Q&A with 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh


Q&A with 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh

INDIANAPOLIS -- Coach Jim Harbaugh met with the media on Thursday at the NFL scouting combine. Here's the transcript of the Q&A:On sitting on the Indiana basketball bench on Wednesday:
Harbaugh: It was great. Great experience. Never sat on the bench with a basketball team. And it was a great honor to be there and to be in the locker room before and after the game and support the Indiana Hoosiers, who are near and dear to our hearts as a family. Our brother, Tom (Crean), who's married to my sister, is the head coach at IU. It's great...
...Got the extra special benefit of sitting next to my nephew, Riley Crean. So that was great. Twelve-year-old Riley Crean is also a good quarterback. But I was amazed at how much he had to explain to me about the game of basketball. I felt like I knew a lot about basketball. Well-documented outstanding high school player. But the schematics of the game Riley was teaching me. It was great to be a part of it.On taking over a storied franchiseprogram, similarities with Crean:
Harbaugh: Talked with Tom about team and both of our respective games ever since I met Tom because he's just a star when it comes to coaching. Ever since he and Joanie first met and started dating, and especially when I made the transition from playing to coaching, Tom was a great resource for me.On Andrew Luck's abilities:
Harbaugh: You ever played spades? Trump games? He's holding a lot of aces in a lot of suits.On Luck's specific abilities:
Harbaugh: He's got all the qualities, really, mentally, physically. He's as prepared as anybody that you're going to find. He's really good. How about that one? He's got a lot of talent.On the pressure Luck faces being compared to Manning, Elway, etc:
Harbaugh: Well, fair or unfair, it's the nature of the business. But he's very equipped to deal with it. He's very mature.What stood out about Luck, his growth, etc?
Harbaugh: Many things.Specifically?
Harbaugh: I know you're looking for bullet points but a lot of things. What specifically? All great. Like I said, he's one of the finest football players I've ever been around. Is that good enough? And an even better person. One of the top 5 guys I've been around. So he's just a joy to coach. Not going to like playing against him. Not looking forward to that.On Robert Griffin:
Harbaugh: Yeah, I know a lot about Robert because we recruited Robert out of high school. Robert was a 4.0 student, great parents, comes from a great home. He has had great success at Baylor. You know, past performance usually indicates future success, and he's had nothing but a history of success. So you would predict great achievements in the future.On Alex Smith's future with the team:
Harbaugh: Yeah, Alex is our guy. That's well-documented. He had a tremendous season. Definitely as a coach, you worry about a lot of things. And when the quarterback's not signed and is a free agent, that leads to some lost sleep. But I'm excited to be back at work, very excited to be here and see what kind of improvement we can make from year 1 to year 2, and I hope all our guys feel the exact same way.On Colin Kaepernick's and Scott Tolzien's progression as rookies:
Harbaugh: Very well, very well. Both of those youngsters did as good a job or better than I've ever seen young quarterbacks approach the game. Both of them just sponges in terms of picking up as much as they possibly can. That first of all was the most impressive thing. I also liked the way they competed in practice, before practice, after practice. And the way they physically played. They belong, and I think an offseason is going to benefit both of those youngsters very much.On going into his second combine:
Harbaugh: I'm very much on edge. I've always felt like the most improvement you can make is from year 1 to year 2, much like a college freshman. The most improvement he can make in an entire one year of college football is going from year 1 freshman year to his sophomore year. Like a pro football player going from his rookie season to his second season. There's a window there that will never come again that you have a chance to making your biggest strides. Like going from game 1 of a season to game 2 and that week is the opportunity to make the most improvement you can in one weeks span over the course of a season. I'll be on edge about going through this combine a second time and evaluating for the draft and as it relates to free agency, as it relates to our young quarterback, as it relates to all the football playerson our team and on our team as a whole. And we'll chase it. Just like the NASCAR boys, we'll chase getting a mile an hour faster, chase getting .01 percent better any way that we can.On being the guy Peyton Manning replaced in Indy:
Harbaugh: If you're gonna be replaced by someone, that's a pretty good one to be replaced by, isn't it? I kind of take some pride in that.How remarkable is his career?
Harbaugh: I think that is the exact right word remarkable. That your career would be something that people talk about and remark about. And in the history of the game, you're talking about a quarterback whose career will be talked about for 50, 100 years to come. He's been that kind of player in the National Football League. Very remarkable. Good word.On going deeper into the Year 1 to Year 2 improvement:
Harbaugh: Because everything you're doing, you're doing it for the second time. You're doing it again. You've already experienced it one time. You've experienced the speed of the game, the potholes, the things that can come up. You're doing it again. You've got some muscle memory there. And it only is if you take advantage of it, if you attack it. That's been my experience. I have no empirical data to share with you at this time.That's my personal experience.On being familiar with guys coming out of college:
Harbaugh: That is true. That's the first thing I do when I look at the list is go through each one and I know that guy; we played against him. I remember (Florida State offensive tackle) Zebrie Sanders when we recruited him or RG III, etc. So I go through that list and that's the first thing I do look at. I can't wait to find these guys and find out why they didn't come to Stanford. Confront em!Will we see more of Kendall Hunter?
Harbaugh: You saw a lot of Kendall Hunter last year. Don't think there would be any reason not to. He did a fabulous job for us in two phases offensively and in the area of special teams. And he just works so darn hard at it. And he likes football so much and he's willing to spendextra classroom time. Kendall's a guy who's in at 7:30 in the morning and meets extra with Tom Rathman as some of the other runningbacks Frank Gore does it as well and so does AD (Anthony Dixon). But he's got that passion for it. So, all arrows, all indicators would be yes for that question.How has (Ted Ginn?) evolved?
Harbaugh: Evolved? I mean he's like any football player, you want him to evolve. You want him to continue to do that. And Ted was outstanding for us this past offseason. So you look for ways to do that?Recall the last conversation with Griffin?
Harbaugh: To say he's going to Houston and then to Baylor? Yes, I do. I was really fond of Robert through the recruiting process,and he made that decision. I think you've all had a chance to get to know Robert so far and understand him a bit. He makes good decisions. He makes cool decisions. He's very conscientious in everything that he does, and I respected his decision and wished him well.Memories on Indianapolis?
Harbaugh: Some of the best memories of my life. I love the Midwest, I loved playing here in Indianapolis. There's that memory. There's the memory of, we were pretty close to playing here a couple of weeks ago. So mostly good, though. Almost the signature years of my life when I think back atthose four years here in Indianapolis. The people above everything. Working with you, working with my teammates and coaches. There was a great feeling with the community and it was all so positive as I reflect back on it.On similarities in lost championship games:
Harbaugh: Both tough. The same feeling. There's mixed emotion there. On one hand, your team gave it everything they had in both cases, when played with the Colts and also this year our team with the 49ers. I mean, talking about them they played their hearts out. They gave it everything they had. They gave it their best. Technically you can say, OK, it wasn't good enough because you didn't win that game against the Giants andyou didn't go on to being in the Super Bowl. We would have loved to have been in that football fight. But also the team was you just feel so proud that you're part of a team that did play their hearts out and did give it their best and played extremely well in the championship game.That game could have gone our way. And then the other emotion of just being excited to get back to work. Just being here and understanding that you've got to get better because you draft lower, you play a division-winning schedule. And all of the other teams are competing their tails off the same way we are. So that brings a lot of energy, brings a lot of juice to getting back to work. And I know all our coaches feel the exact same way. That emotion being here and being excited to get going.On watching film of the Giants game:
Harbaugh: Yes, watched the game. It was two great teams. There's technical reasons for watching it, understanding the game and where you can find what you did well and what you can improve on. And also I enjoy watching our guys play. I really get a kick out of that. That really fires me up, watching our guys compete.

Snap count: 49ers' rookie running backs watch the veterans

Snap count: 49ers' rookie running backs watch the veterans

SANTA CLARA – Rookie running backs Joe Williams and Matt Breida have made strong bids for roster spots. But on Saturday night, the 49ers wanted to see what the veterans could do.

Williams entered the game late and played only four snaps of offense. He carried once for 1 yard. Another designed run play was aborted when a Denver Broncos defensive lineman got into the backfield so quickly he forced a fumble before the handoff could occur.

Breida, an undrafted rookie from Georgia Southern, did not see any snaps on offense in the 49ers’ 33-14 loss to the Denver Broncos at Levi’s Stadium.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said the plan all along was for Tim Hightower and Kapri Bibbs to see a lot of action after neither played in the exhibition opener.

“We’re trying to give them a chance to compete,” Shanahan said. “We see it in practice each day, but in games you want to see what guys do breaking through those arm tackles and see how they perform.

“We have a tough competition at back. If you rotate them every series, you don’t really give anyone a chance to show what they are. We try to do it that way. I’ve really tried to do it that way my entire career. You try to select which games you’re going to try to give guys a number of carries, so you have enough when it’s all said and done after four to try to make a decision.”

The 49ers’ run game was non-existent against the Broncos. Starter Carlos Hyde gained 26 yards on eight attempts. Bibbs managed 6 yards on four carries, while Hightower was thrown for minus-1 yard on three rushes.

In the exhibition opener last week against the Kansas City Chiefs, Williams gained 60 yards on seven carries, while Breida rushed for 40 yards on 11 tries. Raheem Mostert, the 49ers' leading rusher (15 carries, 89 yards) in the exhibition opener, was limited to just four plays on special teams.

Here is a look at the 49ers’ playing time on offense, defense and special teams:

Quarterback – *Brian Hoyer 24, C.J. Beathard 20, Matt Barkley 4
Running back – *Carlos Hyde 20, Tim Hightower 14, Kapri Bibbs 10, *Kyle Juszczyk 6, Tyler McCloskey 5, Joe Williams 4
Wide receiver – Louis Murphy 23, *Marquise Goodwin 18, Kendrick Bourne 15, Jeremy Kerley 13, Aldrick Robinson 13, Victor Bolden 12, Trent Taylor 11, *Pierre Garçon 10, DeAndre Carter 5
Tight end – George Kittle 22, Garrett Celek 12, Logan Paulsen 10, *Vance McDonald 9, Blake Bell 5, Cole Hikutini 3
Offensive line – Erik Magnuson 25, *Trent Brown 24, *Zane Beadles 23, *Daniel Kilgore 23, *Brandon Fusco 23, *Joe Staley 23, JP Flynn 21, Tim Barnes 21, Garry Gilliam 21, John Theus 20, Darrell Williams 4, Norman Price 4, Andrew Lauderdale 4, Andrew Gardner 4

Defensive line – D.J. Jones 38, Leger Douzable 36, Pita Taumoepenu 31, *Chris Jones 30, Quinton Dial 23, *Arik Armstead 23, *Earl Mitchell 19, Solomon Thomas 16, *Tank Carradine 15, Noble Nwachukwu 15, Elvis Dumervil 8
Linebacker – Dekoda Watson 33, Brock Coyle 30, Ray-Ray Armstrong 30, Ahmad Brooks 30, *Eli Harold 23, *Reuben Foster 23, *NaVorro Bowman 23, Shayne Skov 22, Alex Calitro 21
Cornerback – Asa Jackson 40, Ahkello Witherspoon 39, Keith Reaser 30, Will Davis 22, *Dontae Johnson 20, *Rashard Robinson 20, K’Waun Williams 11
Safety – *Lorenzo Jerome 37, Jaquiski Tartt 33, *Eric Reid 23, Don Jones 22, Vinnie Sunseri 19, Adrian Colbert 19
* -- Starter

D.Jones 18, Bell 17, Taumoepenu 17, DeAndre Smelter 16, Jerome 16, Celek 11, Watson 11, Coyle 10, Sunseri 10, Armstrong 10, Skov 9, C.Jones 9, Tartt 9, Bradley Pinion 8, Calitro 8, Colbert 8, Paulsen 8, Jackson 8, Kyle Nelson 7, Bolden 7, Bibbs 6, Witherspoon 6, Reaser 5, Dial 5, Davis 5, Raheem Mostert 4, Harold 4, Carter 4, Johnson 4, D.Williams 4, D.J. Jones 4, Robbie Gould 3, Robinson 3, J.Williams 3, Flynn 3, Douzable 3, Carradine 3, Nwachukwu 2, Price 2, Taylor 2, Kerley 2, Barnes 2, Theus 2, Magnuson 2, McCloskey 2, Armstrong 2, Foster 2, Reid 2, Bowman 2, Mitchell 2, Nick Rose 1, Matt Breida 1, Tim Patrick 1, Thomas 1, Bourne 1, Lauderdale 1, Brooks 1

QB Nick Mullens, WR Aaron Burbridge, DB Will Redmond, DB Jimmie Ward, DB Prince Charles Iworah, LB Sean Porter, LB Aaron Lynch, G Joshua Garnett, DL Ronald Blair, DL DeForest Buckner

Potential big play slips from Hoyer's grasp during preseason loss to Broncos

Potential big play slips from Hoyer's grasp during preseason loss to Broncos

SANTA CLARA – Quarterback Brian Hoyer threw the ball well enough to impress the Denver Broncos’ defensive backs during the 49ers’ two joint practices.

While he hit most of his passes on Saturday night, it was one that slipped away that summarized the 49ers’ 33-14 loss to the Broncos in the second exhibition game for both teams.

Hoyer had plenty of time to throw and saw a potential big play unfolding as he started to throw to wide receiver Jeremy Kerley. But the ball popped out of Hoyer’s right hand as he began to throw.

“I was getting ready to rip it to Kerley,” Hoyer said. “He had a double-move route, and I thought he was going to win. I went to throw it. And I was going to throw it hard, and literally, I think my arm even went forward and I was looking around, ‘What happened to the ball?' "

The ball ended up loose on the ground, where Broncos defensive lineman Shelby Harris recovered.

“My quarterbacks coach asked me, ‘When’s the last time that happened to you?’ Hoyer said. “Maybe a few years ago in practice, that happened one time. I never had that happen in a game. It’s the worst feeling. You go to throw the ball and you’re looking, and all of a sudden, you look around and you have no idea where it is.”

Hoyer and the 49ers passing game was sharp during two practice sessions with the Broncos during the week, prompting All-Pro defensive backs Aqib Talib and Chris Harris to praise the Hoyer, as well as coach Kyle Shanahan's offense.

Hoyer completed 8 of 11 pass attempts for 89 yards under the lights of Levi's Stadium. He threw an interception when 49ers receiver Marquise Goodwin juggled the ball and Denver defensive back Chris Lewis-Harris wrestled the ball away from him as they tumbled to the ground.

“There weren’t any reads on his 11 attempts that I was upset with,” Shanahan said of Hoyer.

“(On) his pick, Marquise has to catch that ball. He threw it to him. That keeps the drive alive. He just didn’t catch it clean and the DB made a good play. I wish Brian could’ve played longer to get a chance to get into some sort of rhythm.”

In the game, the 49ers committed 11 penalties for 86 yards and turned the ball over five times. Denver scored 27 points off those turnovers.

“I don’t think any of us should be pleased right now,” Hoyer said. “When you put the defense in that situation, regardless of whether it’s a regular-season game or a preseason game, you should feel displeased with the performance.”