Harbaugh: This team is never 'satisfied'
George Seifert served as an usher at 49ers games at Kezar Stadium, which was across the street from Polytechnic High, where he went to school. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
San Francisco native George Seifert has been a fan of the 49ers since his days in junior high.
And after collecting five Super Bowl rings with the franchise -- three as one of the NFL's top defensive minds and two more as a head coach after replacing Bill Walsh -- Seifert is back in his cherished role as a fan.
Seifert, 73, lives in Incline Village, Nev., and he still has a place in Bodega Bay. He has remained largely out of the limelight in his dozen years since his retirement from football, but his passion for the 49ers still runs deep. Before he became a 49ers coach, Seifert served as an usher at 49ers games at Kezar Stadium, which was across the street from Polytechnic High, where he went to school. Polytechnic closed down in 1973.
"I've earned a paycheck from somebody else at one time, but the 49ers have always been my team and that hasn't changed," Seifert told CSNBayArea.com.
Seifert's final coaching job was with the Carolina Panthers from 1999 to 2001. There was an aging quarterback, Jim Harbaugh, on his final team. And on Seifert's staff for all three seasons with the Panthers was a young, eager assistant named Greg Roman.
Together, Harbaugh and Roman are winning football games with the 49ers. The head coach and offensive coordinator run an offense with West Coast system roots. But Seifert is fascinated with the different style of play.
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"This is more of a power football game," Seifert said. "Not that we couldn't run the ball. But he leans on it more that we did with Bill and myself as coaches. Also the fact the two coaches that preceded Jim were of the same orientation, so there was a natural flow when he took over."
Seifert is amazed at how Harbaugh has taken a team that experienced an eight-year playoff drought and achieved immediate success.
Harbaugh joined Seifert as the only 49ers coaches to win NFC West titles their first two seasons. Seifert won a Super Bowl in his first season after replacing Walsh. In Seifert's second season, the 49ers bid for a a third Super Bowl in a row was derailed with a heartbreaking loss to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game.
Harbaugh has a chance to reverse the order of Seifert's first two seasons with a victory over the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII next Sunday in New Orleans.
"I was so excited to be at the Saints game in the playoffs last year," Seifert said. "And the New York (NFC Championship Game) reminded me of when we lost to the Giants in my second year. Some things never leave your mind.
"But this team came back stronger this year, and that's not easy to do. What they did last year was miraculous. This year, they're putting the cherry on the cake. It's mind-boggling what coach Jim Harbaugh has done."
What Harbaugh has been able to do, Seifert said, is somehow shift an attitude in which losing had turned into a bad habit. How many times with Dennis Erickson, Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary as coaches did the 49ers lose games that were seemingly in their grasp in the fourth quarter?
"That team had been developing for the last few years, but the attitude is a key thing," Seifert said. "They were good, but they always seemed to figure out a way to lose. For him to come in and in a year turn that around was remarkable."
Seifert said there is a "pretty good chance" he will attend the Super Bowl next week to watch the 49ers face a Ravens squad that he calls "a particularly strong team."
"I don't envy the fact that two brothers are going to compete like that," Seifert said. "This game is tough enough. But they seem to be the kind of men who've grown up around football and they're probably able to set that off to one side more than I could.
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"I'm most excited about San Francisco getting an opportunity to win a sixth Super Bowl and tie Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is known as a tough football town. People don't think of San Francisco as a tough football town. So this is pretty unique thing to experience as a fan."