When San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh took over the Niners in 2011, the team was consistently under-achieving. A team loaded with Pro-Bowl talent was somehow barely mustering a .500 record, under then head coach Mike Singletary. Despite this hardship, Harbaugh decided to sign with San Francisco anyways, and within two years time, has turned the franchise into a perennial powerhouse.
Managing a team desperate for leadership, direction, and cultural identity, 49ers general manager Trent Baalke turned to Harbaugh. A coach known for his brash attitude, Harbaugh also brought a certain “swagger” to the team, that quickly spread like wild fire. His influential, “Who’s got it better than us?,” speech and blue-collar working shirts are now both staples of the franchise. Simply put, Harbaugh is the epitome of a coach getting the most out of his players. The proto-typical player’s coach.
Harbaugh is a master of breeding competition, and that seems to be a part of a recipe, that makes the 49ers so good. In his introductory press conference last year, he was asked why he left Stanford, and he said:
I view it as a perfect opportunity, the perfect competitive platform…the chance to be a part of a team, that goes after the highest award in all of sports, and that’s the Lombardi Trophy.
It is that competitive drive that makes the 49ers the team they are today. Just ask inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman. A third-year veteran, Bowman didn’t get his chance to shine until his sophomore season, as Singletary’s favorite Takeo Spikes, held the job. Now playing in his second season as a full-time starter, Bowman has been nothing short of outstanding, evidenced by being selected to two consecutive Pro-Bowls. Everyone knew Bowman was better, but Singletary stuck to his favorites, and never wavered, hence competition was a non-factor to say the least.
Not with Harbaugh; he will bring in players to ensure the team is playing at it’s highest level. Pro Bowlers or not, Harbaugh loves to stir the pot when necessary. The Billy Cundiff competition one week before their divisional match-up against the Green Bay Packers best exemplifies Harbaugh’s take no prisoner’s attitude, and that’s what makes him such a great coach.
But what makes him a true player’s coach?
It’s his charismatic approach in adapting to player’s needs. His innate ability to motivate players is a thing of beauty. His coaching style varies from player to player using either positive reinforcement or an old-fashioned scolding. Aside from being the ultimate teacher of the game, Harbaugh also puts his team in the best possible position to be successful.
Unlike Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni, Harbaugh devise’s a game-plan tailored to his player’s strengths. It wasn’t until quarterback Colin Kaepernick was named the starter, that Harbaugh installed the renowned pistol offense. The offense favoring a mobile quarterback has proved beneficial to both Kaepernick and the team, and as a result now find themselves in Super Bowl XLVII.
With the Super Bowl only days away, Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees will have the tough task of accomplishing what the Packers and Falcons could not, stopping Kaepernick and that pistol offense.