Har-Bowl -- the Insiders' story


Har-Bowl -- the Insiders' story

With the Ravens and 49ers playing Thanksgiving night in the much-ballyhooed meeting of the Brothers Harbaugh, CSNBaltimore.com's John Eisenberg and CSNBayArea's Matt Maiocco exchanged their thoughts on the opposing coaches:

I must admit, Ive been around Jim Harbaugh daily since the last week of July, and I cant quite figure him out.

Hes a very emotional coach. In a very short period of time, he has built a tight-knit outfit with the 49ers. He loves his players. And he is wildly popular inside the locker room because of the passion he demonstrates every day.

Yet, Jim Harbaugh claims to have no emotions about facing the Baltimore Ravens on Thanksgiving.

He recognizes that its the first time two brothers have ever faced each other as NFL head coaches. But the historical footnote that, he says, is the most relevant to him is that it is unprecedented for a West Coast team to play on Thanksgiving on the East Coast.

There's no question we drew the short end of the straw on this one, Jim Harbaugh said.


I don't know if John is quite as popular in the Ravens locker room. He has been around longer, been through some ups and downs on a variety of issues, including the coaching. Jim and his players have only experienced success. They should enjoy the ride. Things are never as easy over the long haul.

Don't misunderstand, the Ravens have a ton of respect for John. He has brought a level of consistent success to the franchise that it never had before. And he has done it with an intense style that players like. The 49ers can relate, I am sure. John breathes fire on game days. He is still pretty wild-eyed in some of his postgame press conferences.

He also preaches a family environment. There is a side of him that gets that entirely. But another side preaches tough love. After David Reed fumbled two kickoffs and basically blew a game in Seattle, John didn't cut him, just deactivated him last Sunday. Sent the tough message but also had his back.

His response to the time-zone issue was typical. Asked about it Monday, John said Jim and the 49ers are 4-0 on the East Coast, so get over it. It does appear to me to be a tough draw on a short week, but John is not buying.

The one thing about Jim Harbaugh that hasnt taken long to figure out is that the guy can flat-out coach.

He turned around college programs at the University of San Diego and Stanford. And what he has done with the 49ers without the benefit of an entire off-season to implement his plan has been nothing short of amazing. He could take a vacation for the next six weeks and still be the NFL Coach of the Year.

Harbaugh brought most of his Stanford staff with him to the 49ers, including defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. He got to know Fangio when the veteran coach was on Johns staff with the Ravens. Jim tried for several years to add Fangio as his top defensive assistant at Stanford before finally succeeding before the 2010 season. He did it, of course, with Johns blessing.

Offensively, the 49ers feature a power running game and a passing game that has maximized the production of quarterback Alex Smith. After six seasons of having a defensive-minded head coach, Smith is having far and away the best season of his career under Jim Harbaughs tutelage. That is no coincidence.

The Ravens agree about the 49ers being well-coached. Chris Carr, one of their more analytical players, said this week that the San Francisco offense was the best the Ravens had seen all year.

"Everything they do is so solid," Carr said, and when asked to identify the key to it all, he added: "It looks like really good coaching, a great scheme."

If and when Jim is named NFL Coach of the Year, that will give him a leg up on his brother in that battle. John has never won the award. But John has set a pretty high standard in terms of consistent success. He has a 39-18 regular-season record and has gone 4-3 in the playoffs, all on the road. The Ravens are the only team in the league to have reached the postseason in each of the past three seasons, and it's looking like they'll make it four in a row in 2011.

The brothers are a lot more alike than different, that's for sure. No surprise, I suppose, but listening to Jim's conference-call interview on Monday was just like listening to John's. Neither likes comparison questions. Neither likes questions about injuries. They exude confidence and competitiveness. They're both successful, and they hate to lose.

The loser of Thursday night's game will be in no mood to wax on about what a great occasion it was.

Jim Harbaugh certainly wants no part of the warm and fuzzy storyline. He had this to say about John: This week, my brother is just somebody we're trying to beat.

He downplayed it to the media. And he hasnt even mentioned it to his team.

What Jim Harbaugh continues to stress is that every game is the most important game because its the next one on the schedule. One of the 49ers mantras this season has been to use every practice and every game to get better. The 49ers can clinch a spot in the playoffs this week with a victory and a Seattle loss.

It might not happen this week, but soon enough the 49ers will wrap up the NFC West. That will guarantee at least one Harbaugh will be coaching a team in the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season.

I don't think the players are really into the Harbaugh Bowl thing at all.

Terrell Suggs was asked about it and said: "It's going to be fun to be part of a sibling rivalry." But Suggs gets the media, and it felt like he was just saying what he thought he should say. When Joe Flacco was asked if the players wanted to win the game for their coach, he said: "We want to win it because we want to win the game. Obviously, it's a little extra for him, but for a team, it's an important win for us right now, just as important as any win. That's how we're looking at it."

Not exactly a "win one for the Gipper" speech.

John is not mentioning it to his players, either, and he has been careful from the outset to try to lateral the focus to them, not that he can pull that off when the league and media are playing up the family story for obvious reasons.

But, honestly, despite what they say, in the end I think both brothers will find it weird to be standing across the field from each other. It will be more emotional than they expect.

Report: Former No. 3 overall pick works out for 49ers


Report: Former No. 3 overall pick works out for 49ers

The 49ers appear to have plenty of depth along their front seven, but the team brought in three defensive linemen for workouts on Tuesday, according to a source.

One of those players is reportedly Tyson Jackson, the No. 3 overall pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2009. The identities of the other two players were not immediately known.

Jackson has been without a team since the Falcons released him in March with two years and $8.5 million remaining on his contract. His workout with the 49ers was reported by the NFL Network. He also worked out recently with the Los Angeles Rams.

Jackson, 31, spent his first five season in Kansas City before playing three years with the Falcons. He appeared in all 16 games last season, starting seven times, and recorded 13 tackles and no sacks.

The 49ers have an abundance of defensive linemen, or players capable of rushing the passer from a position along the defensive line, such as DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas, Earl Mitchell, Elvis Dumervil, Aaron Lynch, Chris Jones, Tank Carradine, Quinton Dial, Ahmad Brooks, Eli Harold, Ronald Blair and D.J. Jones.

Veterans most vulnerable to losing roster spots with 49ers


Veterans most vulnerable to losing roster spots with 49ers

At the midway point of the 49ers’ exhibition season, there continues to be a lot of competition and more than a handful of veterans who have yet to lock down roster spots.

“I can tell you, it’s going to be real tough to cut it down to 53,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said last week. “We’re going to need all this game and practices to evaluate that.”

Here are the 49ers’ returning veteran players whose roster spots appear to be the most vulnerable with two weeks of practices and two exhibition games remaining to prove themselves:

OLB Ahmad Brooks
Brooks’ $4.45 million base salary is not much of a concern, considering the team is still $65.2 million under the salary cap. The number that factors into this decision the most is 33. That’s Brooks’ age.

If he is not clearly better than 23-year-old Eli Harold at the SAM linebacker position, the 49ers might want to keep the younger player to develop. Brooks is not talked about for his locker-room presence, so this decision will be made solely for what he does on the field and what he is expected to give the team in the future.

“You want to know who’s got the most upside and things like that,” Shanahan said. “Who’s going to be better throughout the year, if given the opportunity. But you also want to know who when it’s all said and done who’s going to affect your win-loss record the most. Those are the things that I look at personally. You don’t always want to think who’s the best guy for Week 1. Who’s the best guy for the 2017 49ers?”

OG Zane Beadles
Beadles is currently working with the first-team offense, but his spot on the roster remains vulnerable. The 49ers’ decision-makers do not seem impressed with their offensive guards. The 49ers could look to pick up a guard from another team before the start of the season.

The jury is still out on Joshua Garnett, who had a good start to camp. But his play dropped off in Week 2 – perhaps because of the knee injury that required a procedure to clean up cartilage. Garnett may not be available for the start of the regular season.

Also, the 49ers may want to hold onto undrafted rookie lineman Erik Magnuson, who has a bigger upside than Beadles with youth, size and ability to play guard and center.

NT Quinton Dial
Earl Mitchell appears locked-in as the 49ers’ starting nose tackle. The 49ers also seem to have high hopes for rookie D.J. Jones. It’s unclear where that leaves Dial, who does not appear to be a great fit for the 49ers’ new 4-3 scheme.

Dial should be a starter in the NFL. But he is better-suited to be positioned in a 3-4 scheme, using his strength and power as a two-gap player rather than adapt to a one-gap scheme in which quickness and agility are the main requirements.

DE Aaron Lynch
Before sustaining an ankle injury, Lynch had done everything the 49ers wanted of him – including reporting to camp at the weight that was ordered. Lynch also looked very good in the 49ers’ exhibition opener, recording two sacks against Kansas City.

But Lynch’s spot is not guaranteed, by any means. Arik Armstead, Elvis Dumervil, Ronald Blair and rookie Pita Taumoepenu all can play similar roles. If Lynch does not eat well or maintain his conditioning while rehabbing from his ankle injury, he could erase all of the positive steps he took at the beginning of camp.

TE Vance McDonald
The onus was on McDonald at the beginning of camp to win his way onto the team. His solid play has increased his odds of a roster spot, but it is not a sure thing. This is a position where all the incumbents – McDonald, Garrett Celek and Blake Bell -- face stiff challenges.

George Kittle will definitely be on the team. Blocking specialist Logan Paulsen and rookie Cole Hikutini are also in the mix. Hikutini does not appear ready to be a contributor this season. If they waive him with hopes of placing him on the practice squad, it seems unlikely another team would claim him for their 53-man roster. But is that a chance the 49ers are willing to take?

DE Tank Carradine
Carradine appears to be on solid footing at the 49ers’ big-end position, considering he remains on the first-team defense despite the addition of Solomon Thomas, the No. 3 overall selection. But it seems to be only a matter of time before Thomas takes on a greater role. Carradine could still be kept around as a backup.

Ronald Blair, a fifth-round draft pick in 2016, was buried on the depth chart at the beginning of camp. And a pulled groin muscle that has kept him out of action for more than a week does not help is cause, either.