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.

49ers trade up, select QB C.J. Beathard in third round of 2017 NFL Draft

49ers trade up, select QB C.J. Beathard in third round of 2017 NFL Draft

Position: Quarterback
College: Iowa
Height: 6-2
Weight: 219
Selection: Third round, No. 104 overall

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers traded back into the end of the third round to select a quarterback to join Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley on the 49ers' roster.

General manager John Lynch's fourth trade of the draft netted the team the grandson of legendary NFL personnel man Bobby Beathard. His grandson, C.J., joins the 49ers after a four-year career at Iowa. Beathard completed 58.6 percent of his passes last season with 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Beathard was not generally expected to be chosen within the first two days of the draft. He was the sixth quarterback selected, falling behind Mitch Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Deshone Kizer and Davis Webb.

"They won't regret it," Beathard said on a conference call with the Bay Area media.

The 49ers traded up with the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings had the No. 104 pick, and called the 49ers to see if they were interested in a trade. After some consideration, the 49ers decided to move up from No. 109 while also giving the Vikings a seventh-round pick at No. 219.

"Might he have been there at 109? That’s what we had to weigh," 49ers John Lynch said. "But at the end of the day, we felt like it was worth it to be able to go to bed knowing that we had a player that we liked and want the opportunity develop at the quarterback position."

And that's what coach Kyle Shanahan plans on doing. He said Beathard is not coming to the team this season to compete with Hoyer for the starting job.

"We’re bringing him in here to develop him and give him a chance, but just like any other position, everyone competes," Shanahan said. "Brian is our starting quarterback and, right now, Matt Barkley is our second. And I look at him to come in and be our third with us only having three on the roster.

"By no means did we come into this draft thinking we’re going to get a guy to compete with Brian."

Shanahan said Beathard and Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman were the two quarterbacks in the draft who ran offenses in college most similar to the offense he will install with the 49ers.

"One thing that helps is being able to see guys play the way you’re going to ask them to play," Shanahan said. "It helps being at Iowa and watching the system he’s in. It’s easier to see to watch him over the years. He’s a three-year starter. He’s led his team to a bunch of wins, especially in 2015 when they had a better team and he played unbelievable."

As a junior at Iowa, Beathard completed 61.6 percent of his pass attempts for 2,809 yards with 17 touchdowns and five interceptions. 

"He’s a leader. He’s tough. He processes very well," Shanahan said. "He's extremely accurate and he lives and dies football."

49ers select CB Ahkello Witherspoon in third round of the 2017 NFL Draft

49ers select CB Ahkello Witherspoon in third round of the 2017 NFL Draft

Position: Cornerback
College: Colorado
Height: 6-2 3/4
Weight: 193
Selection: Third round, No. 66 overall

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers selected Colorado cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, a Sacramento native, in the third round of the NFL draft with the No. 66 overall pick.

“Being close to home is an incredible opportunity, as well as the type of defense they play -- press man, up in your face,” Witherspoon said. “When I came in for a visit, they were asking me if I’ve adopted that role and if I’d be willing to continue that. And I said, ‘Absolutely.’

“It’s an opportunity to play for such a great organization, close to home, with such a savvy defensive mentality. I think it’s going to be a great place for me.”

The 49ers were also scheduled to have the next pick, but traded the selection at No. 67 for the New Orleans Saints’ second-round pick in next year’s draft, as well as a seventh-round selection (No. 229 overall) this year. The 49ers now have 10 picks in next year’s draft.

The Saints used that pick at No. 67 to select Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara.

Witherspoon began his college career at Sacramento City. He played his final three college seasons at Colorado. He started 12 games last season and earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors.

Witherspoon led the nation with 22 pass breakups. He recorded one interception -- a game-saving pick in the end zone to preserve a 41-38 victory over Oregon. A pre-med student majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology, he said he aspires to be a doctor after his football career.

But Witherspoon said he is committed to football and promised the 49ers during his visit to Santa Clara that he will make huge strides over the next few years as he continues to develop as a player.