San Francisco 49ers Confident They Have the Right Guys in Coach Jim Harbaugh and GM Trent Baalke

January 10, 2011 – 8:30 am by Michael Bean

Quite an exciting week for the San Francisco 49ers and their legion of fans across the country and world. The storied franchise announced the hiring of Trent Baalke on Tuesday as the team’s new general manager. Baalke, Jed York, and the rest of the 49ers top brass then got to work immediately trying to lure the hottest commodity on the coaching market, Jim Harbaugh, to the Bay Area. Mission accomplished. There are no quick fixes in the NFL, so regardless of whether or not Harbaugh proves to be the savior in San Francisco, he’ll need at least a few years to implement his system and transform an organization that’s been mired in a long streak of losing. That said, Harbaugh sure seems like he gets it. Lots of NFL head coaches sound the part, but as I just heard and you’ll hear soon, Harbaugh really does seem like a special leader and motivator. The man seems extraordinarily grounded, very organized, he seemingly knows when to be a hard ass and when to not take himself too seriously, and I could go on and on. Bottom line is the 49ers got their guy, and for the first time in quite some time, there really is reason to believe.

Coach Harbaugh and GM Baalke both joined The Razor & Mr. T show in studio on KNBR in San Francisco to talk about the individual and collective processes they’ve gone through this past week being hired by the 49ers, Harbaugh’s genuine love of the game and being a part of a team and group dynamic, how the two plan to collaborate in various decision making processes, the importance of finding a quarterback of the future, how the uncertainty surrounding the CBA might alter how they go about securing a quarterback, and how thrilled the two both are to be in a situation where they’re working with similarly driven individuals with the same vision about what it takes to be successful.

Harbaugh on what he’s learned throughout this courting process leading up to his hiring with the 49ers:

“Well it’s been a process, you know, and one that’s been very meaningful. I’ve learned a lot, I’m very grateful, these are great days, this is a great day. To have had the opportunity – the competitive opportunity – of a lifetime, to be a part of a team for a lifetime that wins for the San Francisco 49ers on the biggest stage, with pro football players who are the strongest, smartest, athletes in the world (in my opinion), to be around those guys, to be around this organization, it’s a dream come true.”

Harbaugh on how he truly is someone who cares more about the game and being a part of something special rather than worrying about money first and foremost:

“Well I’m going to keep driving my pickup, but you’re exactly right, I love football. I have a deep and abiding respect for the game, I love coaching, I love winning, I love being part of a team. Almost all human beings have a great desire to be a part of something, a family, a team, that’s doing something great, doing something remarkable. Whether it’s doing a great cathedral, or in this case, a football team that’s trying to win the Lombardi Trophy. You want to be a part of something like that, and you strive and work very hard to be a part of something like that. And now that you are a part of that, the excitement of working on that tonight, tomorrow, and every day after, that sure gets you out of bed in the morning.”

Baalke on the process of being named GM then so quickly hiring Harbaugh as head coach:

“The process has obviously gone Tuesday being named the General Manager on Tuesday, and here we are on Friday with a new head coach. So it’s been a hectic pace, but it’s been fun. Obviously we had a place and we put it to use, and we targeted Jim and we were fortunate enough to get him.”

Harbaugh on how much more difficult it will be for him to have as much success so quick at the next level:

“Well I hope the other teams underestimate us. I’m not a proven head coach in the National Football League, but I feel like I’m with an organization, I feel I’m with an owner that’s young and extremely smart and intelligent that I can grow with, along with Trent Baalke who’s the same – very smart, very hard-working, we’ve got the same philosophies, we have the same vision, we have the same plan, everything was just so in lock step as we were going through this process that I feel confident this is the best possible opportunity to have. And I want to be a part of it. That’s why we we’re here today because they wanted me to be a part of it, and I wanted it more than they wanted me to be a part of it. So it’s time to go to work now, and I’m very excited about the first day and every day after.”

Harbaugh on if there’s a different feeling coming to an organization with the highest of expectations compared to what he’s faced in his previous gigs:

“It’s different. This is the highest level, this is the legendary franchise. But you’ve been a part of teams, you’re a part of one right now, and the great faith I have in human beings who want to be a part of team and want to do things together, do things right with excellence, is what I’ve found in the people I met with the San Francisco 49ers led by Jed York and Trent Baalke. That’s what I want. I want to be a part of that. Like building a great cathedral, we’re trying to win a Lombardi Trophy.”

Baalke on how he and Harbaugh will work together finding a quarterback for the future they’re both comfortable with:

“Well we’re going to work together on every aspect, but obviously getting a quarterback in here is priority No. 1. There’s three ways to get one, right: we’ve got the college draft coming up, there’s free agency, and we can trade. We’re going to look at every option, and obviously coach is going to be extremely instrumental in the process. “

Baalke on which of the three – the draft, free agency, or trades – is most likely to bring San Francisco its new QB:

“You know at this point in time I really can’t say. This is going to be a change going into this offseason because normally free agency comes before the draft, normally you can trade prior to the draft, and we’re not going to be able to do those two things most likely if the new CBA doesn’t get done. So we’re going to have to really take a hard look at the college guys, find the guys that are best for our system and we feel we can roll with, and then not shut the door on the other aspect as well. So there’s going to have to be a lot of game-planning that gets done, because if a CBA does get done and free agency comes back, and trades are allowed, we’re going to have to be ready for that, and we’re going to have to get ready for the draft at the same time.”

Harbaugh on if he plans to call the plays or if he plans to delegate those responsibilities to a new offensive coordinator:

“If I’m the best play caller, I will call the plays. If we can do it in a team effort, I think things get done very well and better in group effort – sometime in tandem, sometime in trio. What you say is delegate, I say is team effort using everybody’s efforts and everybody’s talents, and the hours in the day to work, and multiplying all that work and evaluation and game-planning with a group of guys. So heck there’s times when I’ve asked Andrew [Luck ] what play he wants to call or the quarterback that I’m coaching when I was in San Diego. So you get his input, and I’ve even had offensive linemen call a play. I’ll tell you what – those guys take great ownership in making it work, and it’s no different with coaches that are on your staff. When they feel empowered and have ownership in the game-plan and they teach it better, they coach it better. So I believe in the team, the team, the team. Why have people on the team if they’re not in a postilion to contribute.”

Harbaugh on the play during the Orange Bowl when one of his players fielded a punt inside his own 5 yard line, and on how he would handle a similar situation were one of his players in San Francisco to make a similarly egregious error:

“Well, the same I would with the youngster the other night. Making him aware, making him know that we’re not going to catch a ball inside the 10 yard line let alone the 2 yard line. But he knew it, it was the first time that happened all year. That was not the guy I got upset with along the sideline. I was upset with the youngster that got the personal foul late in the ball game, and he had a great point. He said I played to the whistle; I made the contact and the hit before I heard the whistle. So you’ve got to ask. You’ve got to talk to t he guys and find out what’s going through their head. Because it’s not important what you know as a coach, it’s what they know.”

Harbaugh on what he can share about the Miami Dolphins situation and why or why not it didn’t work out with them:

“Well you’re quoting published reports and three different scenarios where if it’s published in the internet, it must be true. But I’m very humbled that there was interest from college teams and pro teams. And I don’t feel anyway that I’m at liberty to talk about them, and it’s really irrelevant to talk about anything else than the San Francisco 49ers and talk about the job that I do have.”

Balke on how he and Harbaugh will work together shaping the new-look 53-man roster for the 49ers:

“Yeah ultimately it will be my decision, but like I said in the press conference, like I’ve said all through my tenure even as the vice president of personnel – you can’t win in this business if you’re not joined at the hip and making decisions together. So every decision that we make, we’re going to be in agreement on. I think that’s the only way we can function at a high level and go out on any given Sunday and win football games. You’ve got to do it together.”

Baalke on what he think he might have done to merit the promotion to GM:

“I didn’t do anything [laughing]. No, my philosophy in life and especially in work is just go to work, do your job, do it the best you can and let your actions speak for itself. I didn’t do anything different than I’ve ever done. I woke up, I came to work, I worked hard, I got better each day. And that’s my goal. I learned along the way, and I’m going to continue to learn. This is a learning process. I think when you stop feeling like you need to learn and you feel like you have all the answers, that’s when you run into trouble. We’re going to learn together. We’re both new at this. This is Jim’s first chance at the NFL level as a head coach, this is my first chance as a GM. And there’s going to be learning along the way. But I’m up for the challenge, and I know coach is.”

Harbaugh on if he likes coming into a losing situation or if he’d prefer to be joining a team that was closer to winning than the 49ers perhaps are:

“I’ve had the opportunity to watch the 49ers through this season, and you must understand, I know Mike Singletary, I’ve played with Mike Singletary, I have great respect and admiration for Mike Singletary, and I see in the football team the foundation he’s helped established and coached. It’s a character team, a tough team, a team that plays with great class. I appreciate what I know he did for the football team. And now I’m a part of the football team and moving forward in the direction in the way we all want it to be. And that is to win, and we’re going to do it without excuse. The option of losing isn’t an option, and continue to do it with class and the right way, and with great respect for the game of football.”

Listen here to Harbaugh and Balke in studio with Razor & Mr. T on KNBR in San Francisco

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