Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

07 Jan 2011

49ers To Hire Jim Harbaugh

Adam Schefter is reporting that the 49ers and Jim Harbaugh have come to terms on a five-year deal. No word yet on the money involved.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 07 Jan 2011

61 comments, Last at 10 Jan 2011, 12:48pm by bravehoptoad

Comments

1
by t.d. :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 4:52pm

wow, that's great. They still need a qb, though

2
by dbt :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 4:57pm

Isn't this the 5th job Adam has said Harbaugh has taken this week? Michigan, Denver, Miami, back to Stanford, now to SF?

I'm skeptical until I see a press conference.

8
by Sancho Gaucho (not verified) :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 5:51pm

Not even that. If he follows Brasilian soccer-star Ronaldinho, that change teams DAILY according to the midia coverage, Stanford will make a HUGE press conference in a fancy hotel in MIAMI to say that Harbaugh is oficially not its coach anymore, and he will say that he is open for negotiations...

25
by zlionsfan :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 8:02pm

I used to think Rumor Central was just one part of ESPN's site, but this is getting ridiculous. When Rodriguez wasn't fired the day he met with Brandon, I wondered if he was going to be kept on another year just to make ESPN look stupid.

I think ESPN has a dartboard in the back somewhere for each coach actively searching for jobs, with each section representing a school or team, and then another one for each school and team looking for a coach, with the sections representing coaches. The writers take turns throwing at the boards and then writing about whatever comes up.

49
by Sancho Gaucho (not verified) :: Sat, 01/08/2011 - 9:23am

Not an ESPN-exclusive disease. Just happens everywhere in any offseason. It doesn't matter the sport nor the country...

3
by tonic889 (not verified) :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 5:03pm

In one corner: Jimmy Johnson. In the other corner: Dennis Erickson, Steve Spurrier, Bobby Petrino, Butch Davis, Nick Saban, Lane Kiffin. When is the NFL going to realize this?

4
by opticallog :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 5:16pm

Good thing he's bringing a pro-style offensive system and previous NFL coaching experience with him then.

5
by MilkmanDanimal :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 5:18pm

Yeah, Harbaugh seems more "pro-ready" as a coach than a lot of college guys who figure it's just the same as coaching college kids, but older.

6
by tuluse :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 5:20pm

Lane Kiffin wasn't a head coach in college prior to being an NFL head coach, so I'm not sure why you included him.

7
by andrew :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 5:23pm

You forgot Barry Switzer :P

26
by bravehoptoad :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 8:16pm

Bill Walsh? Tom Coughlin? John Robinson? Bobby Ross? Steve Marucci? Don Coryell?

Most coaches fail, but you need to better populate Jimmy Johnson's corner.

28
by spenczar :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 8:33pm

And also that Vince Lombardi guy (Fordham 1947-1948, Army 1948-1954).

38
by Anonymous2 (not verified) :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 11:33pm

Walsh, Coughlin, Marucci (and Lombardi) all had pro experience as an assistant before becoming head coach. It's not like coaching in college is a stigma that prevents you from being successful in the NFL.

55
by spenczar :: Sat, 01/08/2011 - 4:33pm

?
So did Harbaugh, he was on the Raiders staff in both 2002 and 2003.

29
by BlueStarDude :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 8:39pm

Don't forget Lou Holtz.

56
by CDB (not verified) :: Sat, 01/08/2011 - 4:46pm

You do know that football didn't begin in 1990, right?

58
by MC2 :: Mon, 01/10/2011 - 3:28am

You do know that football has changed since 1990, right?

9
by Lou :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 5:53pm

From one former Tecmo Bear to another.

13
by tuluse :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 6:13pm

Technically, aren't they always Tecmo Bears? It's not like the game got a roster update.

24
by zlionsfan :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 7:56pm

Hey, they still do rosters for Super Tecmo Bowl, although I'm guessing that's for emulators. (Not sure how you'd get the roster onto a cartridge, but I guess it could be done.)

10
by BigDean (not verified) :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 5:53pm

HIs first move should be to trade for Derek Anderson. That will guarantee they finish in last place so he can draft Andrew Luck in 2012.

11
by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 6:07pm

I'm chuffed to bits, he's on record as saying he learned more from a two hour conversation with Bill Walsh than he learned in his entire NFL career. That's probably hyperbole but he runs the old 49er offense, meaning he can take advantage of the library of videotaped meetings and practices that Walsh assembled. You want your qb to know how to run the waggle or a 5 step drop with a hitch, well here's how Montana used to do it etc. At the very least we're unlikely to see a repeat of the debacle in KC where the niners repeatedly ran up the middle despite nine defenders lining up between the tackles.

I also think the 49ers offesnive personnel suits the scheme, Crabtree isn't a great fit for a digit system because he doesn't have deep speed but he can make plays with the ball in his hands. Davis can be the modern incarnation of Brent Jones/Russ Francis, even Morgan fits better. While the line might be a bit big, it's pretty athletic. We'll need a fullback (I love offenses that use a fullback as a run/catch/block threat).

For once another team comes out looking worse than the 49ers, Miami offered him $3 million more per year and he said no to them. Ha! I say. Ha!

15
by tuluse :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 6:15pm

Crabtree's speed looks more than adequate to me, but isn't being big and strong more important than speed to the WCO? I mean that was Jerry Rice and TO's strength's.

16
by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 6:37pm

Crabtree is listed at 220 lbs, that's plenty big enough.

17
by tally :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 6:38pm

I was about to say that Jerry Rice wasn't all that big, but he was in the league so long that 6'2", 200 lbs. was pretty decent sized when he started but not all that big by the time he retired.

33
by GO PATS (not verified) :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 9:39pm

So now what do we do for a QB?

34
by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 10:01pm

Like all people who're out of Luck the niners better start praying.

Maybe VY or Josh Johnson. Cam Newton, Mallet? One of the things I liked about Harbaugh is that he has shown some ability in devloping quarterbacks. How much worse can it get?

BTW Has anyone else noticed that VInce Young put a pretty good season together last year when he played, 98 passer rating and 25% DVOA (5th), 10 TDs 3 INTs. He's a flake but might have been improving, the question, as always with guys from Texas, is desire.

36
by GO PATS (not verified) :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 10:38pm

Actually after thinking about it and being a big Pats fan, I would try and trade for Brady's back up. Hoyer has a ton of potential and he has been trained by the best. He has also looked really good when he has played. Brady has already said he wants to play 5-8 years.

40
by JonFrum :: Sat, 01/08/2011 - 1:26am

Hoyer didn't look THAT good.

54
by GO PATS (not verified) :: Sat, 01/08/2011 - 4:02pm

Given the history with Brady and Cassel, I would much rather take a chance on him than any anyone else currently available. I am also sure that the 2 years he has spent with Brady and being coached by BB and his staff and Brady, puts him far ahead of anyone in the draft. Anyway thats just my opinion but thats what I would do. I am sure you could get him for a second round pick similar to what the Chiefs gave up for Cassel.

12
by The Other Ben Johnson (not verified) :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 6:09pm

ESPN says $25M for 5 years, which is less than what Miami reportedly offered at $7-8M a year (though I don't know for how many years the Miami contract would have been). His first move should be to hire Spagnuolo away from the Dolphins to be his DC, just to completely destroy the franchise. Because: why not?

John Elway is still tweeting away about what he's planning on doing in the wake of all this.

14
by fogarty :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 6:15pm

Not quite sure what you are talking about here. Steve Spagnuolo is the headcoach of the Rams. Unless there is some other Spagnuolo that I don't know about working for the Dolphins.

19
by Oliver (not verified) :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 7:06pm

I think he meant Sparano.

50
by Mr Shush :: Sat, 01/08/2011 - 9:32am

But isn't Sparano's background offensive line, not defense?

51
by johonny (not verified) :: Sat, 01/08/2011 - 11:50am

Yes, but you wouldn't know it from the moves the Dolphins have made to their Oline.

18
by cisforcookie (not verified) :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 6:42pm

So I can't help wondering. What exactly does an NFL head coach do besides make challenges, pick a staff, and have some involvement in personnel? What is it that people should really look for in an nfl head coach? Is it just about leadership and then letting your other coaches on your staff do most of the real coaching and gameplanning?

Respectively, does anyone have a sense for what proportion of college and NFL head coaches are really responsible for designing and running an offense/defense? And of those, how much of that involves them having come to the job with an offense/defense already in place that they had used at an earlier job when they had been a coordinator/positions coach and maybe just doing some slight tweaking every so often while leaving much of the real work up to the coordinator?

20
by jimbohead :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 7:07pm

Short answer is, it's different with every coach. For instance, Bellichick is, and Walsh was, involved in every dimension of game planning, and served as their own de facto coordinators. Others are more hands off; Jimmy Johnson is a notable and successful example. The head coach primarily sets tone, sets vision, and gives direction, but just like a good executive, he needs to have detailed knowledge of everyone's job in order to properly manage.

Something to keep in mind is, the 49ers just hired a coach on the principle that the HC doesn't actually need to know Xs and Os, and this failed miserably.

21
by drobviousso :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 7:23pm

It's like asking what a CEO does. Different for every company.

27
by cisforcookie (not verified) :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 8:25pm

well, yes, I suppose it's something like that, but what I'm really getting as is the question of whether the micro-managers are good head coaches because they're micro-managers or because it's hard enough finding good coordinators so if your head coach happens to be a great one then that really helps your team in the same way that having a great coordinator helps. I'm just one guy who only really follows one or two teams closely and pays no attention to college football, and I expect that there's more than a few folks here with much more broad knowledge of the types of coaches that exist. So the question remains, what are the areas that a head coach really can bring value? John Harbaugh and Brian Billick have both been very successful nfl head coaches, and they seem like total opposites. Are they successful because of their own strategies that work for them, or are they both doing a lot of the same success breeding things that the rest of us don't really see and they just look different because of a few superficial things?

It's too easy to just name some successful coaches who were micro-managers. Obviously, belichick is a brilliant defensive coach as well as a brilliant X/O coach of players, but he's also seemingly a talented evaluator of college talent and a great game-day coach. That seems like a rare and wonderful combination of being good at just about everything. Not all winning head coaches fall into that category though, or so I gather, and there are also a heck of a lot of losing head coaches, since winning head coaches tend to stick around and win more while losing head coaches tend to be fired and replaced by more coaches, a good proportion of whom can be expected to lose. So we should be able to make some reasonably educated guesses as to what features distinguish the winners from the losers. The ability to teach? The ability to scheme? The ability to inspire and maintain team focus? The ability to select and nurture younger coaches who will help carry the load? Some other skill I haven't even listed?

39
by jimbohead :: Sat, 01/08/2011 - 1:06am

I didn't really mean to just rattle off a couple names and be done with it. I'm actually drawing from some stuff that Bill Walsh wrote, when he said that he felt strongly that a head coach should fully understand every part of his organization, even if he doesn't touch it that much.

In regards to the qualities you've listed, I'd say that they're all important (along with some others like maintaining a clear and consistent vision, scouting and developing in your scheme rather than going after the mythical "best player available", etc). My point is, you can't elevate one characteristic to the exclusion of others, and a head coach that is seriously deficient in any one area will have a really hard time being successful in the long term.

23
by Alaska Jack :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 7:39pm

This is a great question.

When the Raiders brought back Art Shell, I actually thought it COULD work. Bring on Mike Martz as OC, hire some other Xs and Os whiz as DC, and Art could run the show like Eisenhower ran his generals, setting the tone and vision and letting the coordinators figure out how to execute it.

Note that I was wrong on two counts. First, the Raiders did not adopt this model at all; Tom Walsh was not what I had in mind as an offensive expert.

More egregiously, Shell did not do well at all at the one thing I thought he would: Maintaining a firm grip on the overall organization, enforcing discipline, leading, etc. To the contrary, his team was undisciplined on the field and chaotic off of it.

Shows what I know.

- AJ

22
by Sportcentr (not verified) :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 7:31pm

I'm just glad he has head coaching experience of any kind.

31
by bravehoptoad :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 8:41pm

I'm pickled tink.

One of the things that appeals on a completely emotional level is the respect Harbaugh gives the good 49ers teams of the past. Donahue and Erickson and Nolan and Singletary couldn't run all traces of the old regime out of town fast enough. I can't describe how strange it felt to go from watching the intricacy of a West Coast offense for over a decade, and then somehow finding myself watching three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust for the past seven years.

Now here's a guy who turned down way more money at other places partly because he wants to stay here. Some guy over on NinerNation sees it as a chance to "re-Walsh" the team. Cute phrase, no?

And I also have to admit that I'm hoping the current regime doesn't keep looking to the SEC first and letting all the good local talent go away, like Aaron Rodgers and Desean Jackson and etc. Walsh was always good about using his local scouting advantage, and I'd love to see some of that come back, too.

Babbling, sorry.

Edit: This quote just makes me proud for some reason:

"Absolutely we will use the West Coast offense in San Francisco, the birthplace of the West Coast offense," Harbaugh said.

32
by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 9:38pm

I loved that quote too, I can't wait to see some pro, far and near sets. Backs running real routes, quick slants, flanker drives. . .

41
by JonFrum :: Sat, 01/08/2011 - 1:32am

Do you really thinking that aping the Walsh era will bring you another Super Bowl? Would it work for all franchises, or is there something particular to San Francisco that woujld make it work?

The Pittsburg system works. The New England system works. Any system can work if you bring in the right talent and get a little luck.

42
by jimbohead :: Sat, 01/08/2011 - 4:07am

running WCO != aping the Walsh era; observe the packers or eagles.

Also, I don't know enough about the steelers or pats to comment intelligently, but is there a recognizable offensive system in either place? It seems like in NE, BB is super-adaptive to changing skill players, wildly changing the offense from year to year, and he has the freedom to do this b/c of his QB. And in PIT, I don't know what their offensive system is; a few years ago, it was handing the ball to a 2-back committee with a fantastic run blocking line, and while only letting Big Ben thrown 15 times a game, and now it seems like its about Ben making insane plays by buying time while Wallace gets down the field. The one constant has been, let your defense win, and don't screw it up.

As for the excitement over running WCO in SF, remember we've suffered through years of inconsistent and unimaginative offensive coaching from Singletary, Nolan, and *shudder* Dennis Erickson. This is like a breath of fresh air.

44
by Jerry :: Sat, 01/08/2011 - 6:22am

Maybe this will work, maybe it won't. While I understand "We're going back to the glory days", though, my reaction is that it's NOT Walsh and Montana and Young and Rice and Taylor and Craig and ... anymore. Even if it's the familiar system, it doesn't guarantee the same results it got in its heyday. Good luck.

60
by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 01/10/2011 - 12:46pm

What you hear Steve Young harping on pretty often in the Bay Area is the library of resources the 49ers have available on the West Coast offense. They have 15 (? or so) years of top-notch coaches tape on all the things that makes the West Coast offense tick and would give them a big advantage in training and planning if they bothered to use it. I'll paraphrase Young badly, but he'll say things like: "Want to know how to run a five step drop on a waggle route? Plug in tape X and watch Joe Montana do it 35 times in a row," or something like that...apologies...I don't know football play terminology at all, but I hope it conveys the idea.

Harbaugh sounds like he might use that stuff. In fact, he's said he's excited to get a look at all the secrets in the Walsh vault. Erickson and the Baltimore coaches couldn't have cared less about that stuff.

45
by Raiderjoe :: Sat, 01/08/2011 - 7:07am

west coast offense not birthed in cakifornia. It started in Ohioo realkly in 1970 when B. Walsh coach it that year with bad arm virgil crater at qb fir bengals.

52
by TomC :: Sat, 01/08/2011 - 3:38pm

RJ is, as usual, bang on with his history (if not with his spelling, punctuation, and syntax). And, as I hope Dr. Z will resume reminding us when he's back healthy, the real West Coast Offense is the Gillman/Coryell downfield passing attack that Walsh had intended to run that year before his big-armed QB (Greg Cook) got hurt.

53
by tuluse :: Sat, 01/08/2011 - 3:42pm

It's pointless to argue that, everyone calls that scheme Air Coryell now, and everyone calls Bill Walsh's offense the West Coast Offense, and just about everyone knows what these mean, and it doesn't really matter where Walsh came up with his ideas.

30
by Marko :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 8:40pm

Another Bear from the 1980s is now a head coach in the NFL. He joins former Bears Jeff Fisher and Leslie Frazier as head coaches, and he replaces Mike Singletary (I know there was an interim guy in there for the last game). Ron Rivera may soon join them. And while Rex Ryan never played for or coached for the Bears, his father obviously was their defensive coordinator, and Rex was a ballboy for the Bears during the early 80s. Also, Sean Payton played for the Bears as a replacement player during the 1987 strike.

35
by V. Barbarino (not verified) :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 10:09pm

So what you're telling me is that I can look forward to Denver hiring William Perry as isn't new head coach?
Actually, considering this franchise, it's fans and the media types are so lost in past glories, I fully expect Elway's first move to be hiring Mike Ditka.

37
by Dr. The World Revolves Around the Steelers, Right? (not verified) :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 11:03pm

I think I speak for Steelers fans everywhere when I say that my enduring memory of Harbaugh is the fear rising in my throat as he led the Colts down the field in the closing seconds of the 1995-96 AFC championship game, with, as it turned out, a dislocated finger on his throwing hand. Fortunately, his mini-Hail Mary fell off the torso of Aaron Bailey as time expired. I know little about Harbaugh as a coach, but I'll never question his grit.

43
by Jerry :: Sat, 01/08/2011 - 6:14am

Thank you, Randy Fuller.

46
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Sat, 01/08/2011 - 7:55am

Interesting how this all went full circle.

Speaking of interesting, can you bring back the ad where the girl is sitting with her crotch spread wide open?

47
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Sat, 01/08/2011 - 7:57am

Never mind, there it is.

48
by Raiderjoe :: Sat, 01/08/2011 - 8:31am

that is grest ad

61
by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 01/10/2011 - 12:48pm

Uggh. You like them sluttier than I do, Joe.

57
by Boots Day :: Sun, 01/09/2011 - 8:22pm

Are the Harbaughs the first brothers to be head coaches? I can think of several father-son head coaches - the Phillipses, the Nolans, the Ryans - but no other brother combos.

59
by MC2 :: Mon, 01/10/2011 - 3:30am

As far as father-son combos, don't forget the Moras (although I'm sure Falcons and Seahawks fans would like to forget at least one of them).