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Jim Harbaugh Monday Press Conference: We Get A Little Color

49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh chatted with the media yesterday and there was a certain spring in his step that a big victory brings. As usual he didn't get into a whole lot of Xs and Os discussion, but he did get a chance to discuss plenty more off-the-field stuff. While he doesn't really give the media much to work with, when he gets questions that get a little more personal and a little less football, Harbaugh seems to open up a bit more. As Michael Erler tweeted, Coach Harbaugh seems to open up a bit more when personal questions are asked.

For example, we got to learn about the origins of the "Who's got it better than us? Nooo-body!" end of game chant. It was something that went on in his house when he growing up in Iowa.

The line of the day had to be when he was told it was hard to get to know him. His response: "I'm moody and complicated." That just about covers it. While he won't tell the media a whole lot of much about the Xs and Os and performance of the team, there is something highly entertaining about his relationship with the folks asking him questions on a daily basis.

He did have a chance to respond to a question about how more and more positive stuff is being written about the team:

"...I'm starting to get the feeling there's too many nice things coming our way here. My coach in college said ‘When people start talking nice about you, kick them in the shins.' So let's stop. Let's stop you know-we got to get back to work here and start concentrating on this football game. You feel exposed when people are saying flowery things about us."

Was that flowery?

"Yes. We'd rather prefer that all that is written is written against us." 

You suck. Is that OK?

"Thank you. Thank you, yes. Go back to yourselves. Let's go back to the list of everything that's negative. Play the negative-quiz show."

If you missed the press conference yesterday, I've posted the transcript after the jump, but I'd suggest watching it at The words are great, but this is one time where I think hearing him say everything and seeing his reactions adds something extra. Well, watching it always adds something extra, but in this case, it's something a bit more valuable.

Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
Press Conference - October 3, 2011
San Francisco 49ers

Listen to Audio I Media Center 

Opening Statement

"Good to be back. Good to be back in the Bay area."

How was the plane ride back?

"It was good. That was a fun plane ride back. The fellas enjoyed themselves and it's just a great feeling, great thrill of winning, great thrill of victory, wonderful feeling of winning." 

We hear you sit with your players and give up your first class seat.

"Yeah, I don't feel comfortable up in the first class. I'm a coach guy." 

You're a coach coach?

"Coach, coach." 

What do you do back there? We like to know. What do you do back there in coach, coach?

"I watch the tape on the laptop. Walk around, talk to the fellas. Watched a little bit of a movie. It was a long trip." 

Who did you give your first class seat to yesterday?

"[C] Jonathan Goodwin. It's not a big deal." 

It's very interesting. Part of what we do is try to get to know the coach. You're very hard to get to know, you may not know that.

"I'm moody and complicated." 

CB Carlos Rogers told us this morning that you've chatted with the team and told them about growing up, in at one point in your life in a 1,000 square-foot house and sharing a bedroom with your brother. Could you tell us a little about it? We'd love to know.

"There's just a little saying around the house that my dad would always use that was ‘Who's got it better than us?' and we'd all respond ‘No-body'. We could be driving in the car or whatever we were doing; he'd say it and we'd respond ‘no-body' and we really thought that. We didn't think there was anybody else that could possibly have it better than us. Then as you get older you realize that other people do have it better than you do. Like in the case of the house, it was a really small house. I had a chance to go back there and look at it when I was scouting players at the University of Iowa and it's like two bedrooms, three kids, mom and a dad, living room, kitchen, all was the same. I don't know how many square feet it was, but I just looked at it and thought ‘This is the smallest house I think I've ever seen.' but we didn't think so as kids. My dad would say ‘isn't this great, you and your brother get to share the room. You can talk philosophy; you can share each other's dreams. Who could possibly have it better than you two guys?' So we thought nobody! That was kind of the idea. Sometimes you'd walk out of the house and there'd be a car there and sometimes there wouldn't. When there wasn't, hey, we're walking today. Get the basketball and start dribbling it. As you look back on it, I think the message there was that not having things handed to you, things that don't come easy are really the blessing. Because you have to overcome some things and if it's harder, then it makes you better in the long run. I told them that I really wanted to be a major league short stop growing up. I had a glove. I had baseball diamonds to play on. Kids down in the Dominican Republic were making gloves out of milk cartons. I didn't stand a chance to be a major league shortstop. Those guys had to overcome so much more that made them better players in the long run. So we just try to find ways to make it harder on our selves. How can we make things suck more?" 

Are they sucking enough now?

"We're getting there, we're getting there." 

Do you tell your players, then, this story to let them know that it's not a bad thing to have to overcome whatever they're overcoming? Is that the point?

"I think that's the point. 

Finally, where was this house? In what town?

"Iowa City. Talwrn Court I believe was the name of the street." 

Can you spell that for us?

"Not really." 

Can I make it up?

"You can make it up. T-A... there was a W in there somewhere. R-Y-N would be my best guess. I was only six." 

You talked philosophy with your brother at age six then? In the room?

"That's what my dad was selling, yeah." 

I guess you mentioned to somebody, you know the irony of 24-23 was the final score of Stanford over USC in 2007. Is there some kind of, for you, an echo there of a transformational win, a program changer that this could be?

"Yes, yes. Really not the kind of guy that thinks about the good old days or has remorse or regret about the past. Don't really think about it either way, that way. Always just thinking about planning, saving, working, preparing for the future. But, yeah there was a moment there when that ball game reminded me personally of that 2007 game, and the score was identical." 

This team has gone on the road and been close so many times and now two road wins. What's happening? What's the difference? Why are things working?

"People keep bringing that up, the record before on non-divisional road games, things like that. I guess we just look at that as that's for the people with the computers, people that like to look at the deep past of football history. We choose to look at it, we're 2-0, versus how do you say it? Non-divisional road opponents, not in our conference or division, something like that." 

Is there something this year that this team is doing to get over that hump?

"They're getting better, they're playing better. They're getting stronger, they're growing closer together. They're not where we want to be, but we're working at it. I told them the other day that they're good and the longer it takes them to figure that out, the better off we'll all be. When people start thinking they've arrived, that's when they stop working and doing the things that got them there. We'll just keep pretending that we've got a long way to go and we do. We don't have to pretend. That's what we need to keep doing, need to keep working hard." 

Is part of your task this week to sort of gauge the pulse of the team and make sure they don't get too high after this win?

"Yeah, that's one. It comes back to - you're getting better or you're getting worse, you never remain the same. We'll keep that blue-collar mentality." 

Both of these road games, your fourth quarter has been your strongest quarter. Is that a result of adjustments that were happening during the game or just persistence?

"I don't know what word you want to use. Relentless I like better than persistent. I feel like our guys are not doubting. They're not letting go. The game of football is in doubt until one side thinks it's not. Our guys are just playing the full 60 minutes and then some, and finding a way to win. There's no ‘getting scared' that I've sensed from our football team. They're believing that they can, and will, be successful and trusting that they're good and they're good enough, and plenty good enough." 

Would there have been a difference in the play-calling in the third quarter if you had gone into half-time down 10 as opposed to 17?

"Would there have been? I can't say that there would have been." 

RB Frank Gore says "as long as we follow our leader, as long as we keep believing in our leader we will be great." He's not the only one saying similar things like that.

"Yeah, we've got some great leadership on our football team and it starts with Frank. [DT] Justin Smith, [QB] Alex Smith, [T] Joe Staley, [S] Donte Whitner. I think the fellas are on the right track there. There are so many of those types of guys on our football team that are displaying that kind of leadership and courage that bodes well for us." 

He means you. He means follow our leader, Coach Harbaugh, and it sounds like most of the guys have bought into this. They believe in you and that you can take them to great lengths.

"Me? That's great to hear. I believe the team's growing stronger and it's growing stronger in its belief in each other and in ‘us.' We look at that as ‘us,' ‘ours,' our identity, who we are, how we do things, just the guys that you have and the ways you do things. I think our guys are growing stronger in that belief." 

You said that the team is still looking for your identity, 50 percent rushing, 50 percent passing. After yesterday's game, are you guys close to finding exactly what your identity is?

"I think we're getting closer. We're still growing, still part of the process." 

Coach, I remember when I first learned how to drive my parents wouldn't let me drive on the freeway for a good year, and even though I'd learned how to maneuver the car and all that. I think there's been a perception from the outside that that's sort of what you've been doing with the offense so far this year, guiding with sort of a careful hand, waiting to let it loose at just the right time. Is that an accurate perception, or no?

"Well, I can only speak for myself. My parents let me drive on the highway right away when I was 16, and probably two months later I got in an accident. I can only speak for that driving record. Maybe your parents were a little wiser. We're doing everything we can. The plan has always been to do the best we can this year. And we look at these games as 16, one-week seasons, and going into every game the only goal is to win those games." 

So you're not trying to be a little bit more careful with the offense so far, and you're saying it's just been strictly game situations specifically?

"Yeah, careful is not something we attach to our mentality. That's not a word we would use." 

How important is resiliency to the success of an athlete? And are you seeing that in Alex Smith?

"I think resiliency is really important. It's a very important thing to have. It's kind of like the guy in the movies who no matter what you do to him, blow him up, shoot him, knife him, you can't kill him. And he keeps coming back and bouncing back and those types of things. But, you prefer to be the guy in the movies that's the relentless guy, who's resilient and he always finds a way to kill you as well, or the enemy. So, that's where we'd rather go. We'd rather go from resilient to relentless." 

Are you saying Alex is the guy who's been blown up and shot at, and survived it all?

"He's been very resilient. I think he's now, like our whole team, we're moving to-that's the intent we're trying to move to." 

With just one play you got QB Colin Kaepernick in there, was that strictly a third and long, do you have a package for him now, are we going to see some of that maybe more?

"Could be. That's all very possible and something that we've been building and practicing." 

Is C/G Adam Snyder solidified at right guard, or is that a week-to-week assessment between him and T/G Chilo Rachal?

"There is no right guard controversy in football that I'm aware of. I mean I could understand a quarterback controversy, I could understand us talking about that. But, I'm not aware of any right guard controversies, or how many times the defensive lineman play in a certain rotation, or how many snaps running backs play, and is there a rotation. That's just all part of football. But, I don't think there's a guard controversy." 

We've asked you quite a bit about what's wrong with the offensive line, what was right with the offensive line yesterday?

"Well, they got a lot of things fixed from one week to the next in terms of pad level, I thought was a lot lower in this ball game. The timing, the angles were better. Just getting off on the snap. The pre-snap penalties were much improved. Just on point. Much better. I think that's a group that's felt challenged and wanted to do something about it.

There's just a couple parts in that game that just really stand out to you as a coach. One is when you get that fumble, and the entire bench erupts. Just everybody on the squad is so enthusiastic and jumping around. And you see it even on the coaches' tape, and right in the middle of it trying to get everybody back. But, that warms your heart that guys are into that, and they should have been. The play that [DT] Justin [Smith] made was just a hustle play. I can't say enough great things about him. He's, to me, around him every day, he's what I think about when I think about John Wayne. He is a John Wayne kind of guy around our building here. And the other one was right there at the end when the offense had the ball and knocked out the two first downs. And you see [DT Isaac] Sopoaga, and [G Mike] Iupati, and [T] Anthony Davis celebrating that four-yard gain that Frank [Gore] got that meant that we could take a knee, and the game was ours. That makes you feel good. And their confidence is growing and that all bodes well for us." 

Coach, I've heard a few times since training camp started and now about, wow this training camp was pretty hard, Coach Harbaugh's, maybe harder than some guys were used to, but then now lately I've heard, well now I sort of get it. Now that we're in the season and we seem so much fresher as players, I see what Coach Harbaugh was trying to do with that. Do you feel like there's been a lot of that in terms of the hardness of training camp and other things that you've tried to implement that people are sort of getting now?

"No and I'm starting to get the feeling there's too many nice things coming our way here. My coach in college said ‘When people start talking nice about you, kick them in the shins.' So let's stop. Let's stop you know-we got to get back to work here and start concentrating on this football game. You feel exposed when people are saying flowery things about us." 

Was that flowery?

"Yes. We'd rather prefer that all that is written is written against us." 

You suck. Is that OK?

"Thank you. Thank you, yes. Go back to yourselves. Let's go back to the list of everything that's negative. Play the negative-quiz show." 

And that helps you, right?

"Yes. That is-." 

You want to see it as you against us, but we're really the nicest people you could ever meet.

"We just feel more certain assurance of success when all that's written is written against us. When honey words of praise are flowered upon us that we begin to feel exposed before our enemies." 

I believe actually that you're the greatest football coach I've ever been around.


Did you feel like you had to build Alex's confidence up? Was that one of your main tasks when you took this job?

"No, he's always struck me as a very confident guy. Very tough guy, very mentally tough guy, very physically tough guy. He's been easy to coach, he really has. Extremely bright, book smart and football experienced. It's been easy coaching him, he's done it all." 

LB Aldon Smith played a lot of snaps, especially in the second half. Was that a Michael Vick thing, or was that, you're just getting him on the field more because he deserves it?

"Aldon is there because he deserves it. He's earning those snaps. He impacted the game, made a couple real nice plays in the ball game. It was one of those games where really the entire roster was contributing, and needed to. He stood out. [LB] NaVorro Bowman stood out big time in this ball game. Made huge third down plays. When you looked at third down stops on Vick out in the open field, he was spying him on a few of those occasions. Good physical tackles. [S Dashon] Goldson contributed there. There was Justin Smith, [DT] Ray McDonald, again, were outstanding. [LB] Ahmad Brooks' his first four games of the season have been outstanding play, at times taking us on his back like did in Cincinnati on that goal line stand where he made all three plays from the five-yard line. Good team defense." 

I don't mean this to come across too positive a question, but you did have a choice to make these unique circumstances of this past offseason. I heard several players on the team, you decided to install the offense kind of all in rather than in one-by-one stages the way some coaches do. Why did you make that decision and was it a hard decision to make?

"No, it wasn't anything revolutionary. It was just teaching the whole part, whole - philosophy."

A philosophy discussed with your brother when you were six years old. It was a choice you made. Whole part whole, why did you believe in that versus some of the other ways?

"First of all, you have to, in our opinion put a high volume in to see what your players can handle, first of all. Secondly, take advantage of what your players can do well and that's the two biggest reasons."