With the firing of Mike Singletary following the fifteenth week of the regular season this last December and the naming of defensive line coach Jim Tomsula as the new interim head coach to finish out the season. I was as a die-hard 49er enthusiast, volunteer staff writer and a dad at home newly inspired that the upper management and ownership of this franchise was finally accepting the reality of where we were and what needed to ultimately happen.
Like Mike Nolan, Mike Singletary believed in a sound football philosophy that was to be adhered to at all costs in running the ball with authority and scoring enough points in the game for our defense to take over and hold our opponents at bay to secure the ultimate victory. Sometimes it worked but more often then not it didn't because both couldn't find the right offensive coordinator to challenge their range of thinking. Both believed in a 2005 NFL number one draft pick in University of Utah's Alex Smith who never was remotely close to showing any kind of legitimate consistency in making that transition from college to the pro ranks like Aaron Rodgers was able to.
Both came from defensive minded ranges of pro football and both of them had egos that were as large as life itself except for the fact that Singletary was a bit more human than his colleague in Mike Nolan. Both had complete autonomy to do what they needed to do with their staffs and to have unlimited input into the drafts that came and went dramatically under then General Manager Scot McCloughan and just newly created again under Trent Baalke. The enigma of this franchise has been again short changed and left with a future that continues to be predicated on as merely mediocre; in terms of being a challenger again for our weak division made a spectacle of by every conceivable sports analyst during the passing of the regular season and even the playoffs.
The famous West Coast Offense created by and inspired by our legendary dear creator in chief Bill Walsh was utterly discarded as if it were a mere piece of roadside trash under these two head coaches. It was as if the trademark of who we were as a franchise was trying to be completely re-written by men that arguably had their own selfish designs on imprinting a new identity upon us all. The very roots of what we came to life from and conquered from were suddenly deprived of the necessary nutrients needed to sustain itself in a sense. It was through these two head coaches where our reputation was meticulously ruined.
Eight years have passed with nothing but a long loss column to look at. Enter the man that we desired the most from none other than Stanford College's Jim Harbaugh who had just successfully won the Orange Bowl and took his collegiate team to a 12-1 record in 2010. Jim's name became the hottest head coaching commodity on the entire NFL coaching circuit as rumors ran rampant as to how, when and who would win in acquiring his impressive services. Jim was made a series of offers from not only the NFL but a chance to return to his roots as a player in coaching at the University of Michigan.
Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross flew out to California to have talks with Jim and not surprisingly offered to make him the richest coach within the NFL. The Denver Broncos also expressed an interest as well. But newly appointed San Francisco 49er General Manager Trent Baalke quickly made a move to set up a five-hour meeting between President Jed York, himself and Jim that resulted in a five-year deal that will pay him approximately $5 million annually. Again Jim will have full autonomy over his roster and he will work hand in hand with Trent in establishing the West Coast Offense the rightful birthplace that he admires his mentor from in Bill Walsh.
Jim Harbaugh has the picture of Bill Walsh on his computer as a screensaver and he his forever looking at it and honoring his mentor with bringing back the same ideals and principles that were a integral part in building a championship caliber franchise he is very proud of. In my mind and my eyes this is like sweet chin music to my ears and all of yours that here we have a disciple of the Bill Walsh era returning to San Francisco from Stanford much the same way we can relate to in building something so very unique.
One thing that Harbaugh is not is a man out for just a big payday as the Miami Dolphins reportedly offered him approximately $7 million a year to come to Florida and coach there. It was about the job fit and that is something he described illustrating enough in a news conference that he felt more and more at ease and comfortable with the three way conversations he had in a room with Jed York, Trent Baalke and himself. In fact he came away with the gut feeling he wanted to coach here because he knew they wanted him just as much.
The other thing that makes Harbaugh as special as he is despite all the good things that have already been said is that he believes the quarterback position is the most important position on a football team. A distinct contrast between him and Mike Singletary's philosophy in that he will apply the West Coast Offensive system much the same way he used it in gross while at Stanford. Comparisons already are being drawn between Jim and Bill Walsh, but they are two very different men and coaches. Still the same passion exists there.
I think Jim Harbaugh comes from an intensive history regimen of football. He is very much a man immersed inside this sport and has it coursing through his veins when you hear him talk and from what his colleagues have described him by. He is a family man with a wife and five children and both his father and brother are coaches the later as head coach of the Baltimore Ravens. Jim began his coaching career as a quarterback's coach with the Oakland Raiders back in 2002.
He went on to the University of San Diego and then Stanford from 2007-2010. He accumulated a collegiate record at Stanford (29 wins, 21 losses) but that included a victory over USC as a 41-point underdog in his first season and an Orange Bowl victory to complete his 12-1 final season. As a player he came out as a quarterback from Michigan in 1983 and was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1987 and played with them till 1993. He then moved on to the Indianapolis Colts, Ravens, Chargers and finally the Panthers.
Still there is something about this individual that made him the hottest collegiate head coaching prospect out there that everyone had to have following the 2010 NFL regular season. San Francisco 49er President Jed York and General Manager Trent Baalke knew that it was paramount to secure his services following the two-year debacle of what is known as the Mike Singletary era. Finding someone that can cure the offensive disease that has plagued this team since the rise of the 2003 NFL season in which we saw Dennis Erickson, Mike Nolan and finally Mike Singletary had to be at the very top of our collective lists.
On top of that we are paying Jim Harbaugh nearly double the money we were paying Mike Singletary in doing the very same job. An estimated contract worth $23 million for five years according to ESPN, on top of that you have to take your hat off to freshman General Manager Trent Baalke for achieving such a big catch in head coach Jim Harbaugh just three days into his newly stated position with the San Francisco 49ers. Trent made no bones about how he felt about Jim giving glorious raves about the man's integrity and passion for the game.
The fire that was once was has been gone for a very long time since the Steve Mariucci era back to 2002 when we last made the NFL playoffs with him as our head coach and Jeff Garcia at quarterback. In fact Steve was the last head coach anointed to lead the San Francisco 49ers with West Coast roots and appointed by our legendary Bill Walsh. A feud broke out over power within the framework of the team between then presiding San Francisco 49er President and CEO Dr. John York and Steve Mariucci and Steve was ultimately let go. That was the beginning of the end.
Eight years have passed with one grueling season after another after another. Finally now we have a Bill Walsh protégée ready to roll up his sleeves and begin the hard work that is to be done on a daily basis to get us back to where we belong with a new emphasis on the quarterback position from a man that was once a pretty darn good one himself. Although we all had hopes ring anew with Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary as they were announced as head coaches back in the past, the difference between them and Jim is very much black and white.
Jim embraces the concepts and philosophies of what was first built here in San Francisco and wants to articulate it into a respected offensive driving force like never before. Bringing in his former assistants that he had from Stanford will also encourage the dynamics of this lost religion and reinvigorate the team as a whole. We again have reason to believe and to even hope again so as long as Jim is given the autonomy needed to achieve his goals. I am thankful that our prayers have been answered especially with a man that has been touched by our legendary icon in Bill Walsh.
Sources of Information: Mercury News.com, SF Gate.com, Inside Bay Area.com, NFL.com and my own personal analysis and opinion.