Harbaugh turning Niners into winners, believers
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) – Jim Harbaugh took a window seat alongside his players for San Francisco’s cross-country charter flight home from Philadelphia. Cornerback Carlos Rogers had never seen anything like it: an NFL coach in coach.
Harbaugh gave up his first-class spot to center Jonathan Goodwin.
“He’s a blue-collar guy, blue-collar coach,” Rogers said Monday. “It was so funny, when we were flying back on the plane, he’s back there with us. He gave up his first-class seat to come back with the players and sit in the coach seats with us. He even had someone beside him, someone he was watching video with. When do you see a coach want to give up their first-class seat and come back there and sit with the players throughout a five-hour flight?”
This is Harbaugh’s way. The former NFL quarterback believes in being one of the guys in order to truly gauge the pulse of his team, and the 49ers have certainly bought into his unorthodox, all-hands-on approach.
“I don’t feel comfortable up in first class. I’m a coach guy,” Harbaugh said. “I watch the tape on the laptop, walk around, talk to the fellas. Watched a little bit of a movie. It was a long trip.”
It’s working well so far in Harbaugh’s first year.
Despite some noticeable flaws, San Francisco is a surprising 3-1 and atop the NFC West, fresh off a stunning 24-23 comeback win over the Eagles that moved the Niners to 2-0 on the road – Harbaugh’s most significant victory yet in his team’s biggest test thus far.
Strangely enough, the win Sunday came by the same score as Harbaugh’s 2007 Stanford victory at Southern California that went a long way in turning around the Cardinal program. His Stanford squad traveled to Los Angeles in his first season as 41-point underdogs only to shock the second-ranked Trojans and end their 35-game home winning streak.
And these Niners are oh so close to being unbeaten at this stage. They blew a late lead in a 27-24 overtime loss to the Cowboys at home Sept. 18.
Can they keep this up? The 2009 team also began 3-1 only to lose the next four and five of six on the way to an 8-8 finish.
“I told them the other day they’re good, and the longer it takes them to figure that out the better off we’ll all be, because when people start thinking they’ve arrived that’s when they stop working and doing the things that got them there,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll keep pretending we have a long way to go, and we do. We don’t have to pretend.”
Next up is a talented Tampa Bay team that will come West in a short week after playing at home Monday night against the Colts.