Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
Press Conference - December 17, 2012
San Francisco 49ers
How was that flight?
"I was sitting on the plane, now they've got the little TV that shows you the track of where the plane is over the United States and I figured out that they couldn't have sent us any further and kept us in the United States. It's as far as we could have gone. But good flight, happy flight. Guys were tired, they went right to sleep pretty much. A lot of plays, defense was out there 96 plays and 60 some in the second half. So they got some rest on the way back."
On your way back, are you able to start breaking down film and doing stuff?
Do you have it all pretty much done by the time you land?
"Yeah. Watched the entire game, offense, defense and special teams and work on Seattle. It's a pretty impressive thing. I've never been associated with a team like this, where the coaching staff is - it's like a work-station in the back part of the plane. The computers are on, nobody is watching movies and not a lot of sleeping going on. Really impressed with our guys the way they do that. And the players too, they had laptops and were watching the game in groups and then eventually fell off to sleep."
So when you're watching the film and the Patriots scored 28 points, were you worried?
"Well, when you really look at it, for the two and half quarters of football - whatever word you want to use, but it was pretty darn good defensively for us. And then the last five minutes of the game, the last two stops, two fourth quarter stops, very impressive by our defense. During the span where they were moving the football and scoring the points, we had our chances. We had our chances to get off the field, a couple plays in particular where we should have gotten off the field. It's a very good offense and they were making plays as well."
How much of the plane work last night - you say you guys were watching, was most of it looking back at this game or was some of it looking ahead to Seattle, maybe watching Seattle's game in some way, if you had access to that?
"Right, right, both. We had access to all of Seattle's games except for yesterday's game, as far as the computer was concerned."
What changed during that time when New England was scoring? What did your defense stop doing that it had done so well?
"I think everybody's first thing is that somehow if the other team moves the ball when they hadn't been moving the ball, that you were in some kind of prevent mode. Seems to be what you hear from the subject matter experts. That wasn't the case. We were playing football and they were and they were making plays and we had our chances. Like I said, like I described it."
You mentioned the number of snaps, that looked like a pretty draining game to play last night. Because of that, will you cut back on some things this week physically to prepare for this next game that's pretty important, given what you guys went through last night?
"Yeah, I think it's something to take a look at and probably implement. And I think it affected us during the game, especially the amount of plays and the tempo which they were running their offense at. It was tough playing in that stretch for our defense but very proud of the character of the team. I know we talk about that a lot, but to come back and get those two stops at the end really makes you feel good. Going into the game it was obvious both teams desperately wanted to win the game. Felt like both teams wanted to prove they were the better team. And you looked at the hitting that went on through the entire course of the game, especially early, but it was that way in the second half as well. Both teams really, really wanted to show that they were the better team. It was a great game, it was an exciting game, very competitive."
Do you have a sense of DT Justin Smith and how long he might be out?
"Yeah, but it's really going to be how he is today, tomorrow, Wednesday, before we know anything."
Has he already gone through the MRI process?
So it's not like a LB Parys Haralson thing where he's knocked out long-term?
"No, seems to be two different things."
How much has LB Aldon Smith benefitted from playing behind Justin?
"How much has he benefitted? A lot. I don't know exactly how much, but I know it's quite a bit and you judge that by the evidence that is there by the play of Aldon. Then, also the evidence of how much Aldon gives credit to Justin. But I think just even more so, you can see the respect that Aldon has for Justin and the way he listens to Justin, the way he just learns from him. So I would say a lot."
Given Justin's nature, character, how would you stop him from playing on Sunday? Could you stop him?
"I know exactly what you're saying. There's no truer football player than Justin Smith. He's just a football player."
How much do you think their run kind of coincided with Justin going out of the game? Do you think that had an impact on your defense, just not being able to have one of your big time leaders out there?
"Yes, somewhat. I thought the guys that came in, stepped in and did some really good things. [DT] Ricky Jean [Francois] did a nice job. I thought our guys stepped up. Really, the chances we had to get off the field, really didn't come from that position. We made some errors elsewhere. So yeah, it had an effect."
How much do you talk to your quarterback during the game and did you talk to QB Colin Kaepernick at all after the game was tied up? Did you go to him then?
"For any wise, inspirational words?"
Yeah, something coachable, coach speak.
"There's some talk but not much from me personally. I've always just let quarterbacks play their game and do less talking to them during the game unless there is something to say to him."
What could you tell him as a coach and former quarterback, what could you tell him about the snapping problems to minimize that happening again? What should he learn about that?
"Well, it's always the two people involved there, there's a center and a quarterback. You look at how each is taking that snap and delivering the snap and you get it fixed. It's really working with the center and the quarterback."
The fact that Seattle has QB Russell Wilson, you could argue a dual-threat type of guy, much the way Colin is, are they mirror images of each other? And how does that affect preparation for this week?
"I think they're two very good quarterbacks, they're different quarterbacks. They're not mirror images. Not too many quarterbacks I think that I could say are mirror images, even in the entire league. So anyway, the preparation for Seattle and their offense is a separate thing from our offense."
I guess I would only ask that because I would think some teams who have maybe more of a drop back in the pocket and stand still and throw type of quarterback might have a more difficult time, may not have seen the type of looks that he's going to give you in practice. But since you guys have Colin, he does those things. I'm just wondering if that makes it - if you've seen probably more of what Russell Wilson does on a daily basis in practice?
A couple of your guys said that was like a playoff game last night. And then going to Seattle in another primetime game, a chance to clinch the division. Is it good to be playing these games right at the end of the regular season right now? You hope your kind of peaking with these big games at the end.
"I think that could be a positive. Like I said, I think the thing that the players were feeling and probably anybody that was watching it was feeling was that there two teams that - two very good teams, two hard hitting teams, two teams that have a lot of pride in how they play, really came out to see who's better. And wanted to be better and wanted to win that game and it showed. This game will be the same, I really believe that. We need to prepare."
Do you expect to fill the final spot on the 53-man roster this week?
Have you already done it?
"No. Haven't done it yet."
Is there a timeframe on when you think you will do it?
"Yeah, we anticipate that we will do that by this week."
How much more have you seen Colin become patient and comfortable with himself? It seems like he's being able to check down more and he's just starting to feel more comfortable. Have you seen an enormous change? How much of a change from start one to start five?
"I wouldn't say enormous. I think he was poised, he had a great understanding of the offense from the very first time he went out and took a snap this season and then from the time he took his first start until now. Definitely the game experience, the playing play after play, exposes you to different situations. That's good for you, it's going to lead to improvement. I wouldn't call it dramatic improvement. I think he's been at a pretty high level."
Is it particularly good when he gets these kind of tests, I mean, the Bears defense on Monday night, at New Orleans with the crowd and then at New England? It seems like he's gotten thrown into the fire right off the bat.
"Yeah, sure, all kinds of scenarios - backed up, coming off your own half-yard line. He's seen those situations and every time our offense has been backed up inside the 10-yard line, we've moved it out for at least one first down. Red zone situations, come back after a turnover, come back after an interception, come back after having success with a quick scoring drive, a long scoring drive. He's been in a lot of situations - two minute before the half, two minute at the end of the game. All those things are, he's experienced in only four starts."
I heard your analogy last night about the train station, which was good. First of all, what was the name of the train station if you remember?
"Yeah, the Deerfield Station."
Deerfield Station, okay, and was there a moment like last night when you're--
"At the corner of Deerfield and Chestnut."
Thank you. Try to be accurate.
"But also, just every day here. A train will go by, probably, who knows? I don't even know how many times it goes by a day while we're out there on the practice field in a two-hour span. But, maybe it doesn't and you don't even notice it. Maybe you notice it once. I look up and watch our guys and nobody even looks, nobody even knows it goes by. They're focused on what they're doing."
Was there a moment last night in the game, other than the plays everybody will remember from that game, where you were standing on the sideline, you looked out and were like, ‘Yeah, these guys are doing this.' Was there a specific play you remember that maybe we didn't see, obvious, that just showed-
"Oh, handling the pressure and handling their business?"
Yeah, was there a play or two that maybe-?
"No, I wouldn't say a play or two. It's just, when it's all over and you think back during the game and just, that hit me that there's never a time with our team that you see the evidence that it's getting to them or that they're pointing fingers at one another. And, that's so easy to do. I mean, accountability for a lot of people is just naming names. His fault, his fault, his fault. Why didn't you do this or why didn't you do that? Or offense, defense, why can't you get them stopped? Why can't you score? Why'd you turn the ball over? I never see that with our team. So, the pressure to perform is great in this league at this level. And, I credit that to, I think we have excellent players that are, they're kind of in their prime of their career. They're at the experienced height but they're young. And they've been in those situations. They're young,experienced and kind of right in their prime."
You had mentioned last night that that last play on the blitz, the touchdown to WR Michael Crabtree wasn't designed to go there. So, is that even an option? Is that something that he's been schooled on. If it's a seven man rush, go to Crabtree? Or, did he just make that play on his feet?
"He's got that option. It's a quick answer option. He had off-coverage. We were calling that more to get [TE] Vernon [Davis] on the shallow crossing route. But he's got that option to take."
I have a question. I know we've asked several times on K David Akers this season. What's your feeling on him right now?
"The same as, these specialists, sometimes they only get four or five opportunities a game. You've got to make the play. We've got to see him do it. We've got to see him make those plays."
Will he still get chances? Is he still part of this team?
"Oh yeah, yeah."
I know you brought a couple kickers in a few weeks ago, but no thought on giving a change or anything like that?
"No, not at this time."
What do you think of the new San Jose State coach, he was your replacement?
"I apologize. I don't know who the new San Jose State coach is.
University of San Diego coach Caragher.
"Oh, Ron Caragher. Fantastic. That is great. When did that happen?"
About 20 minutes ago.
"20 minutes ago.
"Oh, wonderful, wonderful. Wonderful guy and coach. Bellarmine graduate. Gotten to know Ron really well.
How'd you get to know him?
"He replaced me at USD.
I know that, but I mean, you didn't cross paths there. He came in after you left right?
"Yeah, but I would stop back down there when I was in San Diego. Talked on the phone many times. Just through my players that were still there at USD. Like I said, when I would be recruiting in San Diego, I'd always stop by the trailer and see if anybody was there. Ron's been up here recruiting in the Bay Area when I was over at Stanford. We'd run into each other, yeah. Great guy. Great guy. Great family. His son, my son will be disappointed, he's friends with Ron's son. They go to the same high school. So, that's great. Great hire by San Jose State."
What are they getting as a football coach?
"Good coach. Winning coach. He's done a real nice job with that program."