Tim Kawakami of the Mercury News sat down and had a Q&A with new head coach Jim Harbaugh. Here is just a little taste of what Jim had to say. For full interview head over to Kawakami’s Talking Points…
-Q: How long have you been thinking and planning for the day you’d be an NFL head coach? Roman mentioned in your last year playing, you told him you’d hire him someday…
-HARBAUGH: I just wanted to coach, ever since my first memory of being able to remember things. That I would play as long as I could and then coach and then I would die. Those are the first things I remember in life, you know?
-Q: When you were playing, were you formulating ideas about how you’d coach?
-HARBAUGH: Umm-hmm. Some things I would keep, materials, things like that, that I liked. There were other things that were just being around tremendous people. Tremendous coaches—they were all my dad’s friends, those were the family friends, those were the people I baby-sat for, was just around them at barbecues, things like that.
Then as a player, always had great coaches—Schembechler, Ditka, Marchibroda, Infante. And was around great assistant coaches, too. Just learning from them. You take a lot from great leadership. You remember great leadership, you remember…
And sometimes you learn more from bad leardership, you know? What not to do.
-Q: I think you said recently when you took the San Diego go, Schembechler wanted to know if you were going to use tight ends…
-HARBAUGH: That’s what he said. He said, (dropping into an imitation of Schembechler’s staccato voice) ‘Will you have a fullback in your offense?’ Yes, coach. ‘Will you have a tight end that puts his hand on the ground?’ I said, yes.
There’s been a lot of conversations like that with so many people.
-Q: What is your style? From San Diego to Stanford to here, what is your vision, particularly of offense?
-HARBAUGH: In one sentence? (Laughs.)
-Q: Is it what we saw from Stanford last year?
-HARBAUGH: Yeah, there will be a lot of aspects of that, what you saw at Stanford, with some tweaks, some differences.
Don’t want to make any bold statements about… in one sentence, it’s tough to sum it up. It’s what you believe in… of experience, really, I would say of my 42 years of experience, all of that, what I think about how you win at football and what you have to do to be a successful team. There’s just so many things that go into it.
-Q: Did you have a solid idea of what the playbook was going to be before you actually got here or are you putting a whole new book together just for now?
-HARBAUGH: No, it’s not a whole new one. But there’s things about this playbook now that will be different from Stanford. Some of it will be new ideas, some of it is terminology, language differences. Things we called a certain way offensively at Stanford because maybe it fit a receiver’s name or where he was from, that made sense to there.
When you start a new job, it gives you a chance to clean up that language and make it make sense to the coaches that are here and the players that are here.
And then ideas… we all have things as coaches that have won for you. Boy, that principle has won games for us. And there’s other things that have lost us games, so you have experience with different things.
You’re using Mike Solari and his experience and what he knows and believes in. Also Tom Rathman, Johnnie Morton, Geep Chryst, Greg Roman, Reggie Davis, Jim Harbaugh, Tim Drevno…
In ways there will be some similarities and there will be some newness to what we do.
-Q: Does it have to get more sophisticated to move it into the NFL?
-HARBAUGH: In my mind, it’s always evolving because you want to be creative, you want to be sound, you want to take advantage of what your players do well, putting them in a position to be successful.
You know, a guy knocks down 20-footers from the corner, but he doesn’t shoot as well from the top of the key, I mean, set him up to shoot from the corner. It’s ever-evolving. I’d say it that way.
That’s the job of a coach—putting players in positions to be successful.
-Q: You’ve made headlines by being so positive about Alex Smith, which I understand. But do you have to account for his history here? The boos, the losses. Can you work with that starting a new regime—but going into what would be his seventh year here?
-HARBAUGH: Well… yes. Yeah. Yes, I could. We could.
Football’s a pure game. My job is to make an evaluation for the team, of the team, and at every position. Get the best possible football team we can to training camp. And then from there, you practice for the games and you prepare yourself for the season.
Same with the quarterback position—get the best possible guys we can on the roster to go into training camp, to compete for the starting quarterback job.
And it’s not a thing that’s anointed, in my opinion. It’s earned. It’s fairly simple in that regard.
-Q: Do you understand when people worry that you’re tilting towards a QB who hasn’t won here?
-HARBAUGH: I guess you’re making a statement, saying this is what people are saying. Do I understand that people could feel that way or are saying that? Which is what you’re asking.
-Q: Yes, I’m asking you to react to something that I believe other people are reacting to. You’re right. So I’ll say it: Alex has not won here, despite plenty of chances. Has not won. That’s not a factor for you?
-HARBAUGH: The organization hasn’t? Or Alex hasn’t? Or Tim Kawakami hasn’t? What’s it mean?
We’re the 49ers. To me, this… and this goes for all of us. This is a chance for us to write a new script. It’s like that little Etch-a-Sketch you got when you were a kid and you lift up the cellophane piece and it all goes clean.
Everything that was, is in a bio, you know? For me, for everybody else, that’s the approach, the attitude that I’m coming in here with, and I hope everybody else does, as well.
Everything else is to be written. It’s to be determined.
-Q: And your sense from Alex is that he feels the same way?
-HARBAUGH: I don’t want to speak for him. I feel like he does when we’ve talked. And understands I think where I’m coming from here, too. The starting quarterback job for the 49ers is very important.
We’ll get the best possible guys we can on the roster and then throw the balls out there and let ‘em compete for it. Let it be earned, you know?
I’m not into the… I don’t think starting quarterbacks are anointed. I think that’s an earned position. And that’s about as much as I can say about it. It’s very simple, you know?
-Q: You’re in a division that wasn’t the greatest ever last year, but Seattle won it, and won a playoff game. Are you as good as Seattle right now?
-HARBAUGH: Each year’s going to be a new year. I think it’s irrelevant … what I think our team is in regards to Seattle or St. Louis or Arizona or any other team based on last year or even where we are right now. I’m not going to make that comparison, even if I did think it was relevant.
We’ll just prefer… probably the smarter thing to do is just lay in the weeds here, sharpen our swords…
-Q: Lay in the weeds? When you got hired at Stanford, you said you bow to no man. Where’s that this time?