49ers get their man -- Harbaugh hired

January 7, 2011, 8:50 pm
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Jan. 7, 2011
Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.comThe 49ers got their man.Jim Harbaugh entered the 49ers' headquarters in Santa Clara early Friday afternoon to sign a five-year contract, a source told Comcast SportsNet. The 49ers have scheduled a press conference for 3:30 p.m. Friday in San Francisco to announce Harbaugh as head coach.The 25-million deal, first reported by ESPN and confirmed by Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, ends a four-day flurry of interviews and intrigue after Harbaugh guided Stanford to a 40-12 victory over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl to cap a 12-1 season.
SOUND OFF: "Finally as a season ticket holder, I am really excited about 49ers again" -- viennersHarbaugh, 47, decided to head to the NFL, where he will join 49ers president Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke in hopes of ending the organization's eight-year slide.Ultimately, Harbaugh decided to take the 49ers' five-year contract offer instead of returning to Stanford to make a run at the national championship. Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross returned to Florida early Friday morning after failing to convince Harbaugh to be his coach.Harbaugh built the Cardinal into a national power in just four seasons after replacing Walt Harris as coach. Stanford was 1-11 in 2006 -- the season before Harbaugh was hired.RATTO: Orange Bowl wins ushers in new era
Now, Harbaugh will be become the central figure in charge of returning the 49ers to NFL prominence.The 49ers have not made the playoffs since the club won the NFC West in 2002 with a 10-6 record under coach Steve Mariucci, who was fired a couple days after a 31-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second round of the playoffs.Dennis Erickson, Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary had their chances and were fired as head coaches over the past eight seasons. Jim Tomsula served as interim coach in the 49ers' season finale, a 38-7 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.The 49ers were looking for an offensive coach who can work well with quarterbacks. Under Harbaugh's tutelage, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting. Luck this week announced he is returning for another season at Stanford, which seemed to increase the chances of Harbaugh remaining, as well.NEWS: Luck returning to Stanford for 2011 season
Harbaugh was 29-21 in four seasons at Stanford.The 49ers targeted Harbaugh as early as the midpoint of the season, according to team and league sources. Baalke had done all the research and background checks on Harbaugh. Baalke met and spent time with Harbaugh while scouting Stanford players in recent years.Harbaugh will compete in the NFC West with former Pac-10 Conference rival Pete Carroll. The Seattle Seahawks signed the former USC coach to a five-year, 33 million deal last year that included full control over the club's football operations.Harbaugh played 14 NFL seasons as quarterback with Chicago, Indianapolis, Baltimore and San Diego. In his final season, Harbaugh's quarterbacks coach with the Chargers was 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Johnson.He served two seasons on the Raiders' coaching staff. He was an offensive assistant in 2002 and quarterbacks coach in 2003 on Bill Callahan's staff. He was 29-6 in three seasons at NCAA Division I-AA San Diego before getting hired at Stanford.