49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh chatted with the media on Monday and the most intriguing bit of news to come out was that Frank Gore is not 100%. That isn't exactly shocking, but it was still interesting to hear Coach Harbaugh say something.
In a brief stretch he was asked about Gore only getting two carries after his third quarter touchdown. He said he did not have an answer. That was followed up with a question as to whether Gore was healthy. In response, Harbaugh said "He's got some things. He's not 100%. We have other backs that got carries in the second half."
Given the relatively tight-lipped nature of Coach Harbaugh, this is about as expansive an answer as you are going to get. Of course, it still leaves plenty of room for speculation. People have suggested several possibilities:
1) Gore was legitimately banged up and just couldn't be given a ton of carries; and/or
2) He could have played the whole game but the team wanted to rest him more with playoffs in mind; and/or
3) The team wanted to try and give Alex Smith more throws to see if he could handle an increased workload.
We're never going to know the truth because Coach Harbaugh will not come right out and say it. Let me correct that. He might say it, but given the way his press conferences go, we might not actually know if he's said it. That's fine and just gives us more to chatter about.
Head after the jump to read a transcript of Jim Harbaugh's comments and also view video of the press conference.
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
Press Conference - December 12, 2011
San Francisco 49ers
After just reviewing the game and sleeping on it, what are your thoughts the day after about where things went wrong?
"There's a lot of thoughts. There's thoughts about what went right. A lot of things."
You said after the game, your team hasn't dealt with a lot of adversity this year. What makes that loss more adverse than the two other ones that you had previously?
"They're all the same, really, in terms of how you feel after a loss. You're disappointed. I thought our guys played extremely hard. I thought they competed very well. There were missed opportunities. There's a lot of things that we address and then we move forward."
How do you deal with the adversity in getting the team prepared for the next game?
"You man up. With broad shoulders, you take accountability. You're rushing to take the accountability. Find each and every way to improve. Not just coming in and saying ‘hey, we're going to try to do better'. Find those ways and attack them."
You said previously that this was going to be a new experience for you, facing a same team the second time as a coach. It seemed from watching the game that Arizona in the second half had a good sense of what you guys were doing offensively. A lot of guys were covered up. Is that a sense that you had on the sidelines?
"No, in some ways I thought our team, you could break it down a lot of different ways, but I thought our team played better in a lot of areas. Defensively, we played the run even better than we did the first time. We were good on third down defensively. We had three big plays that really cost us in the game. First half of the game, Arizona had one first down and that was a touchdown. Offensively, we moved the ball and then didn't take as much of an advantage of turnovers, the opportunities in the red zone that we could have. For a lot of different reasons - tipped ball, better play could have been called, error in the protection. There are multiple thoughts that I had, multiple reasons. We'll address that with our guys. You want to have answers for your players when they come back and what they see. You get coordinated completely, on the same page, all 11 guys, especially offensively. And improve some of the areas where we could have taken advantage better. Special teams, I thought we did a very good job. Contained better on the return game. We had a big return. I thought we played pretty well overall. As a team, I thought there was situational football, a lot of opportunities to win the game the second time around and we didn't get it done."
Will you be contacting the league at all about any officiating concerns after watching the film?
"Yes. Any of the what concerns?"
Any concerns you may have about officiating?
How many games have you done that about before?
"I don't have a number for you. Games before. Maybe all after the game, yes. We turn in plays after the game."
With the red zone, do you guys need to find, for lack of a better term, a go-to person? Somebody that Alex can rely on and just really look to feed when you get in those situations?
"Based on the play called, the situation, that's all 11. We have to be on the same page, execute. Starts with us as coaches."
Do you have a roll in the red zone play-calling?
"We all do. Yes."
Will you look to take on more of a role, get more hands on when it comes to those spots?
"We'll be as hands on as we've been."
Against the Giants, Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman said it was almost in some ways comical how they stuffed the box, loaded up against the run. Is that unique? Since then have you seen teams do similar type things to try to stop the run or did the Giants do that the most?
"Have the Giants stuffed the box more than any other team that we've played?"
Greg Roman was just saying he'd never seen a team load up against the run quite like the Giants did. I'm just wondering, has that been common since then? Have other teams tried stuffing...
"A lot of teams are aware of our running game and they're scheming and attempted to stop the run, yes."
RB Frank Gore scored the touchdown early in the third quarter and had two carries after that. Why so few throughout the game and especially after? It seemed like you were getting something going with the run game.
"Why so few carries for Frank after..."
Why so few carries for Frank in general? There weren't a lot of carries in the second half.
"I don't have an answer for you."
Is he healthy?
"He's got some things. He's not 100%. We have other backs that got carries in the second half."
Have you guys thought about using RB Anthony Dixon in those short yardage situations?
Why hasn't that materialized yet?
"It hasn't. We know there's going to be criticisms. We know that there's going to be ‘Why's? What happened? What took place? Why didn't you do this? Why didn't you do that? Why didn't you throw the ball here? Who's your go-to guy?' and we're not going to talk about it. We're going to talk about it to our players, to our team. Make a real effort as we always do, every single day this is what we do, try to address problems and get them fixed. Smart guys. We've got those as coaches, we've got those as players and we'll work together to get them fixed, to improve."
This is where you want to be, right?
"Yeah, we'll take on these problems. These guys are strong men. They're strong-willed men. They're smart men. You confront them head on."
You've raised the expectations more with a 10-2 start. That's part of the deal, isn't it?
"That's part of the deal, no question about it. Our team's won the division. You're the hunted now, you're not the hunter as much. You've got a target on your back. People want to beat you. That's raised. Not saying it wasn't like that before, but that expectation, that bar has raised. We're in a position that we're in. We've got three games left and we control our destiny in terms of making the playoffs, positioning, momentum, the best it can possibly be for us. You talk about the game, it was well competed. I thought our guys were ready. They had an excellent week of practice. They fought very hard in this game. Made opportunities for our team to win this game. Never comes down to one thing. Never comes down to one player, one play call, one example. Just have to fight through and overcome. Yes, there are things we're going to turn in. We're going to ask about. Things that when you look at it and go ‘That really changed the course of the game.' [LB] Larry Grant gets called for a personal foul, roughing the passer, when he was cut. He got back up, hit the quarterback in what looked to be the thigh. OK. You understand that can be called. We had the same things happen to Alex. On the pass right before the fake field goal. Defender gets cut, he gets back up, lunges into Alex's knee. No flag. All those things lead to big swings. That would have been a first down, we still have the ball. Larry's penalty gives them a first down which leads to a touchdown. But it's not one thing. It's not one play. It's not one turn of events. Not one player, not one coach."
On the all 22, could you tell when the red flag came in?
"No, you can't tell when it came in on the all-22. When you see [P] Andy [Lee] rolling out, getting ready to throw it, you see the red flag out there. But you don't know when it took place."
You don't see when the flag was tossed?
On a good note, you mentioned Andy. He's on pace to have a record-setting year, not just for the team but for the NFL. In your whole NFL experience, including your playing days, where does what Andy is doing this year rank in your mind with what he's been able to accomplish?
"He's been phenomenal. We covered the punt extremely well yesterday. [Arizona CB] Patrick Peterson is an outstanding return man. When Andy could, he was punting the ball outside of the numbers and got that directionally punted multiple times. A couple times he had to beat the rush and ended up kicking it into the middle of the field. We covered it extremely well. Those were phenomenal things. The punt that goes inside the 1-yard line, that directly led to points. He's flipped field position. One time we were on the 13-yard line and punted and then they got the ball on the 13. Just a complete change in field position. He's been instrumental in this formula of winning games. Doing what it takes to win games. That formula was there yesterday and he was a big part of it again."
When did you realize [C] Jonathan Goodwin could catch a pass, run a route?
"This week. [Special Teams Coordinator] Brad [Seely] had the play concept. We practiced it. Actually, [TE] Justin Peelle is also involved in that progression, but Justin never got in front of Andy. He went to Jonathan, who really isn't the primary on the play, but it was a beautiful throw and catch. Well executed."
Obviously every time you go out there you want to win, but is there a positive that ever comes out of a loss in the sense that sometimes guys can get refocused and kind of say, now we have to dig down deeper, that kind of thing?
"Don't really get into what's good, what's bad. It's what you make of it. It's the situation. We don't control, any more, what took place Sunday or any time before that. But you do control going forward. Make of it what you will. Make the ‘what-ifs' irrelevant by how we handle it, how we attack it, how we go forward."
When [T] Joe Staley seemed to get hurt on the first play of the game. How come he didn't come out of the game at that point? Seemed like he played a good eight, nine, ten plays after that?
"How come? He didn't realize exactly how hurt he was."
There is supposed to be a protocol to look in to that nowadays.
"Yes, but you don't always know, as a football player, how dinged up you are. You guys say "protocol," big word. Encompasses a lot of things. Very nebulous. The player has got to show signs that he is hurt for the doctors, the trained professionals to see that. It's got to be communicated by the player and sometimes you don't know. You get something, you're trying to shake it off. You see that all time. When we realized it, he came out. I don't know how many plays it was after the first play that he came out, but it wasn't a half a dozen or so."
You do have people on the sidelines that are looking...
"Trained professionals, yes, that are looking."
How did Alex Boone handle being pressed into action on left tackle?
"Competed. Thought he did a good job. Definitely don't think there's anybody walking out of this thing thinking it was a dazzling performance on the offensive side of the ball. But, he did a very good job."
Can you talk about LB Aldon Smith? Seems like one of the frontrunners for rookie of the year.
"Yes, Aldon's continuing to grow and has been a very good contributor through that process. He's doing an excellent job. Competing hard, working hard, and his snaps have continued to ramp up. He's contributing. He's made plays."