and, dare I say, a winning mentality.
Josh Morgan Injury
As Harbaugh described it, a "sickening" injury to Josh Morgan leaves the Niners weak at the receiver position. All that's left are a hobbled, under-performing first-round receiver (Michael Crabtree), a diminutive youngster with speed and skills but with huge uncertainty (Kyle Williams), a career return man with a case of the dropsies (Ted Ginn Jr.), and a couple practice squad players.
So what does Harbaugh do?
He signs Brett Swain.
Who the heck? The Niners had a wide-receiver tryout, and NFL-established veterans like Chris Chambers, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Brian Finneran showed up—only for Harbaugh to select Brett Swain.
So, who is Swain?
The fourth-year wideout won a championship with the Packers last year, recording a team-high three tackles on special teams in Super Bowl XLV. He has familiarity with the West Coast offense, and most importantly is a hard worker who grinds it out on special teams.
Niners beat writer Matt Maiocco declared that Swain is not expected to see any offensive snaps against Detroit, but that's expected with a only a few days to get in to the swing of things.
And didn't TE Delanie Walker score last week against the Bucs from the slot position? I expect both he and TE Vernon Davis to help out more in the passing attack to supplement Morgan's absence, while TE Justin Peelle provide more blocking.
It's no knock on Swain's obscurity, but for Harbaugh to choose Swain over established names speaks volumes. It speaks loudly on those veteran wide receivers' value in quality, on Swain's tenacity and work ethic at the tryout (with Harbaugh throwing passes), and more importantly, on Harbaugh sticking with his guns and signing only players that will benefit the 49ers.
Swain makes sense for the here-and-now and the future, is the kind of player the 49ers should pride themselves in obtaining, and—best of all—is the player Harbaugh wants on his team. And with all the right moves Harbaugh has made so far, why would you even question it?
West Coast-mindset, young upstart, and hungry to play—whether that describes Swain or the 49ers, no one should argue that the Niners are riding high on a path Harbaugh has schematically and fundamentally set up for them, and they should take this philosophy with them as they prepare for their biggest game in several years. As Harbaugh would declare, "Arrow up!"
But will the momentum carry over? Or are we in for a back-to-reality slap in the face against Detroit?
When do we just start blindly following Harbaugh? I think I'm starting to...