Q&A with 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh

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Q&A with 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh

49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh met the media in Santa Clara on Wednesday to touch on the New York Giants, Frank Gore's ailing ankle, Alex Smith's place among the NFL's best QBs and make a pick in this weekend's Oregon-Stanford matchup on The Farm:

Q: Do you place any added significance on this game because there could be playoff implications down the road as far as seeding?Jim Harbaugh: Theres great significance to this game. The biggest thing is its the next game. That always makes it the most important game.
Q: What was impressive to you about their win on Sunday against the Patriots?JH: So many things. What a good football team they have. How well they play on the defensive front, same with the offensive line. Just a really good team in the lines. Very good, elite quarterback and the skill position at receivers and backs, outstanding. Just across the board, linebackers, secondary, its an outstanding football team. Very good at special teams, very disciplined team, very physical team. They play well together.Q: How does it affect your preparation not knowing whether Giants WR Hakeem Nicks or Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw will play?JH: Well prepare like theyll play. Well prepare like their backups will play as well, you can only do it that way.Q: David Baas, their center, took part in a player workout that QB Alex Smith ran in June, had exposure to the playbook that you had given Alex at that point. Is that a concern at this point? Would that give him any extra insight that they couldnt get from watching game film and things like that?JH: I dont think so. There are eight games on tape that Im sure they have a good idea of what we do offensively.Q: Verbiage in that wouldnt be a factor, just knowing what he called plays and things like that?JH: David wont be in the huddle prior to the snap. I really dont think that would be. I think they have what they have on tape and thats the bulk of what theyll go off of.
Q: You spoke of the progress that Alex has made. Youve obviously done what a coach should do, blocking schemes and everything. Before this year, did you ever have any contact with him when you were still in the NFL and did you know much about him or just watching films and just reading and listening to people?JH: No, I had not met Alex Smith until I got the job here.Q: So all the stuff floating through the air, you dont pay any attention to that do you? The stuff like he cant play etc.JH: I was looking in through the keyhole, so to speak. I respected him as a player. I think people that know football and understand the game appreciate Alex Smith as a very talented quarterback. Hes every bit the elite quarterback as there is playing in the game right now. Appreciate all the talent that he has and what he brings to our team.Q: By saying that he is one of the elite quarterbacks, if you look at his fourth quarter performances this season is that part of the evidence? Why?JH: Again, its a whole body of work. Theres evidence really however you want to pick his performance apart. Hes playing at a very high level.Q: Is RB Frank Gores ankle at a point where you feel like he wont be limited this week? Has he shown some improvement on it?JH: Im not in Franks skin, never am, and thats always the hard thing when everybody asks me, How Frank is going to be this afternoon at practice? Hows he going to be on Sunday? Its just hard to predict how somebody else is going to feel exactly with any accuracy.Q: Has the training staff given you an update on Franks ankle that gives you any kind of feeling of where hes at?JH: I feel good. I feel good from what Frank has said and that he should be healthy to practice today, we anticipate that, and well go from there.Q: I think hes on pace for the most carries hes ever had in his career. As we go into the second half of the season, are you more cognoscente or careful of giving him fewer carries as the year goes on?JH: Cognoscente of it? Yes.Q: Are the additional carries more a factor of you guys having leads late in the game and your salting out games?JH: That has been a factor. Its an obvious one. Weve had some leads in the fourth quarter, third quarter where you have to run the ball more. Throwing it every down when youre down two or three scores.Q: K David Akers, how impressive has he been over his first eight games?JH: David has been darn near perfect, thats how impressive hes been. I cant imagine theres any kicker thats bringing more to their team than David Akers is this year. Look at the touchbacks, look at the field goals, the degree of difficulty on these field goals, 50-plus, 40-plus. Hes dealt with the wind here in Candlestick, hes kicked such a straight, true ball that the elements havent been a factor. Hes been rock solid on pressure kicks. You factor that degree of difficulty in and hes been darn near perfect.Q: Did you know his leg was this strong? Hes nailed four field goals over 50 and hes gotten all these touchbacks. Did you know he was coming with that much power?JH: We felt like he was the best kicker in the game and hes delivered on that.Q: In the game Sunday, there were several times where you guys had late shifts in the play clock and it seemed sort of rushed. Was it rushed or was that by design to have those shifts so late?
JH: Sometimes theyre designed that way, sometimes you get the look late and make the adjustment.Q: Is there ever a downside to having such a good kicker or a kicker you trust so implicitly that once you get in between the 40 and the 25 yard lines, subconsciously youre not as aggressive as you would be if you didnt trust him as much?JH: No. I dont think theres a downside to having a good kicker.Q: TG Chilo Rachal and CB Shawntae Spencer, those are guys who were regular starters here the past couple of years. Obviously, theyre not in those roles this season. From your point or perspective, how have they handled their new roles this season?JH: Theyve really been team guys, especially Chilo. I really have to take my hat off to him. He is really chomping at the bit to be in there, after practice, before practice. Really on point. His time will come again and he plays and contributes for us in our extra O-linemen package, hes on field goal, hes on kickoff return. Hes preparing like a starter and thats how we think of him. Especially pleased with him.Q: You had said on the radio the other day that you have a new play this week. When you unveiled the name of that play to your offensive team, what was the reaction?JH: They knew. Got a chuckle from the fellas.Q: Was that your idea to institute that name?JH: When we were at Arlington (National Cemetery) and Sergeant Skywalker just finished up talking to the team, he shared about 10 minutes worth of comments with the team. On the history of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. When he was done, Wide Receivers Coach Johnnie Morton and I looked at each other and go we need a skywalker and its got to be good, its got to be a good one, a good play.
Q: Hell be on the sideline for the Baltimore game?JH: Yes.Q: Will you have a chance to watch Stanford vs. Oregon on Saturday night?JH: Should be able to. We have meetings on Saturday night, but well have the TV on.Q: Who do you like?JH: I like Stanford.Q: It seems like the offense, other than the one 30-yard touchdown pass to Bruce Miller, hasnt had that quick strike ability that we saw in Philadelphia or Tampa Bay. Game plan can determine that. Is there anything in particular as to why over these past two games (inaudible)?JH: No, not one thing. Well just keep working on our quick strike ability and see if we cant get that better.Q: But has it been not a concern or something youve been looking at?JH: Yeah were trying to improve in all areas, see where the heck we can get a mile an hour faster and a percent better each day. Thats the way we go about things, thats the way our players go about them.
Q: Whats the challenges of facing the Giants front four? What makes them so good?JH: They are just fast, physical, up-field, strong men. Just strong people, that are very athletic. Thats a formidable combination. Our line is good, too. Weve got a good offensive line. Thats going to be two opposing wills that are going to be meeting each other in this ball game and it will be outstanding to watch our guys compete in that kind of environment.Q: Are they the most talented team youve played thus far?JH: Dont make a lot of comparisons from one team to the other. This is the most important game because its the next game. Expectations are well have a great day of meetings and practice in preparation for this big game.

Owners of No. 1 overall pick, Browns still searching for franchise QB

Owners of No. 1 overall pick, Browns still searching for franchise QB

CLEVELAND -- Finding Bigfoot has been more productive than the Cleveland Browns' search for a franchise quarterback.

This flawed football quest drags on.

For nearly two decades, the Browns, once a standard of NFL excellence and now a league punching bag, have been running in circles as they try to find a quarterback to lead them from the darkness to relevance and respectability. Since the franchise's inglorious expansion return in 1999, they've started 26 quarterbacks, a roll call of names that haunt even the most loyal Cleveland fans holding out hope the team will one day get it right.

From Tim Couch to Trent Dilfer, from Derek Anderson to Cody Kessler, and let's not forget that year of fun with Johnny Manziel, QBs have cycled through Cleveland like tourists, with none sticking around for long.

It's been a running joke.

And until the Browns find that long-term answer at quarterback, they'll continue to be looked at as a laughingstock.

They'll have another chance to perhaps end this long pursuit in this week's NFL draft. With the No. 1 and No. 12 overall picks, and four more selections in the first three rounds, the Browns are positioned to finally fix the most important position on the field.

This could be the year Cleveland fans have longed for, the one when the Browns find their Tom Brady or Ben Roethlisberger. But as fate would have it, this year's QB class isn't highly regarded. Many draft experts feel there isn't a quarterback worth a first-round selection and that Cleveland should wait until 2018.

That's just so Browns, whose experiment with Robert Griffin III backfired last season, resulting in the latest QB confusion.

"We're going to keep searching," coach Hue Jackson said recently. "I think we all understand, no one's really claimed this position yet on our football team so we need to do everything we can to continue to add a player that we feel, as an organization, really good about, that can lead our football team and we'll continue to chase that."

The chase continues Thursday when the Browns try to find that elusive, essential piece. Or fumble again.

Here are some quarterback tidbits to chew on when the Browns go on the clock:

UP TOP: Cleveland seems locked in ON Texas A&M defensive stud Myles Garrett at No. 1, and while he's proficient at sacks, there are no three- or seven-step drops in his future. The Browns are impressed with North Carolina's Mitchell Trubisky, a former Ohio Mr. Football, despite his inexperience (only 13 college starts), but probably not enough to take him first. Landing Garrett and Trubisky would be a dream scenario, but Cleveland may have to trade up as the rebuilding Jets have sent out vibes they prefer Trubisky.

WHY NOT WATSON? Clemson's Deshaun Watson would seem to fit Jackson's profile of the ideal QB: mobile, dynamic, successful. The Browns, though, don't seem enthralled with Watson - not in the first round anyway - unless their silence is a smoke screen. There are other good options like Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer, Texas A&M's Patrick Mahomes or California's Davis Webb, who may all be available after Round 1.

DRAFT DEBACLES: The Browns' track record drafting QBs - or any position - is abysmal over the past decade, which is why many Cleveland fans fear the team will mess up again. Since 2007, only OT Joe Thomas and CB Joe Haden have proven to be good choices. Eight other first-round picks are no longer on the roster.

Along with Couch, the No. 1 choice in '99, the Browns have used first-round picks on Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden and Manziel, who was Johnny Goofball in an orange helmet. Those mistakes shouldn't deter the Browns from selecting a QB early, but they are grim reminders that there are no givens.

WAITING GAME: Would waiting one more year be so bad? Draft experts point to the 2018 QB class, led by UCLA's Josh Rosen and USC's Sam Darnold, as being more talented than the 2017 group. That wouldn't preclude the Browns from taking a quarterback later in this draft, just not in the first round.

HOMETOWN HEROES: Trubisky is the latest in a long line of Ohio-born QBs tabbed as the Browns' next savior. Quinn, Charlie Frye and Brian Hoyer all grew up as Browns fans, but none was able to lead the turnaround. If Trubisky is picked, the pressure on him to be the team's leader and face of the franchise will be immense.

BYE-BYE BROCK?: The Browns made a shocking move in free agency, acquiring QB Brock Osweiler, his $16 million guaranteed contract and a 2018 second-round pick from Houston. Cleveland made it clear Osweiler was not part of the future, but he's still on the roster and could be part of a fall-back plan if the Browns don't get their desired quarterback.

 

Report: 49ers strongly considering QB at No. 2

Report: 49ers strongly considering QB at No. 2

General manager John Lynch and the 49ers have created the desired intrigue about what the club will do with the No. 2 overall pick in this week’s NFL draft.

The team remains “open for business,” in the words of Lynch, to trade the second pick. If the 49ers are unable to find a trade partner, the team can do any number of different ways with that pick. The first round of the draft is scheduled for Thursday evening.

After edge-rusher Myles Garrett, widely projected to go to the Cleveland Browns with the No. 1 overall pick, there does not seem to be much separating the next dozen prospects on the board at a number of different positions.

Now, there is buzz the 49ers could go with a quarterback – likely, Mitchell Trubisky of North Carolina – with the No. 2 pick. That possibility gained steam Monday morning with a report from Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, citing “several sources,” that the 49ers are “strongly considering” selecting a quarterback with the second pick.

One league source last week told NBC Sports Bay Area some around the league believe the 49ers would draft Trubisky or Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas.

“If the 49ers are waiting on Kirk Cousins, just remember that Trubisky is a better prospect now than Cousins was coming out of the 2012 draft,” the source said.

Cousins, who is set to play his second consecutive year as Washington’s franchise player, was a fourth-round selection under then-coach Mike Shanahan, New 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan was his father’s offensive coordinator when Washington drafted Cousins.

Lynch has been open in his scouting and praise of this year’s draft class. He has attended workouts of top quarterback prospects: Trubisky, Deshaun Watson (Clemson), DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame), Patrick Mahomes (Texas Tech) and Davis Webb (Cal).

"I think most of this quarterback class should be later down the line, whether it's first round or second round,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said recently. ESPN’s Mel Kipier and Todd McShay had Trubisky as the first quarterback selected by the Browns at No. 12 overall.

“I think these guys are somewhat getting a bad rap,” Lynch said at the NFL scouting combine. “You turn on the film, and there’s a lot to like.”

The 49ers head into this week’s draft with Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley as the only two quarterbacks on the roster.

The 49ers have shown no interest in re-signing any of the top three quarterbacks on the team’s roster last season: Colin Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder. Each of those players remains unsigned.