49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh held his final press conference of the week before his NFL head coaching debut and you could tell some folks in the media were looking for the random little side stories with some of the later questions (what time alarm is set, what goes through his mind during the anthem). I'd imagine he is going to be pretty fired up.
He was asked about some of his motivational tactics, including the blue shirts players were tweeting about earlier in the week. He's kept things relatively quiet as far as the tactics he has employed. At the start of camp he had assigned lockers switched up so it wasn't just position by position. All these things are meant to try and build some level of camaraderie and pride. We've seen motivational tactics go awry in recent years, so we'll see what kind of response he gets.
When he runs out on the field with his team on Sunday, the question now is if he'll look to fire them like he did before the Stanford-Oregon State game last year. Notice how he sort of falls/gets knocked down amidst the excitement.
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
Press Conference - September 9, 2011
San Francisco 49ers
How do you feel about the week's practice and the preparedness of the team?
"I feel good. I feel like we're prepared and we're ready to play, and the biological clock has clicked and ticked and now it's time to play."
Will you be the voice in QB Alex Smith's ear in the game?
Why you and not the QBs coach?
"That's just the way we are going to do it."
Why didn't you do that for the first three games of the preseason?
"No reason. Just tried it one way and we are doing it this way."
What do you like about that? Are you able to give him more than just the play call during that 25 seconds?
"Sometimes. Sometimes, yeah."
Will you sometimes give the play call? Is that part of it that you will share play calling duties with Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman?
"Yeah, there will be times."
What really attracted you to S Donte Whitner during the free agency period?
"His play. There were other things too. Just the kind of pro he is. All the reports we investigated. Top flight pro. Thought he'd be great in that room, and it would help our football team. Those reasons. And it's always done with that priority in mind. Is it good for the football team? Does it make us better?"
Did you peg him as a guy who could make your calls right away?
"Did we peg him as a guy?"
"We felt like that would be the case. That at least one of the safeties, and we like to have both, and at least one of them has to be making calls, or communicating. In our system both do that, so."
Are you going to be kind of counting on Donte Whitner back there to kind of hold things together because he has some talent and some experience here in the secondary, but at this point, it's like you're not going to have a player that even started one game in the secondary last year that's going to be starting on Sunday. So, do you need a guy like Donte, one guy to kind of be the glue back there right now while you guys are all coming together?
"Well yeah, you strive to have them all. They are all working together. They're working in tandem. They're working in trio. They're working four, and sometimes five, and sometimes six. They are working together back there, so it's important that they are all on the same page, and that they are all communicating. That's important on the backend. Definitely he is exceptional at that, and we have other guys like that. One thing is just that group, along with the offensive line, and other units, need to play well together. And that will be an important unit in this ballgame.
Based on what you saw this week, is WR Michael Crabtree ready to make a contribution on Sunday?
How do you go about in the course of a game figuring out which of those receivers, how to use them in different roles?
"Well, we just go about it. It's part of the plan. It's part of the scheming of where one receiver helps you, where two guys, what combination of two, or three or four is best for that particular play, that particular situation. That's part of the scheming of it."
Do you run in to any sort of situations where by playing four guys, does the receiver gets better the more he's on the field and able to set up cornerbacks, or can you mix and match guys and be effective?
"I think you can be effective both ways."
In terms of motivational tactics, how much of what you did at Stanford can carry over to here at the NFL level? Like for instance, the blue work shirts for example. It's something you did at Stanford and are doing here this week. The players seem to like it a lot.
"Yeah, I like it. I love it. And they seem to love it too. You see the guys wearing them. It's not real complicated, what it stands for. The motivational symbol, if you will, is pretty obvious."
Do you have like a motivational handbook that you consult for both Stanford and here?
Is RB Kendall Hunter your kickoff returner Sunday?
"Yeah, he's one of them. He's in the mix, yes."
After watching the exhibition, what do you think of the 35 yardline stuff? Do you want teams returning against you? How are you going to play? What's your observation on that?
"No observation for this year. You're kicking off from the 35 yardline. The kicks are going far. You have to make a decision with a cool head to bring it out or to leave it in. Sure love to, if you can get out of the back in the end zone."
It's interesting you're going to put a rookie back in that situation. You must be confident.
Some people didn't think we'd see a return for a touchdown, we saw one last night. So, apparently that can happen.
"Still a viable part of the game."
Jim, you had said that your dad has been the biggest influence in your coaching career, just give me two or three aspects that you learned from him that you bring with you to the practice every day.
"Two or three, that'd be tough because there are literally thousands. That's been my role model. My best friend, the guy that has been the person I talk to most about football, other than the coaches here on our staff. He'd be next of people that I talk football with the most. He's always got great advice. I lean on him a lot and ask him a lot of questions. Also, just the example that I've been watching for the last 47 years."
Is he as detailed a coach as you are? Does he use his whistle as much as you do? Did you get the idea that you're a players' coach from him mostly?
"He's one of the all-time greatest coaches in the history of the game in my opinion. If I'm going to compare me to him, I'd say I'm probably half the coach he is, but I'm trying."
Coach you signed a couple of new guys this week, early in the week in LB Tavares Goodwin and QB Scott Tolzien, do you expect either of them to be up for the game or are they not immersed with the playbook?
"Yeah they could, they could be. We'll make that decision today and tomorrow."
What do you like about Tolzien?
"I liked him in the eleven on eleven from college, a winner. I liked his mind. I liked how smart he was. I liked him when I went to the combine and there was nobody out on the field yet, but he came out early and was out there throwing the ball around. He was there every day throwing to the backs or to the receivers. He was there on the quarterback's day. He was always the first one out of the locker room just throwing balls, must have been for four to five hours. That's what I noticed first, what I first noticed, first really liked. Liked his tape, liked the way he gets the ball out quick. Liked the way he played against us the other night. Wanted to sign him, thinking hard about drafting him in the draft and then he was a priority free agent signing for us, but we weren't able to get it done. We got him now."
All three of your QB's have had high Wonderlic scores, do you pay attention to that or are you gauging that intelligence in other ways? You had mentioned that about Mortensen (one of his former quarterbacks at University of San Diego) the other day as well. How do you ascertain their intelligence?
"Book smarts, street smarts, savvy play as a quarterback. Some can be tested, you mentioned the Wonderlic, there's how they've done in school. Talking football with them, give them a little test, a little football test, an IQ test and then watch them play. Talk to their coaches, how they'd play and what they can handle. Test then and try to ascertain that the best you can."
Jim, in terms of overall progress, how far do you think this team has come since you guys all met in June or July?
"I think they've come a long way. Can't really put a percentage on it or anything like that, but they've come a long way. They're ready to play football and it will be great to find out just how far we've come and how far we're at come Sunday."
Jim, the stats indicate that from Alex's first five games from last year and his final six games he played in, he was a much better quarterback. When you look at film of him, do you see that? Do you see a much different quarterback at the end last year?
"Well, I mean last year, the year before, he's played a lot of football and he's been a starter, been a very functional starter in the National Football League. Like all of us, with challenges in front of us, we're working to get better. He's good and he wants to be better and best, and we start that journey. We start that journey on Sunday. Plan, prepare and saving, working to get better. Not so much at looking back, as looking forward."
People seem to be waiting for him to take the next step, but it appears as though he has...
"He's already taken a lot of steps and we want more. We want him taking more steps."
What's difference between the safety combination of S Donte Whitner and S Dashon Goldson and Whitner and S Madieu Williams? Whitner and Goldson, are they more interchangeable than the other two, Whitner and Williams?
"I wouldn't say that."
Not a more near distinction between a free and strong safety?
"Yeah, they're interchangeable."
All your safeties are going to be interchangeable this year?
"Yeah, I mean some things that some do better than others. I couldn't even give you a clear distinction right now or really compare or what combination to the other combination or really would want to."
What time are you waking up Sunday morning? What time is your alarm clock set for Sunday morning?
"I don't know, haven't thought about that yet."
Is your dad staying with you? Will he wake you up?
"No, I'll stay at the hotel with the team. Dad, you can stay with me if you want (as he pointed to his father, Jack, who was sitting in the back of the press conference). He will probably be staying at the house."
During the National Anthem, especially on Sunday, what goes through your mind? How do you use that time during the National Anthem?
"By looking at the flag and making sure the team is looking sharp and standing straight. Concentrating on that basically and respecting the flag and National Anthem. That's pretty much what's going through my head."