When most coaches come into the NFL, there is normally a lot of turnover. While Harbaugh has done an excellent job getting the most production out of the talent and possibly more than any coach in the league could, it goes without saying that credit for building this team should be spread around.
Former GM Scot McCloughan has probably the biggest contribution to this team for someone not currently working for the franchise. For those who don’t remember, he was the general manager who started in 2005 and recruited current GM Trent Baalke to be a scout. Baalke is a big key in Coach Jim Harbaugh being with the organization.
McCloughan orchestrated some great drafts, most notably the 2007 draft that landed guys like Patrick, Willis, Joe Staley, Ray McDonald, Dashon Goldson, and Tarell Brown. Add in key players such as Alex Smith, Frank Gore, and Vernon Davis among others and his time was well served.
Head Coach Mike Nolan was with the 49ers from 2005 to midway thru the 2008 season. Overall as coach he went 18-37, which led to many high picks in the draft. While he won’t be remembered in 49er lore, his contributions on building a defense is still evident. Patrick Willis is probably the player that gained the most out of having Nolan as a coach.
Head Coach Mike Singletary is better known for his competitiveness on the football field. The fiery, run first play defense mentality coach really wanted to establish a toughness persona that the current Niners are personifying. In the 2010 draft he not only when offensive line with the 11th pick, but with their second pick in the 1st round. Those 2 players, T Anthony Davis and G Mike Iupati have really changed the 49ers front and made it a major strength of the team. Add in Navarro Bowman from the same year and you have some of the best young players at their respective positions.
Singletary is a great motivation coach, which players love to play for. His biggest problem was he couldn’t game-plan. Singletary was taking over because expectations were high and weren’t being met. The talent was there, the main piece missing was a coach to lead this team.
That brings us to a player, one most Niner fans were ready to dismiss years ago. Alex Smith deserves a lot of credit for the team being in this position. There were many times in his career he could have walked away from this organization. He had taken pay cuts, dealt with having a horrible core around him and some subpar coaches, but through it all he stayed.
This year wasn’t much different for him, he could have been more outspoken about the switch at quarterback, he could have been a nuisance in the locker room, and he wasn’t. He once again took a high road and helped Kaepernick prepare for every game. It doesn’t happen often when a guy loses his job that he goes and helps the guy that replaces him get better. Alex Smith is a true teammate, a true 49er, and while it won’t be him leading the team on the field in Superbowl XLVII, he will have a stake in getting us there.
Sure these guys aren’t going to be getting the glory Superbowl Sunday, but they’ve had a lasting impact on this team. When we see papers Monday morning (okay so it might be the headline when you get on the internet), hopefully we’ll be seeing the headlines claiming the Quest For Six is complete, and how the current coaches and players deserve the accolades, but true Niner fans will have some respect for the men along the way.