49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh chatted with the media yesterday, and in an interesting twist, he spent the first five or ten minutes talking about Indy Car racing. Coach Harbaugh is part owner of the Panther Racing team and they had their car at the 49ers facility, along with driver J.R. Hildebrand. Hildebrand is from Sausalito, which is just north of San Francisco. The first portion of the transcript is interesting in the sense that it gives you some insight into Coach Harbaugh's interest in racing.
Coach Harbaugh got into plenty of football stuff as the 49ers prepare for this Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos. He confirmed that Colin Kaepernick is the number two quarterback and is on track to retain that role in the regular season. Harbaugh did state that it was a fluid and on-going situation, but I think most of us would be surprised if Kaepernick was not the number two at the start of the regular season.
Beyond that, it remains to be seen. He would not say whether Josh Johnson or Scott Tolzien would get the nod as the number three QB this Sunday. Johnson remains ahead of Tolzien on the depth chart, but that doesn't really mean much right now. Johnson was ahead of Tolzien prior to game one, when Tolzien got the nod over him.
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
Press Conference - August 23, 2012
San Francisco 49ers
"Hello. Doing great. Obviously, great to have the National Guard IndyCar here. Panther Racing, with owner John Barnes and Jane Barnes here. National guardsmen and women here today with us. It's a real honor and a privilege, and a pleasure to have the Panther team here. Many of the players have commented on the car, [DT] Justin Smith in particular, he likes it. It's a neat event for us today."
Are you going to get G Leonard Davis in the cockpit?
"No chance. There is no chance of Leonard Davis sitting in the cockpit of that Indy racing car. He darn near weighs about a third of that car. That car there, weighs about what about 1500 John [Barnes]? 1500 pounds, 700 hundred horsepower in that vehicle and Leonard Davis is close to 350 [lbs]."
Have you driven one of those in the past?
"No, I've done the passenger ride along, but I've never driven the Indy car."
How did you get into this stuff, the racing?
"I got into the racing and became affiliated as a part owner with Panther Racing in 1990-well really when I first met John Barnes and the Panther team, was around '94, '95 when I first got traded to Indianapolis where I signed with the Colts. Just went out to the track one day and was walking around and met John and his Pennzoil team at that time. They invited me back the next day. Then come to the race, and that kind of thing. The following year, kept in touch. John Barnes spearheaded the Panther Racing Team and the rest has been history. Twenty-eight wins and two championships later, it's been a great team, a real privilege to be a small part of that team."
Did you ever have a conversation with Joe Gibbs about racing?
Have you always been a racing fan?
"I've been a racing fan since my dad Jack Harbaugh took us kids and the family to a time trial in 1976 and [IndyCar driver] Tom Sneeva broke the 200 mile [per hour] barrier at that time trail. Ever since then I've always liked the Indianapolis 500 and the racing. That was the big sporting event that was always on, late May, Memorial Day. Seemed like that was the best thing that was on in May. So I'll always watch that every year. Then when I went to Chicago to play with the Bears, a good friend of the team there was Cap Boso [Casper Boso], who was from Indianapolis, went to [Bishop] Chatard high school, grew up in Indy. He used to always talk about Indianapolis and how great Indianapolis was. Went back to a couple of the Indy 500's with Cap and some of his friend, and got to see what Indianapolis was like during the month of May. It was just a month-long ramping up to the Indy 500. It was a spectacular thing. Then to be a part of the team and be in the pits for an Indianapolis 500, I still believe it's the single-greatest moment in a sporting event that I've ever been a fan at or watched, observed, the start of the Indy 500 and pretty much every one of those races. Great privilege to be able to be a part of that and watch it up close. And learn a lot too from the team dynamic at Panther Racing and John Barnes as a leader, how he runs his unit. Carry a lot of that over into coaching and what we do here with the San Francisco 49ers."
How many speeding tickets have you had in your career?
"Speeding tickets? A few."
I'm just curious. Sometimes people who like racing like to drive fast.
"I've had a few. I don't know how many exactly, I don't think too many lately though. I'm matured."
Do you go back every year?
"Not every year. It's been - I think it's been two since [wife] Sarah [Harbaugh] and I have been back there. For a while there, had a long streak of being back there for the Indy 500, but haven't made it back for a year or two."
As a coach could you comment on how the pit crew, they all seem to kind of work in concert?
"Like a team! The team, the team, the team! There's no question that's exactly how they operate. They operate as a strong, united team. They're well drilled. They're in great shape. That whole dynamic-whether it's the pit crew, or the engineering of the car, the mechanics, the testing that the team does, the aerodynamics-everything about that operation is designed to get a mile an hour faster. That's just one thing that's been so profound to me, watching that. The way they chase that speed. The way they chase that point-zero-one percent improvement. That tenth of a mile an hour faster. That's been profound. I've really learned great lessons from that. We really attempt to do that here. That's one of our primary goals. How can we get better? What facet of what do, can we tweak and try to get a little faster? Where can we reduce drag? Where can we save time? Where can we be more efficient? Really, that's that whole operation. That's the whole operation of racing and they do it as a team. Everybody doing a little, it adds up to a lot. That concept is there. We win as a team and that's the way we approach things here with at 49ers."
This third preseason game - do you see this as the closest thing to the regular season as far as a dress rehearsal for your starters?
"I know that's often talked about. We approach this like we did the first two, and we'll do the last. Very similar in terms of how we prepare for it, our approach in all facets. They're equally the same."
Would you expect to play the starters longer,Into the third quarter even?
"Like we said the other day, it will be pretty similar to what we've done. Now, game conditions can dictate that. Who gets the ball first in the first half. How many plays you run. Are there three and outs or are there long drives? Do you get 20-25 plays in the first quarter or the first half combined? If not, then we're probably looking into going into the third quarter with some of our guys. Things like the opening kickoff dictate how many plays each side of the ball would get. Then, factors after that - turnovers, or three and outs, or long drives. That's our approach, it won't be dissimilar to what we've done the first two games."
When you look at Broncos QB Peyton Manning now these last couple of preseason games, do you see a difference between him and Peyton Manning of the past? Pre-surgery Peyton Manning.
"I don't like to make comparisons."
It's the same guy.
"Yeah. Past, present, no comparisons, even that kind of comparison."
What challenges does Peyton Manning present to your defense? Is it a nice test for your team to have, to face him?
"We're facing their ball club, and they're a good team. Solid on both side of the ball. Mainly in a preseason game there's going to be a lot of things that we're going to be trying to get done as it relates to the regular season. That's a lot of the work that we do during the week, and things that we'll get done and accomplished in the game will be toward situations that we'll be in in the regular season. So, we really don't focus as much on opposing players or even opposing teams as much as we will in the regular season."
Do you think Peyton Manning has something to prove?
"Does it matter what I think in that regard? I don't think so. I don't see the relevancy of what my opinion is on that. Don't think it's relevant at all to our situation here."
Did you game plan for the Broncos this week?
"Somewhat. Yeah, definitely, like we did last week. Like we did the week before. It's just in an amount that's not the same as the regular season."
Will your quarterback rotation remain the same?
"We'll see. Definitely with [QB] Alex [Smith] and then [QB] Colin [Kaepernick] and then we'll see how it plays out after that."
You've mentioned Colin Kaepernick has emerged. Is he your number two guy?
"Yeah, he's the number two quarterback."
And that's carrying into the regular season?
"Well, yeah. Everything's fluid and ongoing. But as of today, right now, yes, that's the way it stands."
Did you have a say in the Panther Racing number 4, as it was your jersey number when you were playing?
"No, I didn't have a say in that. But that was just something that the team, I felt honored by and they honored me by putting that number on there. That was a really neat thing, a gift that [Panther Racing owner] John Barnes and the team gave and I'm very proud that that's the number."
Did you grimace, I guess with all of us, when the team was a quarter or a lap from winning the Indy 500 a couple of years ago?
"That was a tough break. And [Panther Indy car drive] J.R. [Hildebrand] made the decision that only these guys can make. I don't know the hundredths of seconds that they have to make decisions, but there's nobody better in the world that these racecar drivers in making quick decisions. They're really like modern day gun fighters when you watch them up close and all that they have to do in the cockpit and behind the wheel of that car. It was just a tough break. But just forever proud of the team and that the team was in that position that they were in at that part of the race. They're always fighting. They're always climbing. They're always doing a tremendous job and it's really about the people that they have working in the organization and the leader, John Barnes. Just proud and now we'll move on and be excited for the fellas this week when they race up in Sonoma."
Has RB Brandon Jacobs done enough to earn a role when the regular season gets here?
"Yes. Yes he has done enough."
When you came back from an injury when you were playing was there an extra chip on your shoulder, just going back to the quarterback position, was there more to prove?
"The neat thing about these guys, these professional football players, and always felt this way as a player as well, is that they're not the ordinary people that are out there walking around. They're not the ordinary people that go into a doctor's office and are seen and evaluated with a leg injury. They are different. They're some of the world's most perfectly formed men. They take pride in getting back in half the time that it takes other people with the same injury. They're in tremendous condition. There's just a real pride about getting back onto the field and confidence that your body's going to be able to just heal faster. A lot has to do with the doctors and the medical staff, there's no question about it. But I think there's something about these 49ers. They seem to heal in half the time as the rest of the population."
With guys playing two positions, does that give you more roster flexibility, especially when you look at the depth of the roster?
"Sure does. Yes it does."
"He has gleaned, which is so much, just on the subtleties of kicking. The details of a true professional, probably one of the best to ever play the position and he's taken full advantage of it. He's done just what he should be doing and that is being in David's hip pocket, asking him questions, watching every stroke that David puts on the ball, every conversation that David has with the holder and the snapper. He's been a sponge in that regard. He has grown exponentially. The steady improvement plus the inflection point that we saw the first week into training camp. He is an outstanding kicker and a lot of that has been being around David and Brad Seely this offseason. You have just seen it. You've just seen how much improvement. He was already good to start with, with good tools. He's a long way from being a carpenter, but he's a lot closer now after spending this time with David Akers."
You are a big baseball fan, are you surprised to see a couple positive drug tests in a week's span? I know it's not your sport, but you follow the sport really closely and there are two right here in our backyard.
"I just don't know anything about it. I don't know enough about it to comment intelligently on PEDs. I don't know anything about them. I really don't."