This is a team coming off back-to-back heartbreaking playoff defeats. The 49ers lost a brutal overtime NFC Championship game to the New York Giants in January 2012, and then lost the Super Bowl after a game-closing opportunity in February 2013. The writer, Jason Smith, said:
For San Francisco, there's a bigger worry than its free agency moves. Mentally, it's a lot to get to the NFC Championship Game and lose, then get to the Super Bowl and lose the next season. I can't see San Francisco maintaining that mental edge that's needed over the course of the offseason, 16 more games and the playoffs to make it out of the NFC again. The Niners will keep playing the Super Bowl in their heads over and over, thinking, "When we get back this year, we're going to win it." Teams who do that look at their record in December and see 7-7.
While it is reasonable to worry about the mental side of things, we also know that Jim Harbaugh is no ordinary human being. An ESPN.com writer put together a brief feature on Harbaugh and how he has handled the 49ers Super Bowl loss. It's a really solid piece worth reading.
It didn't seem possible, given the intensity with which he worked his first two seasons in the league, but Harbaugh is more inspired, more hungry, more dedicated than ever, all because of those 5 short but significant yards.
This is a bit qualitative in nature, but I don't think anybody would be surprised to hear Harbaugh considers himself even further drive:
"You know, you have it or you don't have it," Harbaugh said. "It's good to assess at the beginning of every season, check to make sure you've still got that, and honestly, personally, I feel like I've got it more than when I first started this job two years ago. ...
"I feel more enthusiastic about it. I feel more energized, competitive. I feel more. I don't know why. I just do."
I can see how there might be a certain amount of mental exhaustion after two seasons of getting so close, but at the same time, Jim Harbaugh is unlike a lot of coaches out there. Coaches are driven individuals, but how many take it to the level of Harbaugh? I don't know how long he'll last in the NFL at his pace, but for now he is the right guy to get the team back and gunning this fall.