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No , Harbaugh Did NOT Have 'Almost The Same' Players As Singletary

In a recent column Lowell Cohn wrote, "Mike Singletary had the same players with a few exceptions and couldn't deliver". That's a typical media opinion, that Harbaugh, using almost or mostly the same players as Singletary had, was solely responsible for the 49ers stunning success. You here the theme over and over, by sportswriters, on TV and on sports talk radio. It has become the conventional wisdom.

There is one problem with it - it's dead wrong. It ignores a major story, a significant accomplishment of the 2011 49ers - the rebuilding of the defense by Trent Baalke. When you look at the changes in defensive player personnel from 2010 to 2011 in detail the scope of the makeover that Baalke orchestrated becomes clear. It wasn't just "a few exceptions" as Cohn said, but a whole lot of exceptions, a total rebuild.

Of the 13 defensive positions positions (the starting 11 plus a situational pass rusher and nickel back), nine of them had new players. That's a major transformation. Baalke did it by by moving backups into starting roles - Brooks replaced Lawson at outside linebacker, Bowman replaced Spikes at inside linebacker, Sopoaga moved from defensive end (replaced by backup Ray McDonald) to replace Franklin at nose tackle. Brown replaced Spencer at cornerback. Baakle acquired quality free agents - Whitner at strong safety and Rogers at cornerback. Baakle drafted Aldon Smith as a pass rusher and Culliver as a nickel back. Every one of these moves was an upgrade at the position. Only Goldson and Willis and Haralson and Justin Smith werre carry-overs at their position from 2010. Vic Fangio is a fine defensive coordinator, but he could not have achieved the results he did using 2010's players.

This in no way diminishes the job Harbaugh and his staff did; they deserve all the credit they have received. But Baakle deserves equal credit for what he accomplished. Together they engineered one of the most remarkable turnarounds in NFL history. Neither could have done it without the other.
Originally posted by jsaniner:
In a recent column Lowell Cohn wrote, "Mike Singletary had the same players with a few exceptions and couldn't deliver". That's a typical media opinion, that Harbaugh, using almost or mostly the same players as Singletary had, was solely responsible for the 49ers stunning success. You here the theme over and over, by sportswriters, on TV and on sports talk radio. It has become the conventional wisdom.

There is one problem with it - it's dead wrong. It ignores a major story, a significant accomplishment of the 2011 49ers - the rebuilding of the defense by Trent Baalke. When you look at the changes in defensive player personnel from 2010 to 2011 in detail the scope of the makeover that Baalke orchestrated becomes clear. It wasn't just "a few exceptions" as Cohn said, but a whole lot of exceptions, a total rebuild.

Of the 13 defensive positions positions (the starting 11 plus a situational pass rusher and nickel back), nine of them had new players. That's a major transformation. Baalke did it by by moving backups into starting roles - Brooks replaced Lawson at outside linebacker, Bowman replaced Spikes at inside linebacker, Sopoaga moved from defensive end (replaced by backup Ray McDonald) to replace Franklin at nose tackle. Brown replaced Spencer at cornerback. Baakle acquired quality free agents - Whitner at strong safety and Rogers at cornerback. Baakle drafted Aldon Smith as a pass rusher and Culliver as a nickel back. Every one of these moves was an upgrade at the position. Only Goldson and Willis and Haralson and Justin Smith werre carry-overs at their position from 2010. Vic Fangio is a fine defensive coordinator, but he could not have achieved the results he did using 2010's players.

This in no way diminishes the job Harbaugh and his staff did; they deserve all the credit they have received. But Baakle deserves equal credit for what he accomplished. Together they engineered one of the most remarkable turnarounds in NFL history. Neither could have done it without the other.


I agree with the writer, Harbaugh DID do it with alsmot the same team. If you look at the players who moved in they are equal. I have no doubt harbaugh would have performed the same with the other roster.

The core is the same.
QB- Alex Smith
RB Frank Gore
WR- Michael Crabtree
LT Joe Staley
LG Mike Iupati
C- Wash
RG- Rachal/Snyder
RT Anthony Davis

So the offense (ranked 29th) is essentially the same.

Punter same
Kicker replaced, both good

Defense, same 3-4 defense with core players of Justin Smith, Isaac Sopoaga, and Ray Mcdonald, Ahmad Brooks, Patrick Willis all the same. ?DB's mixed up but old roster as good.

So Harbaugh did have the same.
Not disagreeing with you, because it's true. Baalke DID have a significant say in the roster changes we had.

But if you look at our defense... like you said, Brooks, Bowman, Sopoaga, Brown, and McDonald were either promoted or shifted around. Who really gets credit for that? I'd like to say they deserve an equal amount of praise for it. They're probably sitting there in Santa Clara discussing who can play what.

On offense though, that literally is the same 11 starters (Smith, Gore, Crabtree, Morgan/Ginn/Williams, Walker, the O-line), yet the offense was more effective. I'd say that's almost all on Harbaugh for getting the most out of his players.

I think it's a silly discussion... who gets credit for what? Harbaugh and Baalke always talk about how much communication they have.
Harbaugh may have almost the same player on the roster as previous years but he benefited from further development of some of the players. Like Ray McDonald, (backup) Iupati, Anthony Davis (rookies). Even D. Goldson(2nd year starter). Incredible coaching job by Harbaugh and his coaches, but with that extra year helps too.
Wait till next year.
Baalke is the man for getting rid of Clements, Spikes and Lawson. Sadly, I wish Spikes were still here, but Bowman is clearly the better LB now. Was a somewhat gutsy call, but it was the right call. As for Clements and Lawson, well, I think we're fine without them.

As for Harbaugh, he gave this team chemistry. The offense was pretty much the same, the defense had a lot of the same, though different, and Harbuagh coached them up. Was a great season and I cannot wait until next year!
Baakle?
You've got a valid point. Offensive personnel remained largely the same, but the defense got a makeover. The Defense featured 6 new starters (McDonald, Bowman, Brooks, Rogers, Brown, Whitner). You could argue there were 7 new starters if you include Sopoaga's shift to nose tackle.

Also the addition of Aldon Smith cannot be understated. For the 1st time in forever we were able to apply consistent pressure without the need to scheme up exotic blitzes.

Vic Fangio was a godsend, and he makes Manusky look like an amateur. I love that he had the confidence in our secondary to play so much press man coverage. I got so sick of watching our corners giving 6 to 7 yard cushions to receivers. The bend but don't break philosophy was thrown out the window this year. Fangio trusted his guys to carry out their assignments while also looking to make plays on the ball, and they delivered.
Originally posted by jsaniner:
In a recent column Lowell Cohn wrote, "Mike Singletary had the same players with a few exceptions and couldn't deliver". That's a typical media opinion, that Harbaugh, using almost or mostly the same players as Singletary had, was solely responsible for the 49ers stunning success. You here the theme over and over, by sportswriters, on TV and on sports talk radio. It has become the conventional wisdom.

There is one problem with it - it's dead wrong. It ignores a major story, a significant accomplishment of the 2011 49ers - the rebuilding of the defense by Trent Baalke. When you look at the changes in defensive player personnel from 2010 to 2011 in detail the scope of the makeover that Baalke orchestrated becomes clear. It wasn't just "a few exceptions" as Cohn said, but a whole lot of exceptions, a total rebuild.

Of the 13 defensive positions positions (the starting 11 plus a situational pass rusher and nickel back), nine of them had new players. That's a major transformation. Baalke did it by by moving backups into starting roles - Brooks replaced Lawson at outside linebacker, Bowman replaced Spikes at inside linebacker, Sopoaga moved from defensive end (replaced by backup Ray McDonald) to replace Franklin at nose tackle. Brown replaced Spencer at cornerback. Baakle acquired quality free agents - Whitner at strong safety and Rogers at cornerback. Baakle drafted Aldon Smith as a pass rusher and Culliver as a nickel back. Every one of these moves was an upgrade at the position. Only Goldson and Willis and Haralson and Justin Smith werre carry-overs at their position from 2010. Vic Fangio is a fine defensive coordinator, but he could not have achieved the results he did using 2010's players.

This in no way diminishes the job Harbaugh and his staff did; they deserve all the credit they have received. But Baakle deserves equal credit for what he accomplished. Together they engineered one of the most remarkable turnarounds in NFL history. Neither could have done it without the other.

LOL @ thinking the GM deserves credit for deciding who starts and where. That is the coach's job. The GM only decides who stays and who goes. Baalke did a great job in drafting Aldon Smith, but you're delusional if you don't think Jim Harbaugh had a say in that selection. They've both said in numerous statements that it was a selection they both got together on. The same goes for every personnel decision Baalke has made since Harbaugh was hired (that includes signing Rogers and Whitner). Harbaugh has a say in EVERYTHING, but Baalke has absolutely no say in what Harbaugh does with his players. If Baalke signed a QB for $20 million per year and Harbaugh didn't like him, he'd be riding the pine behind Alex Smith. There is absolutely no way you can seriously credit Baalke with "moving backups into starting roles" when his job has absolutely nothing to do with how the players are used.

Outside of 2 key players (Rogers and Whitner), Harbaugh had the same team as Singletary did in 2010. Every personnel change you cited was Harbaugh's decision - decisions Singletary could have made himself. I'm not counting Aldon Smith because his acquisition is directly attributed to Harbaugh (who knows if Baalke selects Aldon Smith without Harbaugh's input, but I guarantee he doesn't select him if Harbaugh says he wants somebody else), but even if you do include him, that's only 3.

I'm not trying to take anything away from Baalke, but you're trying to credit him for things he has no say in. I don't think you quite understand what a GM's job is.
[ Edited by 49erRider on Feb 8, 2012 at 9:01 PM ]
Whitner, Rogers, Miller, Hunter, Costanzo and others new to the ST this season were key to our success.
[ Edited by ChazBoner on Feb 8, 2012 at 8:57 PM ]
Originally posted by SofaKing:
The bend but don't break philosophy was thrown out the window this year.

Actually, bend-but-don't-break is exactly what our defense did all year. They allowed the ball to be moved on them through the air - they just didn't allow teams to score. That's what bend-but-don't-break is. The bending part is allowing passing yardage (or rushing yardage, but we didn't allow any of that sh*t) and the don't break part is not allowing the TD.
Originally posted by 49erRider:
Originally posted by SofaKing:
The bend but don't break philosophy was thrown out the window this year.

Actually, bend-but-don't-break is exactly what our defense did all year. They allowed the ball to be moved on them through the air - they just didn't allow teams to score. That's what bend-but-don't-break is. The bending part is allowing passing yardage (or rushing yardage, but we didn't allow any of that sh*t) and the don't break part is not allowing the TD.

Yes. We were a bend but don't break offense.

We need to play with the intensity of the NFC championship game, especially the second half.

And you are right about the GM's role. OP should watch Moneyball.
[ Edited by Young2Rice on Feb 8, 2012 at 9:09 PM ]
I could care less... Singletarys 08, 09 drafts were complete trash... our 2nd round pick Mays that he wanted so bad turned out to be a fail..

The only reason 07 draft was good was because singletary probably used Mike nolans left overs for the upcoming draft when he was fired lol. Beyond that Jim won with this team, something singeltary couldnt do so doesnt matter who was on the roster.. and we had 6 new starters on defense. (more than half)
It was an excellent season and that's all that matters. Forget what Nolan and Sing did. That's finally all over and we can move onto some winning football that's been long deserved.