Why Jim Harbaugh will succeed

Almost three full days have passed since the 49ers announced the hiring of Jim Harbaugh as their next head coach.  I still feel as enthusiastic now as I did when I first found out about the hiring, if not more.  I have talked to many friends that are not 49er fans and of course there were many doubts in their opinions of whether or not Harbaugh can succeed in the NFL.  I think many of them were just bitter that it was not their team that landed the hottest coaching prospect in recent memory.  Here are some of the questions asked and my responses:

  • Jim Harbaugh has passion and intensity but so did Mike Singletary.  What is the difference?

Yes, Mike Singletary was an exciting hire at the time too and his passion and intensity were characteristics pointed out as reasons why he would succeed as a head coach.  Harbaugh has shown his passion and intensity on the sidelines at Stanford and that is why he will succeed, Harbaugh has been on the sidelines as a head coach.  Even though Harbaugh’s experience was all at the college level, Singletary had no previous experience running a team on the sidelines at any level.  When a head coach is out of his element it shows in how he runs the team and reacts to game-situations.  Singletary could never make up his mind which quarterback he wanted to start each week and then he would blow up at the quarterback for not doing well and switched to the backup.  Harbaugh knows X’s and O’s.  Singletary was still learning X’s and O’s when he was fired.

  • Harbaugh is another college coach jumping to the NFL and he will fail like the majority of coaches trying to make in the NFL.  Why will he be any different?

In truth we don’t know yet that Harbaugh will be the one to turn it around for the 49ers and lead them back to the playoffs.  Time will only tell.  What we do know is that Harbaugh was a star quarterback in college at the University of Michigan, played in the NFL at quarterback for 15 seasons and started his coaching career as an assistant coach to his father Jack at Western Kentucky University in 1994.  Most recently he turned Stanford from a 1-11 record the year before he was hired into a 12-1 team that will finish this season in the top-five of the national rankings for football.   

That is 27 years of football experience that have come at different levels and different teams.  The majority of college coaches that failed in the NFL stayed at one or two colleges and had no previous playing or coaching experience in the NFL.  Harbaugh is a different breed because he knows what it takes to be successful in the NFL and he has coaching is his family blood. His dad Jack was a head coach at Western Michigan and Western Kentucky University for 19 years and his brother John Harbaugh has been leading the Ravens since 2008.  This family knows how to coach and Jim Harbaugh has been surrounded by football since he was born. 

  • Even with a good coach in Harbaugh you have no quarterback.

To me that is a plus for the 49ers.  Harbaugh will not have free reign of the roster and draft picks but he will have a say and what he says will be listened to by the front office.   Whether the 49ers select a quarterback in the draft for Harbaugh to develop or if they trade for a quarterback that is ready to start but is a backup (Kevin Kolb) the 49ers will be in good hands.  Harbaugh coached Rich Gannon in 2002 when he was the NFL MVP, developed John Johnson (current backup quarterback for the Buccaneers) at the University of San Diego and developed 2010’s Heisman Trophy runner up Andrew Luck at Stanford University. 

No matter who the 49ers draft at quarterback they will Harbaugh there to develop him into their franchise quarterback.  Harbaugh has an eye for picking talent so don’t expect another flop like Alex Smith.  I think the 49ers should draft the best quarterback available with their seventh pick for Harbaugh to develop and also trade for a quarterback that is ready now so the 49ers can compete.  The quarterback position was one that Singletary had no respect for and with Harbaugh’s history with the position you can only expect good things.


I would go on to say that the 49ers will not miraculously turn it around next season but they have built a solid foundation with a coach who knows how to turn teams into winners.  In the NFC West anything is possible but the 49ers can only go so far as their quarterback can take them.  With Harbaugh leading the way and installing the West-Coast offense the 49ers are in good hands.

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