These past few months the San Francisco 49ers have gotten more national media coverage than they have the past few years around this time, because of one simple fact: 13-3.
Anytime a team goes from 6-10 to 13-3, you can expect a jump in media coverage, especially when it is a team who hasn't been to the playoffs in nearly a decade prior to this past season. There have been many stories about our tough defense, our struggling offense, our improvements to come, but the overall media perception (supported by various statistics-running groups) is that the Niners are due for some serious regression this upcoming season.
The negativity varies, some expect us to fall as far as 7-9, losing the division to either Seattle or Arizona However, I would say that most have agreed on approximately 9-7, with us barely squeaking by into the playoffs, whether that is a division win or a wildcard spot. They have all matter of support evidence, they say. Look at this history of teams who made a 7-game jump from one season to the next, see how far they fell? Look here, at the teams who had a great turnover differential in a season, and look at the next, see how drastic is changes? The nature of the National Football League is changing: You can't win without an elite Quarterback, and Alex Smith is just not elite. These are the things you hear, I'm sure nothing I've said has surprised anyone thus far.
There is however, one factor that the media and statisticians have failed to weigh properly, however, the reason that the 49ers are headed for a repeat of last years dominance: His name is Harbaugh.
James Joseph "Jim" Harbaugh is the Head Coach of the San Francisco 49ers, and if you are a 49ers fan, I really doubt I hit you with a big shocker in telling you that.
What you need to know about Harbaugh, however, is that he doesn't do regression.
Jim Harbaugh's Head Coaching career began with the 2004 San Diego Toreros, where he posted an impressive 7-4 record in his first year as their HC. In 2005, he improved his team's record to 11-1, claiming victory over the Pioneer League in which the University of San Diego plays. In 2006, he repeated the record of 11-1, once again claiming victory over the Pioneer League (see, Josh Johnson).
After 2006, Jim Harbaugh's coaching caught the eye of some more competitive colleges, and he was hired on as Stanford University's Head Coach for their 2007 season. Harbaugh's first season with the Stanford Cardinal was far from perfect, but it was an improvement. In 2006, Stanford was 1-11, 2007: 4-8. From there, Harbaugh did what he does best: Improve his team. 2008, 5-7; 2009, 8-5; 2010, 12-1. From there, we as fans know where Harbaugh went.
Now we are near to beginning the 2012 Season, with our first Preseason game coming up in two days. Last year, Harbaugh led the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game, where they narrowly lost in overtime. expectations are high from the fans, but the general media perception is our great fall back down from the glory of last season. Well, prepare to eat crow, media. Jim Harbaugh doesn't do regression. I'm not saying that he's perfect, that the Niners will sweep the NFL and crush everyone on our way to our 6th trophy (though I think its possible). I do however think that we see improvement, and it will be largely because of our great Head Coach.
Join with me in the confidence of another great year to be a San Francisco 49ers fan!
Who's got it better than us?