Harbaugh-Carroll rivalry jumps from NCAA to NFL

68467.jpg

Harbaugh-Carroll rivalry jumps from NCAA to NFL

Sept. 7, 2011MAIOCCO ARCHIVE
49ERS PAGE 49ERS VIDEO
Follow @MaioccoCSN
Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.com
SANTA CLARA -- Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll actually agreed on something Wednesday afternoon.

Both men stated they have not experienced much personal interaction through the years. Professionally, it's another story.
Their unique rapport is best summarized by a five-second midfield exchange two seasons ago after Stanford's 55-21 victory over USC at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Harbaugh ordered a two-point conversion attempt late in the game, which was widely seen as a slap in the face of the Trojans.
"What's your deal? Are you all right?" Carroll asked Harbaugh, as captured by a TV camera and microphone on the field.
"Yeah, I'm great," Harbaugh responded. "What's your deal?""Nice game," Carroll said.Harbaugh and Carroll are no longer a part of the Stanford-USC rivalry. Now, they're NFC West opponents and will square off for the first time Sunday at Candlestick Park when Carroll's Seahawks face Harbaugh's 49ers.
"Tune in to see what the coaches are going to say to each other before the game, after the game," Harbaugh quipped on Wednesday. "Anything that's been said before has pretty well been documented and over-documented. And in the end, it's an 11-on-11 game."Is it really that exciting, that intriguing, to find out what they're going to talk about? What's relevant is this game will be determined by the players and the coaches."
Added Carroll, "Better listen very carefully -- better see a lot of boom mikes when we're talking out there. Got to get the straight scoop on what's really up."What's really up -- what's really the deal -- is that is that while they're certainly not friendly, Harbaugh and Carroll both claim to have respect for the other. Carroll talked about Harbaugh's toughness and competitive nature. Harbaugh complimented how Carroll always has his teams well-prepared.And the roles are reversed from a year ago, when Carroll was making his coaching debut with the Seahawks.
The 49ers remember what it's like to prepare to face the uncertainty of a team that features a coach coming directly from the college ranks."I can specifically remember going into the game and they were very vanilla all the preseason and we had no idea what we were going to get," 49ers quarterback Alex Smith said. "We were watching USC film and trying to anticipate what we were going to get. So it was difficult."Carroll described the 49ers' offensive approach of the exhibition season as "basic." Both offensively and defensively, the 49ers were careful not to reveal too much of their identity.And that even carried over into Wednesday, when Harbaugh declined to talk about the percentage of the offense that was featured in the 49ers' four tuneup games."When you're in a division, you get to know your opponent a little bit and you see them play other teams," Carroll said. "It's a different level of familiarity. In both of our cases, we've played against each other a few times."It's a little more like a division matchup, where you have some background. Whether that benefits anybody, I don't know. But that's what it feels like."The Seahawks this year are the ones studying college film to try to get a handle on what the 49ers might do.Seattle quarterback Tarvaris Jackson said he has watched film of the 49ers during the exhibition season. But he has also studied Stanford's schemes from a year ago in an attempt to gain insight into 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's approach.
Jackson has solicited input from former Stanford receiver Doug Baldwin. He also plans to speak with cornerback Richard Sherman, also a rookie from Stanford."(Baldwin) gave me some insight on what the defensive coordinator likes to do," Jackson said. "He knows him and watched him a lot. I'll probably get with (Sherman) today or tomorrow and ask him a couple things -- different indicators he can help me out with."Who knows if he's going to keep doing the same things he did at Stanford, so we have to be prepared for both. So I have to make sure I go back and do some history on that."

Colts fire GM Ryan Grigson after five seasons

Colts fire GM Ryan Grigson after five seasons

INDIANAPOLIS -- Ryan Grigson spent tens of millions in free agency, trying to turn the Indianapolis Colts into a Super Bowl contender.

When most of those big investments went belly up, the first-time general manager paid the price.

On Saturday, Colts owner Jim Irsay fired Grigson after five up-and-down years that ended with Indy missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1997-98.

"It was a tough decision, well thought out and in the end the right decision for the Colts," Irsay said.

Initially, Grigson looked like a genius.

He hit it big on his first four draft picks - quarterback Andrew Luck, tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen and receiver T.Y. Hilton - and used a series of shrewd, cost-effective moves to deliver one of the greatest turnarounds in league history.

But when Grigson's costly misfires like first-round bust Bjoern Werner in 2013, trading a first-round pick for Trent Richardson in 2014 or loading up on a group of aging, high-priced free agents to make a Super Bowl run in 2015 and an anxious fan base, Irsay had no choice.

The timing, almost three weeks after the season ended, was strange - and comes after many thought the delay meant Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano were both safe.

Each agreed to contracts last January that was supposed to keep them together through the 2019 season.

Thirteen months later, Grigson is gone and Pagano's fate may rest in the hands of a new GM.

Grigson, by trade, was a gambler who refused to play it safe.

"I think the guys that sit on their hands, they've got to live with themselves and look in the mirror and realize they didn't take any chances," he once said. "They've got to look at themselves and say, 'Did I even deserve this opportunity?' If you just sit on your hands and say, 'I'm going to play it safe all the time,' you might be middle of the pack. But if you don't take a swing, you're never going to hit it out of the park."

Irsay appreciated Grigson's unconventional style and penchant for taking chances.

What he didn't like was the underwhelming payout.

In five seasons, Grigson made 15 trades for players and only one, Pro Bowl cornerback Vontae Davis, played in Indy's season finale. Grigson also drafted 38 players - 18 of whom finished the season with the Colts. Eleven were out of the NFL.

Then there was free agency, where Grigson signed dozens of expensive players. Only 11 were still on Indy's roster when the season ended, 18 others were out of the NFL.

With an estimated $60 million to spend in free agency this year and a chance to get the Colts righted for the prime years of Luck's career, Irsay couldn't afford to roll the dice again with Grigson so he made the change.

The 44-year-old Purdue graduate's blunt personality didn't always mesh with coach Chuck Pagano. Irsay even acknowledged last summer that the two men needed to resolve their differences before he gave them the extensions.

Players didn't always get along with him, either.

"Thank God. 'Unwarranted Arrogance' just ran into a brick wall called karma," Pro Bowl punter Pat McAfee posted on Twitter after word first leaked.

Grigson also drew the wrath of Patriots' fans by tipping off NFL officials that Tom Brady was using improperly inflated footballs during the 2015 AFC championship game. The Deflategate controversy eventually led to a four-game suspension for Brady as well as a fine and the loss draft picks for the Patriots.

And despite Irsay's repeated pleas to better protect Luck, Grigson, a former offensive lineman, never quite figured it out.

Luck missed 10 games because of injuries over the past two seasons and was sacked 41 times last season. The first real glimmer of hope appeared in December when the Colts held Minnesota and Oakland without a sack in back-to back games - the only times all season they didn't allow a sack.

When Grigson arrived, the Colts were coming off a 2-14 season and were about to release Peyton Manning and several other aging veterans in a salary cap purge.

So Grigson cleaned house.

He fired Jim Caldwell, hired Pagano and revamped the roster with low-budget free agents to work with the cornerstone of the future, Luck.

It worked. The man once dubbed by a previous boss as a "great" expansion team general manager, turned the Colts into a surprising 11-5 playoff-bound team.

Indy finished 11-5 each of the next two seasons, too, and advanced one step deeper in the playoffs each season.

The steady progression turned the Colts into a trendy Super Bowl pick in 2015, a trek that was derailed by a litany of injuries that forced the Colts to use five different quarterbacks just to finish 8-8.

Waiting for Shanahan could be a good thing for 49ers

Waiting for Shanahan could be a good thing for 49ers

The 49ers were willing to be patient in securing their next head coach.

Depending on the outcome of the Atlanta Falcons’ game Sunday against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game, they could be required to wait another two weeks.

The other five organizations with vacancies after the regular season have filled their head-coach positions with four assistants from teams that did not qualify for the playoffs and former Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, whom the Denver Broncos hired after his team was bounced in the AFC wild-card round.

Early in the 49ers’ search to replace Chip Kelly, the top targets appeared to be Josh McDaniels and Kyle Shanahan, the offensive coordinators for two of the top-three scoring teams in the NFL.

The coach-general manager team of McDaniels and New England Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio was the runaway favorite to be the package deal, according to sources close to the 49ers’ coaching search.

But when Caserio chose to remain as Bill Belichick’s top personnel lieutenant – just has he has in the past when other opportunities presented themselves – the job became less attractive to McDaniels, according to those sources. McDaniels announced on Monday he would remain with the Patriots for at least another year.

With McDaniels out of the picture, Shanahan became the clear favorite over Seattle assistant Tom Cable. And once Cable publicly stepped aside due to suspicions he was only being used to secure a commitment from Shanahan, only one candidate remained for the job.

Since the middle of this week, Shanahan has been the presumptive coach of the 49ers. Falcons coach Dan Quinn was the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator two years ago when he was officially hired just hours after the Super Bowl. He knows he drill. And this week he announced to the Falcons staff that Shanahan would be the next coach of the 49ers, according to the NFL Network.

Regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s game, the 49ers will be allowed to interview Shanahan next week – most likely, Tuesday in Atlanta. Shanahan will be involved in the process to hire the next general manager. Minnesota assistant general manager George Paton appears to be the favorite. The 49ers expect the general manager position to be filled early in the week.

If the Falcons lose, the 49ers would be able to hire Shanahan on their own time frame. It would not be expected to take long.

But if the Falcons win, the 49ers would have to wait until after Feb. 5, when the Super Bowl will be played in Houston, to hire Shanahan.

There is an advantage to being forced to wait. In the long term, the 49ers could benefit from their next head coach gaining the experience of a Super Bowl week and calling a game on the biggest stage in all of sports.