49ers notebook: Harbaugh Q&A at combine

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49ers notebook: Harbaugh Q&A at combine

Feb. 24, 2011MAIOCCO ARCHIVE49ERS PAGE 49ERS VIDEOMatt MaioccoCSNBayArea.com

INDIANAPOLIS -- San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh had a Q&A session with the media Thursday at the NFL scouting combine. Here is the complete transcript:Q: Are you looking to turn the 49ers around similar to how he did with Stanford's football program?
Harbaugh: "Well, I think everybody that's -- whatever position they're in -- we were a 6-10 ball club last year. We're not looking to go 8-8 next year. We're looking to make the jump all the way to the Super Bowl like every other team in the National Football League. Just the ways that you can do that, trying to think through it, trying to research it, find out competitiveness is thinking through it, thinking your way to victory."Q: How did you prepare your players while at Stanford for the NFL combine and what are you looking for at the combine as a head coach?
Harbaugh: "As far as my players when they were in college getting ready for their combine, just get themselves in the best possible physical condition that they can get in, be ready to come in here mentally sharp, mentally alert and compete. Compete, compete, compete. That's mainly the things I tried to share with them. Things that we're looking for as a head coach, it's the opportunity to get knee to knee and eyeball to eyeball with these guys and, in some instances, it may only 15 minutes, other instances it may only be five minutes, but that's valuable time. And then also to watch them compete in drills, see how they compete, see what their energy level is, see how they go about their business and evaluating as much as you possibly can. We'll be sitting out there for many hours watching many football players combined with what they've done on tape. That's the thing that you go back to, watching the tape and then getting to meet them in person is what you're looking to do."Q: How is your experience different now at the combine as a head coach compared with being an assistant coach in the past with the Raiders?
Harbaugh: "When I was an assistant, I was a quality control coach doing a lot of quality control jobs, inputting numbers and I was able to evaluate quarterbacks and things like that. So here, I'll be here for six days evaluating all the positions, being in on the meetings, in the 60 and getting to actually ask questions and be around these youngsters. Like I said, getting knee to knee and eyeball to eyeball with them and see if they can, let them get to know me and let me get to know them."Q: On how much thought he has given to the 49ers quarterback situation at this time:
Harbaugh: Well I mean, definitely not going to talk extensively about that. This is my first time going through this and Im certainly not going to make the mistake of tipping our hand about what were going to do. But, thinking about it a lot, like every position on our team, really thinking through how we can upgrade our roster and the ways that you mentioned are the ways to address the quarterback situation. Guys that are on our roster, theres one quarterback thats on our roster and thats QB David Carr. You mentioned QB Alex Smith whos an unrestricted free agent so he has some decisions to make, too. And then you evaluate the free agency, you evaluate trade paths, the draft. Those are your only options.Q: On whether he will explain his decision process before he signed with the 49ers, in terms of talking with the Miami Dolphins and how much they offered him:
Harbaugh: No. No, not really.Q: On whether the Cleveland Browns contacted him to interview about coaching there before he signed with the 49ers:
Harbaugh: No.Q: On whether he made any contact with the Browns:
Harbaugh: No.Q: On the challenge of being a first-time head coach in the NFL potentially heading into a lockout situation in the league:
Harbaugh: Well the complexity is understanding the rules. There are guys that want to work on football, but right now is a period of time where you can do that. Im an optimist and Im going to look at it that way, that planning for the offseason as if there is going to be no disruptions. Scheduling, offseason workouts, weight workouts, mini-camps, et cetera. Just planning for there to be no interruption, and then if there is, well have to adjust. But everyone will be under the same parameters in that regard. So, Im optimistic that something will work out.Q: On whether it is a disadvantage as a first-year coach with a new staff:
Harbaugh: You could say that maybe its a disadvantage for us. We havent given our players any kind of a playbook and they dont know what our schemes are. But its up to us to adjust. To overcome any and all obstacles that are out there. And well think through it and come up with a plan.Q: On whether there anything you can do before a lockout to get a head start:
Harbaugh: No, there really isnt. This is a time where you cant require players to come in and we dont want to get into anything that isnt legal to do. The things we can control now are putting our staff together, which weve done, meeting, installing our schemes, offensively, defensively, special teams, looking at the free agents, prepare for the draft. So thats what we can do and thats what were working on.Q: On what the transition is like from coaching the college game to coaching the pro game:
Harbaugh: Im going through that transition right now. To me, football is football. Were going to do the things that we believe in. There will be adjustments, but well go through them and figure them out. You know the path to winning is thinking through things and coming up with a plan. You have to have a plan, but I think its also important to have a feel for what youre doing as well.Q: On whether there is a benefit to being a former player as a coach in the league:
Harbaugh: Is there a benefit to being a former player and now a coach in the league? I sure hope so. I think in every coach they lean back on their playing experience when theyre teaching, when theyre explaining things. But its definitely not; playing experience isnt the critical factor. Its being able to teach, to communicate, to have a plan and have the conviction to stick with that plan. And, again, to have a feel for when to change that plan.Q: On whether being in the Bay Area with Stanford made him familiar with the 49ers:
Harbaugh: Well, I mean, I kind of looked through the keyhole being right there and seeing some of their games and understood that it was talented football team. I mean there are guys that are marquee players. There are guys that have experience who have been there before and Im extremely excited to work with our football team and see how we can make that jump.Q: On his impressions of the quarterbacks at this combine given hes a former quarterback himself:
Harbaugh: The quarterback position is a critical position. The quarterback handles the ball, as you know, on every single offensive snap. So, its important to get that evaluation right. I feel like my job right now is to get the best possible evaluation of these quarterbacks that are in the draft as I possibly can. So, studying them on tape, seeing what their production was in college and as we go through this process getting a chance to meet them. Understand do they love football? Do they like to work at the game? How much do they understand the game? Will they be a fit for our team? Those are all critical evaluations.Q: On his relationship with University of Michigan and whether it changed when he accepted the 49ers position:
Harbaugh: I have a great love for Michigan, that was my university. Stanford was my university, too. Both those universities I consider my university and both would have been great options. Ultimately, it was on the level of competing at the highest level, even playing field that the National Football League is. Thats a challenge and a competitive situation that I willingly accepted and Ive had no second thought about the decision. Im extremely enthusiastic. I walk through the doors of the San Francisco facility every single day and if youve ever walked through those doors, you walk through and youre staring at five Lombardi trophies. Pictures on the wall of the great players and the great coaches and you understand the legacy that Bill Walsh created, that George Seifert created. The bar is set high and where else would you want it set? So, thats the kind of stuff that gets me fired up every day. Q: On whether there is hostility between himself and Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and how he would describe his relationship with him:
Harbaugh: No. Professional, no hostility, competitive. We coached against each other in college and I anticipate it will be competitive as we go forward playing against each other twice a year. Genuine respect for the job that he does. Like all the rest of the coaches in the National Football League, respect but competitive, and you want to beat them.Q: On how much his brother, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, has taught him:
Harbaugh: Ive learned so much from my brother and my dad and I talk to them all the time and get their advice, get their input. My brother has given me a lot of advice. Weve never coached together, weve never worked together professionally. We played on some teams, baseball teams, football teams growing up and hockey teams. But at heart weve always been on the same team, at least thats the way I feel about it. Thats going to change this year, at least one week when the 49ers play the Baltimore Ravens. It will be extremely competitive and a must win type of game for the San Francisco 49ers. Q: On his relationship with general manager Trent Baalke:
Harbaugh: Ive been really impressed with Trent Baalke. He is a smart guy. He is a hard, hard worker. There hasnt been too many days, maybe a couple, where I drive my car in the parking lot that his car isnt already there and were talking pretty early in the morning. I didnt know him before this process started. Ive been really impressed, been leaning on him a lot. Theres not a day that goes by that we dont talk football, that we dont talk San Francisco 49ers, that we dont think how we can improve our football team and our situation. So, Im learning a lot from him. Hes taking the lead in terms of the draft and sat in on a lot of those meetings. Hes running them. Hes extremely good at it. I give my input when I feel it can be of some value, but really, right now, just working together, partnership. Q: On whether he feels he has a head start in the process because he knows the college talent from being at Stanford:
Harbaugh: Its interesting I dont know if it is an advantage at all or how much of an advantage it is. Coming from college I do understand and have a fresh understanding of what these youngsters have been through the last three, four, five years. Where they were three, four, five years before that. The things that theyve accomplished, the things that theyve overcome, how hard they had to work to get this position that theyre in, and some of the tricks that they play and some of the wool that they try to pull over your eyes. So, if there is an advantage, well see. But I think its fresh and Im coming from that background.Q: On an advantage on specific players or the general process:
Harbaugh: The general process, but also the players. The things that theyve done to put themselves in a position, how hard they had to work, how hard they had to study, things that they had to overcome to get here. So, congratulate them on their success for doing that. Theyre all good. Everybody thats here is good, and now you try to find better and best as you go through this process.

Taking a closer look at Ryan's criticism of Shanahan

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Taking a closer look at Ryan's criticism of Shanahan

There is no shortage of blame to go around for the Atlanta Falcons’ collapse in Super Bowl 51.

The Falcons built a 28-3 lead in the middle of the third quarter and let it slip away, ultimately falling to the New England Patriots, 34-28, in overtime.

Matt Ryan voiced one previously undisclosed factor in the collapse this week in an interview with Pete Prisco of CBS Sports, pointing the finger at the new coach of the 49ers.

Kyle Shanahan has been the focus of a lot of the blame, but critique from the league MVP was a new one.

The Falcons quarterback faulted his former offensive coordinator for taking too much time to relay the play calls. Ryan said he did not have enough time to change any of the plays – presumably checking out of called pass plays to run the ball.

Here’s what Ryan told Prisco:

"Kyle's play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in. As I was getting it, you're looking at the clock and you're talking 16 seconds before it cuts out. You don't have a lot of time to say, 'There's 16 seconds, no, no, no, we're not going to do that. Hey, guys, we're going to line up and run this.' You're talking about breaking the huddle at seven seconds if you do something along the lines.

"With the way Kyle's system was set up, he took more time to call plays and we shift and motion a lot more than we did with (former coordinator) Dirk (Koetter). You couldn't get out of stuff like that. We talk about being the most aggressive team in football. And I'm all for it. But there's also winning time. You're not being aggressive not running it there."

The 49ers can point to mismanagement of the clock for their own Super Bowl heartbreak. The 49ers’ offense had the perfect play call at the perfect time against the Baltimore Ravens late in Super Bowl XLVII.

But with the play clock striking :00, coach Jim Harbaugh was forced to call a timeout from the sideline. A split-second later, the ball was snapped and it appeared the quarterback run would have easily ended up with Colin Kaepernick in the end zone.

Much like after the 49ers’ loss, the Falcons left plenty of room for second-guessing.

Two of Shanahan’s plays calls, which directly led to the collapse, will forever be scrutinized.

The first came with 8:31 remaining in regulation and the Falcons holding a 28-12 lead. On third and 1 from the Atlanta 36, Shanahan did not remain conservative with an expected run play. He swung for the fence.

Receiver Aldrick Robinson, whom the 49ers added this offseason as a free-agent pickup, was breaking free past the Patriots secondary for what could have been a touchdown. But just as Ryan was unloading, New England linebacker Dont’a Hightower hit him and forced the fumble. Running back Devonta Freeman whiffed on blitz pickup, which would have provided Ryan with enough time to target Robinson deep.

Ryan’s explanation does not appear applicable on this play, though. In watching the replay, the Falcons broke the huddle with more than 25 seconds remaining on the play clock and the snap occurred with :15 to spare.

The other questionable sequence came after the Falcons – leading by eight points -- got to the New England 22-yard line with less than five minutes to play. The Falcons lost 1 yard on a run play on first down.

On second down, Ryan was sacked for a 12-yard loss. Before that play, the Falcons broke the huddle with :19 on the play clock. The snap occurred with :04 remaining. The game clock was running, so the Falcons had reason to attempt to burn as much clock as possible.

In the fourth quarter, the Falcons never seemed rushed to get off a play. The closest they came to delay-of-game penalties were when they snapped the ball with :04 on the one play and :03 another time. The majority of their snaps occurred with :10 or more seconds to spare.

If the Falcons were guilty of anything when it came to the play clock, it was that the offense did not waste more time. After New England pulled to within 28-9 late in the third quarter, the Falcons ran only six offensive plays while the game clock was running.

On those six plays, the Falcons snapped the ball with :13, :09, :14, :20, :13 and :04 remaining on the play clock. If they’d snapped the ball with one second remaining each time, they could have shortened the game by 1 minute, 7 seconds. The Patriots scored the game-tying touchdown with :57 remaining in regulation.

Uh-oh: Is Kyle Shanahan going to be Harbaugh-tastic in his timing?

Uh-oh: Is Kyle Shanahan going to be Harbaugh-tastic in his timing?

Until now, Kyle Shanahan’s hiring by the San Fracisco 49ers looked great because of his two-and-a-half predecessors – the last days of Jim Harbaugh, the misplaced concept of Jim Tomsula and the couldn’t-make-chicken-marsala-out-of-old-Kleenex problems surrounding Chip Kelly.

But now, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has told us all that Shanahan has a gift we in the Bay Area know all too well. Specifically, that Shanahan took too long to call plays to the Super Bowl the Falcons vomited up to the New England Patriots.

Now who does that remind you of, over and over again?

Yes, some things are evergreen, and too many options in this overly technological age seems to be one of them. Data in is helpful, but command going out is what bells the cow. Ryan said Shanahan was, well, almost Harbaugh-tastic in his timing.

“Kyle’s play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in,” Ryan told Bleacher Report. “As I was getting it, you're looking at the clock and you’re talking 16 seconds before it cuts out. You don't have a lot of time to say, ‘There's 16 seconds, no, no, no, we're not going to do that. Hey, guys, we're going to line up and run this.’ You're talking about breaking the huddle at seven seconds if you do something along the lines.

“With the way Kyle's system was set up, he took more time to call plays and we shift and motion a lot more than we did with (former coordinator) Dirk (Koetter). You couldn't get out of stuff like that. We talk about being the most aggressive team in football. And I'm all for it. But there's also winning time. You’re not being aggressive not running it there.”

And the reason this matters is because the Atlanta Shanahan had multiple good options on every play. In San Francsco, at least in the short term, he’ll be dealing with minimal options. That could speed up his choices, as in “What the hell, we don’t have Julio Jones.” But it could also mean more delays, as in, “Okay, him . . . no, maybe not . . . no, he just screwed up that play last series . . . oh, damn it, time out!”

In short, it’s growing pains season here, children. On the field, on the sidelines, and maybe even in Kyle Shanahan’s head.