Originally posted on Next Impulse Sports  |  Last updated 3/7/12

With the football season come to an end now represents the perfect time to reflect upon a great 2012 49er season and the leader behind a revived franchise.  A hardnosed attitude and hands on coaching style has brought new life and excitement to the city of San Francisco.  Can the coach and his team continue to perform after a playoff run that ended in devastation? The 2011-12 season is a year to remember as Jim Harbaugh transformed the 49ers from a state of embarrassment and into a competitive and revitalized contender. After signing a 5 -year contract the 49ers franchise has made huge strides in a short time period and Harbaugh is well deserving of acclaim. 6-10 to 13-3 proves a new style of coaching works and if success continues Jim could become a legend in the Bay area.

Harbaugh entered the NFL in 1987 played 7 seasons, and started 140 games for Chicago, Indianapolis, Baltimore and finally San Diego. His career highlight came in the 1995-1996 playoffs as he led the Colts to memorable victories against the Chiefs and Chargers. Although deemed a journey man later in his career Harbaugh played well in big games and had the ability to manage an offense efficiently. His playing style emulates Alex Smith, as he did not post pretty passing stats that we see in today’s evolved spread out game and was a game manager. A 100.7 QB rating proved that Harbaugh could be more than effective, however his playing days have been overshadowed by his successes in his coaching career. Following in his father Jack’s footsteps Harbaugh started out as an assistant at Western Kentucky University. Recruiting, player relations, and scouting were among his strong suits and by the early 2000’s Harbaugh made his jump to the NFL. Harbaugh’s resume is impressive and his previous coaching jobs prove that he has the ability to turn a football team around quickly. His coaching tenures at the University of San Diego and Stanford live on as prime examples as a man who can change the culture of a program. As Stanford University stood at a crossroads in 2006, the program changed dramatically under Harbaugh’s direction and Stanford became a desired location for high caliber recruits across the country. With a 58-27 overall record in the college game, Harbaugh has proved that great coaching works can transcend into the NFL with the right approach. This past season was a great way to start.

This past season, two plays cost the 49ers a super bowl berth, ending a run that brought new vigor to players and fans. The 2012 draft is vital as the 49ers are a few players away from becoming a real powerhouse football team. The defensive backfield, wide receivers and offensive line are currently high in priority going into the draft. Despite a new swagger in the bay area, San Francisco has lots of room for improvement and a case can be made for another high-powered offensive weapon able to lengthen the field. In the coming years, Frank Gore will loose a step and they must start thinking about another running back. Now is a perfect opportunity for a youngster to learn from a proven veteran and lighten the load.

Vernon Davis finally, made a statement solidifying his role in San Francisco, however Michael Crabtree still isn’t living up to his lofty expectations. Despite his overwhelming athletic ability Crabtree has yet to be a game-breaker.  Alex Smith had an outstanding year and showed the ability to evolve into a new scheme once again, however it is the defense (4th overall, gave up AVG 77.3 rushing YAG) that allowed for a great season and gave Smith the necessary platform to win games without really having to.

Although, Alex Smith played well this past season, I am still not totally convinced that Smith is the answer in San Francisco, and the heat will begin to build up next year if he doesn’t perform. Smith’s stats were workman like and are not on the level of a pass happy QB such as Aaron Rodgers, and Eli Manning.  Without the threat of a high -powered passing game a lot of pressure will be loaded onto the defense, similar to last season. The offense ranked 26th overall and lacked to put up substantial points against higher quality opponents and this is a problem.  Defensively, Patrick Willis in addition to NaVorro Bowman and Dashon Goldson led a defense that is stingy and didn’t allow a rushing TD until week 11.  The secondary played well however has room to improve as a surefire star has yet to emerge and there have been many disappointments over the years i.e. Taylor Mays. Overall the 49ers must continue to make strides offensively and get familiarized with Harbaugh’s coaching style, as 2013 will an important year in building upon successes of the 2011-2012 season.

 

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