Harbaugh’s Challenge: Taking the Reins of a Promising, but Disappointing 49ers Team

Karl Mondon/CONTRA COSTA TIMES/MCT

Amanda Zepeda

Ex-Stanford and new San Francisco 49ers’ head coach Jim Harbaugh is all smiles at his introductory press conference. Niners fans and management hope Harbaugh will bring his winning ways to a 49er team that disappointed in the 2010-11 regular season. He is seen pictured here during his introduction as the new head coach during a press conference at the Sheraton Palace Hotel in San Francisco on Jan. 7, 2011.

In the midst of all the NFL playoff excitement, it’s hard for the San Francisco 49er faithful to not be concerned as to why their beloved team of such promising talent has not had a playoff bid since their 2002-2003 campaign.

Fresh off a disappointing end to a year that saw the Niners in the playoff hunt up until the final weeks of the season, despite a 6-10 losing record, San Francisco’s front office gave into the pleas of 49er fans and personnel for a change at the head coaching position.

A disappointing crack at it by former Niners coach Mike Singletary, which included three consecutive losing seasons, was his ticket out the door at the conclusion of the 2010 season. He now finds himself with the Minnesota Vikings as the linebackers coach and assistant head coach.

With the Singletary era in San Francisco coming to a screeching halt, in to replace him is former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, who, in just a couple of weeks as the new head coach, has already begun to get acclimated with his duties.

His familiar personnel includes Greg Roman, who will take over at offensive coordinator, new defensive coordinator Vic Vangio and Tim Drevno, who will take the offensive line coach position. All were coaches with Harbaugh at Stanford. Roman and Vangio Harbaugh’s Challenge:have prior experience coaching in the NFL.

In his second stint at managing at the professional level (the first time around was as the quarterbacks coach with the Oakland Raiders in the ‘02-‘03 season), Harbaugh emphasizes that “losing is not an option,” according to 49ers.com.

Jim Harbaugh has had professional stints with the Bears, Colts, Ravens and Chargers, playing quarterback for all four teams. After serving as the Raiders’ quarterbacks coach, he went on to coach the University of San Diego for three years before coming to Palo Alto to be the head coach for Stanford.

When his father Jack Harbaugh was an assistant coach at Stanford, he played at Palo Alto High across the street, which influenced his decision to coach at Stanford University in 2006.

Upon arriving at Stanford, the Cardinal football team had a 1-11 record, their program in shambles. The players would enter games with their heads hung down looking already beaten. Harbaugh took over and virtually turned the program around.

It is in this time where the infamous rivalry between Harbaugh and former USC head coach Pete Carroll seemingly began. Many view this as all the more reason to watch closely on how the 49ers do with Harbaugh, being that Pete Carroll also resides in the NFC West division as the coach of the Seattle Seahawks. The feud between two of college football’s elite and successful coaches will once again be ignited, only this time at the professional level.

The question now becomes can Jim Harbaugh do for the Niners what Hall-of-Famer Bill Walsh did when he came out of Stanford to become head coach of the 49ers to lead them to three Super Bowl championships.

Although the 49ers have replaced a not-so-fan-favorite coach in Singletary, with the fresh start that Harbaugh brings to the table, along with a “trample over you to win” mentality, there are still many issues to be addressed—specifically at the quarterback position.

Along with a new coaching staff, new stadium plans are in the future of this organization as the 49ers seek to secure the team’s long-term future in the Bay Area, with the team aiming to have the new stadium up and ready in Santa Clara by 2014.

For the city of San Francisco and its fans, it will be interesting to see how the addition of the coach with Palo Alto roots will take charge of a team that has been waiting to get charged up for quite some time.