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Coach Jim Harbaugh: The Impact Of Having An Offensive Coach Versus A Defensive Coach

Yesterday afternoon, 49ers tight end Vernon Davis took a few minutes to chat with Tom Tolbert on KNBR (it's about 18 minutes). Vernon spent a good chunk of the interview chatting about his globe-trotting endeavors, as well as some artistic events with which he is involved. However, starting at around the ten minute mark, Davis started talking about football. At the 10:50 mark, Davis had some comments about new head coach Jim Harbaugh:

Tom Tolbert: Now have you met Harbaugh?

Vernon Davis: Yes, I've met Harbaugh.

TT: What'd you think of him?

VD: Oh he's amazing. He's amazing. I can't wait to get in camp and start working with this guy. I just like what, I mean he talks about football all the time. He's a genius. I look at him as a genius. We've never, since I've been with the 49ers we haven't had an offensive head coach. So this is going to be great, especially for the offense.

This got me thinking about the issue of offensive versus defensive head coaches. Mike Nolan was brought in after several defensive coordinator stints. Mike Singletary took over as head coach and was obviously more of a defensive-minded coach as well.

The big issue in recent seasons with the 49ers seemed to come from some combination of poor preparation and poor execution. I can see how an offensive head coach could work for a team, but at the same time, isn't the real value just having a competent coach that can bring in the right people to make up for their weaknesses? Even if Harbaugh is an offensive genius, if he does not have the structure and coaching staff in place to make up for his shortcomings, will it really matter how great he is at designing the offense?

My opinion on this issue is that it requires a mix of both his own strengths and his ability to get the support to overcome his shortcomings as a coach. That's probably just me stating the obvious, but that's how I view it for now. Do others feel differently about this?