Harbaugh's first month in office a juggling act

February 7, 2011, 5:25 pm
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Feb. 7, 2011MAIOCCO ARCHIVE49ERS PAGE 49ERS VIDEOEditor's Note: This is Part 1 of a three-part series taking a look at Jim Harbaugh's first month as 49ers' head coach. This installment looks at how he prioritized his time during his first 31 days on the job.Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.comAs Jim Harbaugh prepared Stanford for Pac-10 Conference games in October, there was a fad quietly sweeping through professional football.Harbaugh, who has held the title of 49ers head coach for a month, is just now discovering for himself what he missed last season in the NFL.
"There was a pass play that was making its way around the league from Week 4 through 8," Harbaugh said. "Several teams hit it for a big play. It was a bootleg throwback. It was interesting to see. I saw six or seven teams that used it. They saw it from another team and then used it."And what happened later in the season?"It got covered," Harbaugh said, laughing. "After about Week 10, it made its way through and people were defensing it."Harbaugh officially left his job at Stanford on Jan. 7 to accept a five-year, 25 million contract with the 49ers. And he's had no problem keeping busy during his first month on the job, he told Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.REWIND: 49ers get their man -- Harbaugh hired
There has been so much to accomplish in such a short period of time that Harbaugh has been forced to perfect the art of multitasking. He has often worked on multiple projects at the same time. Case in point: He is discovering league-wide trends while simultaneously evaluating the crop of prospective NFL free agents through his film research.
During his first 31 days in office, Harbaugh put together most of his coaching staff. He has watched every 49ers game from the 2010 season and evaluated the roster he inherits. He has also engaged in lengthy conversations with nearly every member of the team.Harbaugh is also getting familiar with the rest of the NFL. He is completing his evaluation of prospective free agents. And he is spending plenty of time on X's and O's, too, as the 49ers' coaching staff has started piecing together its playbooks for the coming season.The work is only just beginning. Harbaugh has not spent much time evaluating draft prospects, he said. But he still has more than 11 weeks to prepare for the draft, which is scheduled for April 28-30. The 49ers own the No. 7 overall pick.RELATED: Matt Maiocco's 2011 NFL mock draft
During his first month on the job, Harbaugh could set his own pace. But his second month will feature a lot of uncertainty.With the league's collective bargaining agreement set to expire March 3, the owners and players appear to be bracing for a work stoppage and possible postponement of the usual openings of free agency and trading.But that has not kept Harbaugh from making sure he is prepared for the possibility that player movement will commence March 4, as if it were a normal NFL offseason."We're going about it and leaving no stone unturned," Harbaugh said. "Anybody who's an unrestricted free agent, I want to make sure that I've looked at him and familiarized myself with him and understand what's available and how that relates to our own football team."When asked if he expects the 49ers to be active once the gates of free agency swing open, Harbaugh answered, "I'm not really going to get into too much of that. Sometimes you have to keep your cards close to your vest."Harbaugh's cards have been scattered since taking over as 49ers' head coach, as his skills at multitasking have been challenged.While he watches film of players who might be available to help the 49ers, whether by free agency or potential trades, Harbaugh also is watching the big picture to analyze the teams his 49ers will face next season.Thus, he was able to recognize some of the trends around the league, such as the pass play that was copied with great success for several weeks last season before defenses began adjusting. In fact, Harbaugh has organized film cut-ups of such observations on a tape labeled, "Trends."Harbaugh spent most of his first month grinding away for hours at the team's offices at 4949 Centennial Boulevard in Santa Clara. He did not travel to Mobile, Ala., for the three days of padded practices last month at the Senior Bowl -- a gathering that has turned into a quasi-convention for NFL coaches and out-of-work coaches.RELATED: Q&A -- What 49ers coaches are missing at Senior Bowl
Harbaugh traveled to North Texas on Friday for a weekend at the Super Bowl. There, he caught up with his brother, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh, for the first time in more than a year.It was a rare luxury for Harbaugh, who found it difficult to escape during his first month on the job because he had so much work waiting for him in the office.His first priority was putting together his support staff. Harbaugh hired 13 members to his coaching staff and retained 49ers position coaches Tom Rathman (running backs), Mike Solari (offensive line) and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, who served one game as interim head coach after Mike Singletary was fired.RELATED: 49ers 2011 coaching staff at a glance
Harbaugh hired five individuals from Stanford, including defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Harbaugh said his staff is nearing completion, as he still plans to hire a defensive backs coach to assist Ed Donatell."I really feel good about the coaches we've hired and the staff we've put together," Harbaugh said. "Since doing that, we've been able to work on a number of things, including schemes -- both offensively, defensively and special teams."On this particular morning, Harbaugh worked with his offensive staff on devising the run game that will be installed once the team is back together. Offseason workouts are scheduled to begin in March -- if there is no work stoppage.In the afternoon, more film study of prospective free agents was scheduled. Harbaugh said he expects to have all the free agents fully evaluated within the next two weeks."You got to picture this as doing a lot of things," Harbaugh said. "The day can be broken up into sections. Sometimes you're doing two or three things at once. So we're doing as much as we can do in the course of the day." In Part 2 of the three-part series, Jim Harbaugh gets to know Alex Smith, as he forms his own opinion about the 49ers' quarterback situation.