I'll begin this article by stating that I agree with the Harbaugh hire. For the first time in a long time, the San Francisco 49ers set their sights on a target and nailed it. There's something to be said for that during a decade of "settling". 49er fans have had to endure coaching hardship since 2002. Now the organization wins the most-coveted college coach of the year. Harbaugh is known around the league as a meticulous quarterback-grooming guru and one who has a nose for offensive innovation. The fact that he's bringing back the cherished West Coast Offense is another aspect of this hire that has fans drooling. After season upon season of heartbreak and failure, 49ers fans have a reason for hope. Sound familiar?

If it does, it might be because those same fans were gushing with confidence and hope heading into the 2010 season. Mike Singletary was in his second season as head coach, Jimmy Raye was also in year 2 as offensive coordinator, and Alex Smith was finally afforded a chance to succeed thanks to offensive continuity. Turns out, things went to hell in a hand-basket quickly. After preaching offensive continuity, Singletary canned Raye after 3 weeks, Alex Smith was put in a quarterback carousel with Troy Smith and Singletary was fired as the 49ers crawled to a 6-10 record. What happened to all the optimism? How did the 49ers lose in the dismal NFC West, a division they were handed in the offseason? The answer: terrible coaching and abysmal play from the quarterback.

Fast forward to present day and the 49ers still have two huge questions marks (go figure) in both of those areas. It appears obvious that despite his lack of NFL head-coaching experience, Harbaugh is light years ahead of Singletary. This guy knows how to gameplan, knows how to develop quarterbacks and has proven success at the college level. The bottom line, however, is that he still has done nothing on the NFL coaching landscape other than quarterback coach Rich Gannon in Oakland eight years ago. He would be wise to not follow in the footsteps of Samurai Mike.

The NFL labor dispute is making things extremely difficult on the 49ers because of the precarious quarterback situation they're in. It will be vital that this gets resolved quickly so the 49ers can attempt to land a quarterback in free agency or via trade. If they don't like their options there, they can take a shot at a mid-round quarterback such as Christian Ponder or Colin Kaepernick. Yet one has to wonder whether the praise that Harbaugh heaped upon Alex Smith in recent weeks was due to the labor predicament or because he truly has a strong opinion about Smith. If it's the former, there is no worry to be had. If it's the latter, one has to seriously consider Harbaugh's logic. Two coaches have tied their fate to Smith and both have lost their jobs. What's concerning is that with Harbaugh's brimming young confidence and track record with Andrew Luck/Josh Johnson, maybe he feels he can turn water (Alex Smith) into wine (a competent NFL quarterback). Don't get me wrong, everyone likes a confident coach, it's a necessary quality of all the great ones. The problem is that too much confidence can lead to bad decisions.

Mike Singletary found that out the hard way, constantly trying to will his team to victory. He talked brashly about an offensive line that would "impose its will" and boldly proclaimed that he "wanted winners". Fans love that kind of talk. What they didn't like was an offensive line that saw minimal improvement from the 2009 campaign and a non-winning season streak that extended to eight consecutive seasons. So much for "winning". Harbaugh told fans upon his hiring that he "wants to build a bully". Fans ate that up like the coveted playoff berth they yearn for, but for some it's "I'll believe it when I see it". That should be the sentiment of not just some, but of all.

After years of empty promises, talk, and high draft picks, the 49ers still have many of the same deficiencies that have plagued them for years: an inexperienced head coach, no viable option at quarterback and no pass-rush specialist. The pass rush, though a significant issue, is not nearly as much of a concern as the other two factors. Sure, Harbaugh has pleased the masses with his stellar performance at Stanford, his ties to the beloved Bill Walsh and the development of Andrew Luck, but it's going to take more than that. Hype is not going to work this time. The only thing that is going to work is results. Those results have to start with the quarterback. Much like his predecessors, Harbaugh's success is contingent upon what he does with the game's most important position. Unfortunately, this is not the year to have uncertainty at quarterback, but the city by the bay should allow excuses no longer. Excuses are what have kept the Niners reeling for the past eight years. If Harbaugh's truly the quarterback king that fans have anointed him as, then he'll make do with what the team can get during the offseason. If they do find success during the 2011 season, Harbaugh's hype will be justified. If they stumble, prepare for more excuses. Whether those excuses are valid or not, the bottom line is they amount to nothing, especially after a decade of futility.