49ers Harbaugh Reflects On The Super Bowl And Future
The last four plays are going to get scrutinized a long time, I’m sure. What are your thoughts after processing that for a day, maybe even more, about how that went were the right plays called in that situation?
“What my thoughts are now? We came up five yards short. Certainly, knowing how it ended up, how it finished, we didn’t get the ball in, yeah, would’ve liked to have tried a different play call, a different scenario. That’s the way I always feel. If you do something and it doesn’t work, yeah, would’ve liked to have done something different, at least tried it. But you can’t. The would’ve, could’ve, should’ve is undefeated. That’s never failed.”
They’re so good in the red zone and have been all season. Was it something that they were doing to take away QB Colin Kaepernick’s outside runs, those types of things that kind of pigeon-holed you in what you could call?
“They’ve been exceptional in that area of the field, 10-yard-line in, all season, and have been in the playoffs. That’s something they’re very good at. It was a cover zero, bringing the house. In the end, we felt our best way was to throw it in.”
In the two weeks of prep for the Super Bowl, did your offense practice two-point conversation plays against zero coverage with press corners?
“Yeah, from that distance. We didn’t say, ‘This is a two-point play against zero coverage, against zero and blitz corners, press corners.’ No, we didn’t say that, but we did practice that area, yeah.”
Did you put the ball at the five-yard line, saying, ‘We need a TD to win, a few downs to get it and script the Ravens blitzes and coverages?
“We did from those different yard lines, but not the, ‘This is the last play from the five-yard line from the left hash.’ No.”
And finally, did the special teams punt rush unit practice against the Ravens, taking a safety in the end zone?
“During the season, yes.”
During those two weeks?
“No, I don’t think we did that during the two weeks.”
What was your meeting with your players like today and are you sitting down with anybody individually as well?
“Yeah, met with the team and meet with guys individually.”
Have you met with QB Alex Smith yet?
“No, not individually.”
What’s the next step there?
“Well, the next step, we’ll have a discussion at some point.”
What do you consider the biggest issue facing the Niners this offseason?
“Well, I think probably the biggest issue is that going forward, we’ve had a lot of success here. We’ll even have a bigger target, teams are going to, especially in the division, they’re going to draft, they’re going to study us and want to beat us. So, continuing to improve, that’s our formula.”
How critical is this offseason for continuing your success?
“Well the thing next for our team is some R-and-R. I think our players, our coaches, have spent everything that they have at this point and take a couple of weeks to recharge the battery, but also thinking while we’re doing that on how to get an edge, what our edge will be, individually looking at ourselves and seeing how we can get better. I think that’s always the hardest lens to look at it through. Everybody’s going to want to have a lens to look at this season or look at this last game, or the final plays of the game. But our lens really has to be, and it’s the toughest one to look through, is ‘How can I improve?’ Accountable for our own edge and improvement in those areas. So, critical? Yeah, vitally, vitally critical.”
Alex Smith is under contract, but what may be best for him may not be best for the team. How will you work that out with him.. Has he earned the right to decide his future, regardless of the contract year?
“Has he earned the right to decide his own future regardless of being under contract?”
Do you feel personally and business aside?
“Yeah, I have great respect for Alex, great personal friendship, togetherness with Alex, and the team. We feel great about or quarterback situation and can’t have enough good quarterbacks. So, the question you’re asking is does a player have a…?”
Well, he had said he’d like to be a starter somewhere and obviously the team would like to keep him as a backup but he would like to be a starter. Do you think the team will grant him his wish if he wanted to be released?
“I don’t think any player has those wishes granted, that under contract. And everything is different. Every scenario is unique and certainly something that we’re not going to delve into and get into specifics at this point.”
LB Patrick Willis said that, ‘We’re a second half defense.’ The last playoff games, Atlanta and this one in the Super Bowl, was such a night-and-day contrast, offensive and defense performance. Anything that you can identify or look to as to why there was so much improvement in the second half and such struggles early on in those games?
“Well, we want to be a 60-minute team, a start-fast team, a finish strong team. You want to be about all those things. That’s the way we play and that’s the way we coach.”
This will be the last time for a while, so here’s a good one for you. There’s been a lot of discussion nationally about your behavior on the sideline during the Super Bowl. Have you considered altering it in the future?
“In terms of what? My etiquette? Is it an etiquette question?”
Yeah, acting out, etiquette, that kind of thing, sure.
“We fight to win. And if you’re asking does my personal etiquette need to be changed, more catatonic on the sideline. I don’t anticipate that happening.”
So you think the two goals are?
“I think it’s coached and played by emotional people.”
Do you think that there’s an advantage to be gained, though, by asking the refs, by being animated with the refs? Do you feel like calls might go your way, the more you press the officials on the sidelines?
“No, there’s no strategy there and in my feeling, unprofessionalism. I’m asking questions. And yes, sometimes it does get emotional. I think the game is played and coached by emotional people, like I said, and people do that within their own personalities.”
On QB Colin Kaepernick’s interception, it looked like WR Randy Moss stopped his route. He’s been criticized for not having a great effort on that. Is that a fair criticism? What happened on that play?
“I think the ball was thrown too high on that particular play.”
Just to follow up, again it looked like he stopped his route. What was Randy doing on that play?
“He was running a crossing route. I told you how I felt. I felt the ball was throw too high, it wasn’t catchable, and I think that’s one Colin would’ve liked to have back. But, Colin was fantastic in this game. He was fantastic the entire season. From the beginning, right to the end, I thought he played extremely well, coming right out of the box on the first throw, put it right in there for a big gain and made big plays the entire game. The stage was not too big for him. He competed at the highest level and played extremely well, showed a lot of poise, a lot of leadership throughout the entire game, can’t say enough, really. With Colin, it’s always just appropriate. He’s got the appropriate amount of competitive fire, when you need competitive fire. He’s got the appropriate amount of happy and joy, when it’s the right time to have that. He plays the game. You just really feel him playing the game. Upset when it’s the right time to be upset, and he does that with his own personality, and I really believe that’s how people should play the game. But iy’s genuine and it’s honest of a guy who’s just out there playing the game and competing.”
What did you learn about yourself and the team playing on the NFL’s biggest stage?
“When you look at what could you do better? Could we have played better? Was it our best performance? In some ways we’ll have regret there. It’s a tough loss. It’s a devastating loss to lose in that game, but when you’re down by 22 points and it’s 28-6, 90 percent of the teams will lose by 40. Our team clawed and competed almost all the way back and didn’t lose their faith, didn’t lose their will to compete and that’s something you couldn’t live with if that happened. So, forever proud of the way our guys do that. Somehow they found a way to overcome and then overcome again and overcome and that’s something you can live with.”
You talked about R-and-R for your players. How about for yourself? You just had the longest season of your coaching career. Do you have any plans for a vacation now?
“Yeah, I think everybody’s spent all they had. But, we’ll be definitely, while we’re doing that, thinking about, like I said before, how we can get that edge going forward.”
Last year, you guys were known for not making very many mistakes at all, playing very safe. These last two games it’s been an entirely different personality almost by the team. Going down 17 in Atlanta, 22 in New Orleans. How do you account for that just total shift in who you were at the end of this year versus who you were all last year and largely this year as well?
“Total shift in who we are? That doesn’t resonate as true to me. We’re a together team, we’re a team. We compete. We play hard. And I don’t see a total shift with our football team.”
Last season you guys had secondary coach Ed Donatell, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers came calling for him. You guys were able to retain him. And this offseason, do you anticipate similar situation? Do you think that you’ll be able to keep your coaching staff intact?
“I think that’s definitely a possibility. And it’s somewhat like players and free agents. When a team has a lot of success, there could be those situations. So, it’s not like the national debt where you can just keep printing money. They’re will be some big decisions by a lot of people, coaches, players, etc. But, one of our strengths is our togetherness. And there’s a brotherhood on this team. So, we’ll strive very hard to keep that going.”
S Dashon Goldson would like a long-term contract and I’m sure you can understand that. What has he meant and do you feel like he’s shown you what you wanted to see to perhaps consider that?
Do you want to elaborate a little more on what he’s meant?
“What he’s meant? Yeah. He’s somebody that I think that you reward. Plays every game. Can find the ball. You know that he’s out there. And opposing offenses know that he’s out there. And he tackles and does everything that you’d want a safety to do. And yeah, I feel like you reward those type of people. Who do you reward if you don’t reward those type of people?”
Will that be a priority for you? Is that fair to say?
“Yes. That’s very fair to say.”
Is DT Justin Smith getting surgery this week on his arm?
Is it today?
“No. This week.”
What’s the prognosis on that? When will he expect to be back full go?
“I think it’s months, two to three months, as a guess.”
Was that an issue for him at all in the Super Bowl? Did it get worse at any point? Or was it stable throughout the play?
“I don’t know for sure if it got worse or if it was stable. Hearing Justin and what he said to us and publicly, it was getting better throughout the playoffs. So, probably take a man at his word on that.”
Your brother called you the best coach in the NFL and noted what you’ve been able to accomplish the last two years here. What do you think you’ve done in the last two seasons and this season as well?
“Well, I think they’ve done a tremendous job. You look at what the Ravens accomplished this year and a lot of the adversity that their ball club went through. It was an incredible job of team on their part. They had a three-game losing streak at one point in the year, and really should have been four. And did an unbelievable job of team and leadership. So, you acknowledge that and that’s my brother. So, proud of him and happy for him.”
What do you think that you’ve accomplished?
“I don’t have that list in front of me right now. I know what our team’s accomplished. A great amount of winning. The great thrill of winning. And a team that understands that they played up to the hype. They played up to the competition at the game’s highest level. With winners, as it’s always the case, you feel half full right now. It’s a glass half full feeling of what you accomplished. But, I think that’s understandable and indicative of guys who are winners.”
Being the competitor you are, can you describe at all the difference between when you are a player and you lost the AFC Championship game, that disappointment and the disappointment Sunday? Just the different mentality from being a player to now being the head coach?
“They’re same. Really they hurt. They’re devastating. They’re tough. And I think everybody that plays this game, or coaches this game, believes that you give it your very best. That way you can look back and feel good about what you accomplished. And always to strive to do that. Make sure you have given it your very best, that way you can feel good about what you’ve accomplished. And I heard that from a coach. It’s from [former University of San Diego defensive coordinator] Dave Adolph. And I believe that.”
Are you looking forward to the scouting combine yet or the NFL Draft? Are you looking toward the NFL Draft?
“Looking toward it? Yes, two and a half weeks? Indianapolis Scouting Combine? Absolutely.”
Do you have a priority yet for what you might be looking for in the draft?
“Not that we would really delve into specifically. But, 49ers.”
What do you want to see from WR A.J. Jenkins when he comes back? When he reports for Mini-Camp next year, or this year?
“Well, like I said earlier, I think that the next thing for all the guys is getting some R-and-R. Recharging the batteries. And while they’re doing that, really start thinking about how they can get an edge. For receivers, same as quarterbacks, they’ve got to train and make sure they’re really training. And when they throw, really be throwing with a purpose and getting together. Just like the offensive line, and defensive line. And lifting and working and training with a real purpose. To have a career best year, that in mind. That the next year will be a career year for them.”
He mentioned he wanted to get bigger and stronger. Was that an issue in his rookie season that he just wasn’t big enough, physical enough, for what he was needed for?
“I think it’s a good goal for any football player.”
Has WR Randy Moss indicated he’d like to come back? Or have you had a talk with him on his future?
“Not since the game ended. But, I’m sure we will. Really not going to go through every single guy and the conversation with this guy, or that guy and what are the specifics. But, it’ll be a process over the next days, or weeks to have those individual conversations.”
He did mention at the Super Bowl that he wasn’t happy with his role as a decoy, that he wanted to be involved more. Was that ever conveyed to you from him during the season?
“Well, in a competitive way, yes. He wants to be involved and we’ve talked about it many times, the suggestions he’s made. And it’s all been positive. All been good.”
How would you characterize this team, this group of people. The guys that you’ve been coaching, how would you characterize their ability, their effort?
“Well, not to use character in the definition of character, but it’s a strong character team. And very talented. And they’re together. They are a team that’s very much a brotherhood here. And a joy to coach and work with. And look forward to the coming weeks and months because improvement is what we believe leads to success.”
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