One of the biggest storylines heading into Sunday's 49ers-Seahawks matchup is the return of Jim Harbaugh vs. Pete Carroll. In reality it's likely an entirely overblown storyline. Harbaugh might want to take down Carroll, but in reality it's no big deal. Of course, that doesn't mean we're not going to enjoy every last drop of it.
Carroll and Harbaugh spoke with the media today, with Harbaugh conducting a press conference in Santa Clara (transcript after the jump) and Carroll engaging the local media in a conference call. Naturally there were questions put to both coaches about their past experiences and their "current relationship." Both guys seemed to poke a little fun at the anticipation for this Sunday. Harbaugh said to tune in to hear what the have to say when they meet on the field and Carroll responded by saying there should be a lot of boom mics and people should pay close attention.
In reality while there might be a bit of a professional rivalry, it really isn't the biggest issue in the world. Of course any actual respect between the two won't stop us from posting our favorite video:
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
Press Conference - September 7, 2011
San Francisco 49ers
Listen to Audio I Media Center
I noticed on your depth chart you list three starting wide receivers. Why is that and how will you sort things out on Sunday?
"We feel that [WR] Ted Ginn and [WR] Braylon Edwards are both starter caliber and we list them that way. It's pretty self explanatory that way. Ted Ginn or Braylon will be starting in that position."
How does WR Michael Crabtree fit in the mix?
"We're evaluating that this week. Same thing we said to the receivers going into this week, we'll judge it on how they're practicing, who gives us the best ability at each position, each play, each personnel group. We'll look at that part this week."
If Crabtree does play, would it be at that position, the Ginn and Edwards position, or would he maybe be splitting time with WR Joshua Morgan's position?
"That's something we talked about with Michael, being able to play both sides and even the slot."
You would expect that he could (play at all wide receiver positions)?
"We're going through that process right now. We'll just make the evaluation of what each guy is best at and what they handle mentally and what's too much, what's enough, and what's the right amount on their plate."
What are you looking forward to at the regular season opener?
"Looking forward to watching our guys compete, watching our guys play. I'm excited to do that. Right now, I'm excited about - we've still got another meeting before practice, expectations for a really good Wednesday practice. That fires me up. We'd love to come off of the field today really feeling good about where we're at in our performance in practice today and where we're at with the game plan."
Are you looking forward to having your whole offense out there on the field because you've been kind of vanilla throughout the preseason?
"I wouldn't say that it's been vanilla. We're competing, we're playing, we're game-planning, all those things. We're definitely 100 percent locked in on Seattle now, so that's a positive."
Do you think you could have the element of surprise because you have a new staff, since Seattle doesn't exactly know what's coming?
"I think in the opener that's always something that's relevant. I think it goes both ways. There is a new coordinator in Seattle as well on that side of the ball. The first game of the season, teams have had the entire offseason to prepare their plan and you never know what that's going to be when one plan meets another plan in the opener. You don't have as much information to go on. I think it works both ways."
You say you weren't necessarily vanilla in the preseason but what percentage of the playbook did you use?
"Well, now we're talking about scheme and what percentages have been in and what percentages haven't been in. It hasn't been something that I really ever get in to and talk about. I'd love to know what percentage Seattle's used. So if you find that out, let us know. That would be good information for us."
When you look at Seattle, do you see aspects of what you saw at USC? Do you see similarities in that team in what you saw in the Trojans?
"A well-coached team, there's no question about it. The thing that's always impressed me about Pete Carroll teams is the amount of scheme that they get coached and understood by their players and an answer for just about anything you do both offensively and defensively. They're very, very good on special teams. They're well coached top to bottom. Specifically as you look at them, as a defensive football team, that has always been the case of Pete Carroll coached teams."
What can you take scheme-wise from what you've experienced from the Pac-10 against Carroll?
"When they were at USC I thought that was what stood out to me, the amount of scheme that they taught to their players. Now, it's quadrupled with what they're doing in Seattle and what they've gotten done there. I think they do a great job, not only Pete but the defensive coaches.I'm really impressed with their defensive coordinator. It's a well coached, high volume scheme on defense. Their players play really hard. They get great effort and it's a tough football team to run inside on. They anchor with the tackles and they've got speed on the edges. [Seahawks S Earl] Thomas, the safety, is an outstanding player. Their corners are physical, strong guys. It's a heck of a defense."
Can you understand the intrigue of now seeing Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll on opposite NFL sidelines after some of the battles you guys had in the Pac-10?
"Is there intrigue? Not really. I think we're both locked in to what we're trying to do."
Here were two coaches that went at it.
"Yeah I know, the old ‘coaches going at it', ‘tune it to see what the coaches are going to say to each other prior to the game and after the game'. Anything that's been said before has been pretty well documented and over-documented. In the end, it's an 11-on-11 game and is it really that exciting? Is it that intriguing to find out what they're going to talk about? What's relevant is that this game will be determined by the players."
Other people have rightly or wrongly defined your relationship with Pete. How do you define it?
"I have a great respect for him and the job he's doing and what he's trying to get accomplished and how they're going about it and the kind of football team they've put together. You can tell that they work tirelessly at it. They've put together a heck of a football team."
How about between you and him?
"Good. Same. Respectful."
Do you like him as a guy?
"Yeah, I do."
Do you know him?
"Somewhat. I wouldn't say that I'm friends with any other head coaches in the National Football League, other than my brother. We're trying to beat them. So no, we don't socialize nor are we trying to be friends with them because we're trying to beat them. But I respect him and I like him."
You've had some success, obviously going back to Stanford, against his team- one game in particular by a large number of points. Do you think there's any edge that you can take from that experience to this?
"We're talking about competition; we're talking about competition at the highest level. These games are determined by the players and the coaches who are in them. No matter what you've done in the past or what you've proved you could do in the past, with anybody that's actually competing next, that's what matters. You could have proved it 1,000 times before and now you're proving it again. That's what's important and that's why it's so darn exciting."
I know you don't want to talk percentages but because of the lockout you weren't able to install your offense before the preseason. At this point, do you have installed what you want for this opening game? I know you have to work with something but have players picked up what you want for them to be ready for this game?
"I've been really thrilled with our players, just the way they've worked the entire training camp. The way they've approached the training camp, the preseason, now the regular season. I'm very pleased; they're a joy to be around. A bunch of good guys, good character guys. They're almost college-like type of guys, just from their enthusiasm and good nature and want to be successful. They've got that gleam in their eye. They've worked extremely hard in the classroom too to understand what we're trying to do, what our intent is to this game plan. So, yes, I'm pleased."
I know they've worked hard, but what I'm asking is if they have grasped what you want them to know at this point?
"Yes and they're grasping it. We're in the middle of preparation right now on a Wednesday practice. That's why I'm really excited to see that this afternoon, to see exactly where we're at on Wednesday, September 7th. We're always working to grasp well and more."
Jacksonville QB David Garrard was released, I'm not going to ask you specifically, but is that the kind of quarterback you're going to be taking a look at throughout the season?
"I knew you'd probably ask me that. As it relates to any position that comes across the wire, and we do a great job [GM] Trent [Baalke] does a great job, [Director of Player Personnel] Tom Gamble does a great job of bringing that to my attention. We talk about things, we look at guys and that's an everyday type of thing."
Are you guys interested in him?
"I'm not going to comment on that. We're interested in one thing and that's what makes our football team better. That's a blanket statement on how we approach any move that could help our football team or better our football team. Is it good for our football team? There's really only one priority when it comes to that - what's best for the team."
Do you think someone like him would make your team better?
"We would investigate that like we would anybody, any player out there that's available."
What are the keys to defending Seahawks TE Zach Miller and somebody who's so tough after the catch?
"Zach? Oh he's a heck of a player. He's a prototypical tight end in terms of being able to run fluidly, athletically, get open, get separation, especially on linebackers, safeties. Those guys are going to have to do a heck of a job covering down on Zach. HE's a heck of a blocker, too. They've got some real playmakers and he's one of them."
They have a quarterback that's in the offense for the first time, Tarvaris Jackson. What are your impressions of him?
"Athletic, strong-armed. I think he's been in a process there and progressing and he's very dangerous. Whenever you get that quarterback with the threat and the ability to run and throw, that's a dynamic that scares you do to death."
Will game day adjustments be really important in this game?
"Yes, historically they always are. Your plan meets their plan and their world meets your world and there's got to be battlefield decisions that are made."
I know you've been asked about Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning, but the Colts have ruled him out for Sunday. Does it strike you as amazing that you were the last quarterback to start for the Colts since Peyton Manning's arrival there?
"That was a long time ago. What 1997? That is amazing. That's just a testament to the greatness of Peyton Manning. My goodness."
Is your dad going to be there on Sunday?
So he picked you over John?
"Yeah. He's here today."
Are CB Shawntae Smith, S Reggie Smith, and Crabtree all scheduled to be a full-go in practice today?
"Yeah, we'll see exactly where they are in terms of ‘full-go.'"
As far as off the field, your first quarterback at USD, Todd Mortensen, was a really smart guy, came from a coaching family. He didn't have the greatest career when he came from BYU, are there any similarities between his story and QB Alex Smith?
"I hate to compare on guy to another."
I know you hate to compare but just as far as football and their backgrounds. It could be a nice comparison.
"Specifically with Todd, you probably noticed that it brought a smile to my face thinking about Todd. He's just a great guy. He's a smart guy. When I first looked at his transcript, it was amazing. It was like somebody just accidently hit the ‘A' key for the whole transcript. I've never seen anything like that. That was the first time I'd seen that before. Then I just watched what kind of father he'd become, what kind of parent, what kind of man he is, husband he is. It gives you a really good feeling and it makes you proud to be associated with him."