Jim Harbaugh is just what the San Francisco 49ers needed 

The confidence borders on arrogance, which is acceptable. “It ain’t bragging if you can back it up,” Muhammad Ali told us. And if what Jim Harbaugh offered in his comments isn’t bragging, it’s not distant. Now we find out if indeed he can back it up.

The choice of Harbaugh as the new 49ers coach seems perfect. The Niners, once the elite franchise in pro football, have been a shambles, almost an embarrassment for eight seasons.

They needed someone who not only could develop a winner, but someone whose reputation would invigorate a fanbase — which if it hadn’t lost hope, had lost interest — as those 15,000-20,000 empty seats at Candlestick proved without a doubt.

You had the hottest coaching name available at Stanford, 12 miles from Niners headquarters in Santa Clara — Harbaugh said 18, but who’s to quibble? — and you had to get him. Anything else would have been unacceptable.

The Niners got him, introducing Harbaugh on Friday afternoon at the historic Sheraton Palace Hotel in San Francisco. The enthusiasm was unquenchable, both for Harbaugh, who with a bit of poetic license said he could feel it coursing through his veins, and others. Former team president Carmen Policy told KCBS (740 AM) on Saturday morning he hadn’t been as excited about the Niners in years.

Harbaugh kept using the word humility in his remarks, yet he’s not humble, as he reminded with the words there is no obstacle which couldn’t be overcome.

Through the five years when he resurrected a 1-11 Stanford team to the 12-1 it finished this season, his last, Harbaugh said things like, “We bow to no man.” Or to his players, “The one thing you have to do to make an NFL team is take another man’s job away from him.” Or, “I have unshakable confidence.”

The thinking is as Bill Walsh, in 1979, Harbaugh will move from Stanford to the Super Bowl. Those who like omens point out that Harbaugh is 47, the same age as when Walsh was hired.

But Walsh had been an offensive coordinator with both the Cincinnati Bengals and the San Diego Chargers — Dan Fouts will tell you Walsh basically ran the Chargers in 1976 — while Harbaugh has only his years of playing quarterback in the NFL and a year as an offensive assistant with the Raiders as pro football experience.

If there’s a negative to all this, it’s that several top college coaches — Steve Spurrier, Nick Saban, Bobby Petrino, Butch Davis — were unable to win in the NFL.

Pete Carroll went to the Seattle Seahawks from USC, where he had confrontations with Harbaugh, on the field and in conversations. Carroll got an upset over the Saints in the playoffs, but he twice had been a coach in the NFL. It’s virtually uncharted territory for Harbaugh.

But again, there’s that cockiness. “I don’t make comparisons between myself and other coaches,” said Harbaugh, who definitely will be compared to Walsh by the rest of us.

Jim’s older brother, John, is the coach of the Baltimore Ravens. “I’m probably half the coach he is,” Jim Harbaugh said of John in a Sports Illustrated profile. “But I’m trying.”

The 49ers are trying. The Giants made San Francisco a baseball town. It’s up to Jim Harbaugh to bring it back to football.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. E-mail him at typoes@aol.com.

About The Author

Art Spander

Art Spander

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.bleacherreport.com. Email him at typoes@aol.com.
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