We take a look at Jim Harbaugh's Monday press conference following the 49ers win over the Saints.
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
Press Conference - November 26, 2012
San Francisco 49ers
"Hello. Good to be back. And a lot of positives from this game. Like we thought watching the game live, one of the hardest-hitting games of the season, both teams. And proud of our guys in so many different areas. And ready to analyze it with them and move forward, and see if we can't get a little bit better. But, really proud of the win and the way our guys competed."
Any update on injuries, especially WR Kyle Williams? It looked like he might be out for a while.
"Well, we'll see. We haven't gotten the final report. And we'd wait until we get that before we brief Kyle and some of the others. It was a hard-hitting game. It took a toll."
Did he get it without getting hit or just kind of his foot just kind of stuck in the ground? Do you go back over that?
"Yeah, sure did. It appears that way. It appears that way before contact was made. Before hitting the ground injury."
I would imagine you don't-are you going to announce the quarterback for Sunday, or is that still something that you're going to decide throughout the week?
"Won't today. Won't today. As you know it's the players' day off. And will continue to consider it and wouldn't announce anything before we had the chance to talk to our players."
Just talk about what goes into this decision? Is it based on practices? Or is it based on the opponent? How are you deciding this, if it's a week-to-week thing? Or could you just determine it permanently?
"Fair question. I think it starts with this week, this game. What gives our team the best chance to win this game, like it would at any position. Further, fair question to ask what goes into it. And my answer is this - [QB] Alex Smith is our starting quarterback. He has not done anything to lose that job. In fact, he's playing at a very high level. Also, [QB] Colin Kaepernick, you can't categorize him as a backup quarterback because he's started games, and played very well in those games. So, in a unique situation you have two quarterbacks that are playing at a very high level. One's your captain. One's your starting quarterback. The other has played great football the last three football games. Both have a hot hand. So, it's unique and it's not unique to football. It's not even unique to our team. We have [RB] Frank [Gore] and [RB] Kendall [Hunter]. Last year you had [LB] Parys [Haralson] and [LB] Aldon [Smith]. It's not unique that it's shared. This season the quarterback position has been shared. And at the end of the season you'll look back on it and say, ‘that was shared.' So, I think the thing that's best for us, we've got two good guys."
With that position specifically, do you need to make a call on this guy is our guy, like you did with Alex from the beginning of last year?
"Well, they're both our guys. They're our guys."
You're the star. You're the guy who's going to get the snaps in all the important situations at the start of the game, at the end of the game?
"Yeah, and it takes place before that. It takes place during the week as you determine who gets the majority of the reps. You want the guy that's going to start the game and play the majority of the game to get the majority of those practice reps. So, it's not so much determined in practice. Like, hey it's an open competition out there on Wednesday because you kind of have to go a direction and make sure that that guy, that quarterback is going to get the majority of the reps. The other situation that I think will probably be different than last week is we'll say who that quarterback is probably Wednesday. And the biggest reason is so our players aren't all pressured to, ‘who is it?' Everyone hammering them for the information. So, I think in my mind that's the direction we'll go."
You mentioned earlier getting better and you've also talk about that often. After seeing the tape, in what ways do you think Colin got better from the Bears game to this game? Or did he?
"Well, I think first and foremost, just great in terms of his personal development and for our team to play in a really hostile environment in New Orleans. It was loud, loud there. Against a team that is fighting for their playoff lives, just like we're fighting for our playoff lives. And both teams just poured their guts out in that football game. A real road playoff atmosphere. And I thought the improvement was there just that he was there. Just that he was playing in that game for him and for our team and acquitted himself very well."
You gave him an A++ for the first game. What would you give him on this one?
"Winning effort in a very, very tough environment. And I thought he made some outstanding plays, as did so many guys on our team. That gives me an opening really to talk, hopefully you'll allow me to talk a little bit about [LB] Ahmad Brooks, and the play that he made, the catch, to start with. And then finish it with the run. He just looked like he exploded off of that. The pressure we got on the quarterback of New Orleans. I heard some statistics, only a handful of times has he been sacked five times in a game. [DT] Ray McDonald getting push. [DT] Justin Smith getting push. Aldon, Ahmad. Again the two inside linebackers played extremely well. How do you know if you're a good defense? You tackle. How do you know if you're ready to play in a game? You tackle. And in this game, like the Bears game, there might have been a missed tackle. There might have been two. Haven't gone all the way through it. But, like in the Bears game there was one missed tackle. Also, there were no missed tackles that allowed yards after the catch. So, every time we had a chance to contact a receiver after he caught the ball there was no yards after the catch. That's huge. Especially when you're talking about a guy like [RB] Darren Sproles having the ball. Not to mention [WR Marques] Colston and the others and [TE Jimmy] Graham. But, it wasn't always picture perfect. [S] Donte Whitner gets Sproles down in the open field. It almost looked like he was going to squirm loose from it. But, Donte found a way to get him on the ground. And then you saw Aldon make the play at the boundary where he flipped over the top of him and just stayed with him. Contorted his body and made a tremendous play. [S Dashon] Goldson, Whitner again, excellent tackling. So, really, really, really pleased with that. Offensively, thought there are some things we can improve on. We took some big yardage chunks off our side of the ledger with calls that were made. Not just the penalty yardage, but it was the play that resulted from them. But, no drive bigger than the one to get the field goal toward the end of the game, nine-and-a-half minutes, 16, or 15 play drive. When you need it most. Also the big drive coming out in the third quarter. And a really good drive at the beginning to put the first points on the board. In a clean drive when you're not making penalties or mistakes. It really shows what our offense can do."
You mentioned that Alex hasn't done anything to lose his job. How understanding are you of his situation? He was 13-3 last year, went to the playoffs, then 7-2, gets hurt and then doesn't start. How much of your feelings go to him in this situation?
"The position that you're in, I understand that part of it. I understand the position that you're in because you're asked - the guys will be hammered. You'll go to Colin, you'll go to Alex, should you be the starter and he's got no good answer for you. He says, ‘yes I should be the starter,' and we're talking about either one of them, ‘yes I should be the starter.' Then you look like you're just building yourself up. And if you say no, then they hammer you, you don't think you should be the starter. And then the people that say, so called subject matter experts that talk about, you should be making a fuss about it or a stink about it, shouldn't be that accommodating. Sends the completely wrong message to me, for any young athlete that's out there or high school athlete or quarterback, where their coach is trying to tell them it's about the team and it's about us all working together. So, that one gets me upset. That's not what our two guys are about. They're great team guys, they're great example guys and we need them both. The other thing I don't relate to is, the situation that they're in because both have played extremely well. Not to delve back into my own personal history, but who's going to start at quarterback this week, my experience has been, both guys were struggling. Myself and somebody else were struggling at the time and it's like who's struggling less, we'll start them this week. This is a unique situation to my own experience because both have played extremely well."
LB Aldon Smith is six sacks away from tying Michael Strahan for the all-time NFL record. How cognizant are you of that? How much would you want to see him get there?
"We're always happy for the other guy's success. The thing that really gets you excited when you start talking about the history of the game or the history of the franchise, that's something that's accomplished by very few people or very few units. Happy for Aldon, happy for our defensive unit, happy for that team effort that those men have done on that side of the ball. It's really a team thing too, if you were to break it down to its fundamental core. It's that team that puts you in the situation that you can have that kind of success. Proud as heck, proud as heck for Aldon and let's keep on trucking."
I don't know if you remember when Strahan got his final sack, to get that, Brett Favre laid out and sort of let him have it. I don't imagine you would be in favor of that type of thing, I would suspect you would want him to get it a little more organic way. What is your thought on setting things up so he can get the record?
"I think I've told you what I think of team effort and records and it doesn't need to be compared with anything that happened previous years or with previous great players. I mean you're talking about great players that accomplished great things. It's great to be mentioned with that, but I think I could speak for Aldon if I could for minute. Statistics aren't what motivates him, it's winning games."
You referenced earlier, your personal history, how did you handle that when you were in the middle of that, who's going to start this week? And if you were in Alex's shoes, playing well, as you put it, would you have handled it as gracefully as he has?
"He's a class act all the way. Team player, that's why he's been voted captain by our players. I don't personally like delving back into my past or comparing it to this situation. I know I made one reference, that doesn't mean I want to stand up here and peel the layers of the onion back all the way back to childhood. I think we've covered that ground, plowed that ground, the quarterback ground, as thoroughly as we can at this point. I know you're going to have one more [AP writer] Janie [McCauley] on that."
Have you made up your mind yet? And how much is this weighing on you every day or are you just waiting to announce it? Have you made a decision on it?
"That's something, that again, we do as a team. There's accord, consensus, I talk to our coaches and watch and re-watch the tape and think it through the best we can."
Is there some unfinished business with the way that St. Louis game ended and going there now this week? A lot of guys were not happy with the tie and probably want another chance.
"I really got a whole new light on unfinished business. I just think all of this is new business."
What's the new business with the Rams this week?
"The new business is, it's this game, this most important game because it's our next game. I just have really clear focus on that. It's not about unfinished business, it's about new business, getting prepared to travel well, prepare to practice well, prepare to go there and do what it takes to be victorious."
Was there a package that Alex could have gotten in yesterday's game? Was that a consideration or was it going to be all Kaepernick once he started?
"Anything is always a possibility. Wouldn't talk about what we would have done or what we would do. Everything is a possibility."
RB Brandon Jacobs was made active for the second time all year. The decision to have him active, was that predicated on Will Tukuafu being injured or was that just a decision you made, schematically?
"From a schematic standpoint."
Has he, in practice shown that he's ready to step in when called upon?
"Yeah and I think you saw him in the game. He had two carries where, one he really worked his way for about a three or four yard first down and we had a penalty on that play as well. So he's been doing some good things and showing some good things, yeah."
Is Alex's health not an issue anymore? Is that completely resolved?
"I feel good about that. Yeah, I feel good about that now."
Getting into injuries, specifically the positions, is there a good chance that WR A.J Jenkins and RB LaMichael James could see some active duty on Sunday?
"There's a good chance that there will be some new active guys on Sunday. Going to send that message to some of our young guys, some of our inactive guys that the opportunity is coming. And you say that every week to them, that you've got to just be prepared, be prepared. You'd rather be prepared for your opportunity and have it not come than have your opportunity come and not be prepared. To both those youngsters credit, and others who have been working extremely hard for their opportunity, you feel good and excited that a couple of youngsters will get that opportunity."
Speaking about those guys, how ready are they? How ready is LaMichael James to return kicks on a reasonably full-time basis if he had to? How ready is A.J. Jenkins to really take a load as far you can tell?
"I know what you just asked, but I was so mesmerized and dazzled by your voice right there. You have got a great voice. I lost my train of thought."
How ready are the young fellas, LaMichael James, I know we've seen him in preseason returning kicks and had some varying degrees of success catching the ball and all that. Do you feel comfortable if you had to put him back there to return those kicks, do you feel good about where he is with that? And A.J. Jenkins, do you feel good about his ability to contribute if he's thrown in there?
"I do. I do and I feel good about both those guys and a couple others that may get a shot as well."