Harbaugh, Baalke shine in 49ers spotlight

Posted Jan. 07, 2011 @ 8:17 p.m.
Posted By Dan Arkush

With their fervent fan base deservedly up in arms after one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history, Jed York and Trent Baalke together connected on a badly needed tape-measure home run in the court of public opinion Friday, moving quickly to officially make Jim Harbaugh the 49ers’ 18th head coach, replacing Mike Singletary.

A week that began with rumors that Harbaugh would have a hard time co-existing with Baalke as the Niners' head coach if he were to be hired ended with both Harbaugh and Baalke mutually agreeing in Harbaugh’s introductory press conference that Baalke will have the final say on the 53-man roster.

The PFW Spin

Perceived as not being sufficiently qualified by many in the Bay Area to be the Niners’ general manager, Baalke went a long way toward changing that perception this week with the dogged manner in which both he and York pursued Harbaugh, meeting with the former Stanford coach for 6-8 hours on Wednesday before sealing a five-year deal reportedly worth $25 million.

That figure is allegedly a lot lower than what Harbaugh might have received from Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who made a last-ditch effort in an attempt to steal Harbaugh away with an offer reportedly in the neighborhood of $7 million per year.

But like Tony Bennett, Harbaugh’s heart was stuck in San Francisco, a feeling he said was only strengthened after his time spent this week in intense, heartfelt discussions with York and Baalke.

While Harbaugh was obviously the featured attraction at the press conference late Friday afternoon, it seemed very noteworthy just how much he shared the spotlight with Baalke. In a sense, it was as much a press conference to unveil the new GM as it was to introduce the new head coach, even though the latter couldn’t be a more high-profile figure at the moment, hot on the heels of an amazingly successful season just down the road at Stanford.

“I met this man (Harbaugh) about 6-7 years ago at a college all-star game and fell in love with his energy,” Baalke said in an opening statement before Harbaugh was introduced. “He had a real passion to succeed, and in this business, you have to have that.

“What we have to do is bring back the culture of winning, to take one day at a time and come to work every day and get a little bit better. It’s important that we represent the York family with class. That’s our No. 1 objective.“

Confirming what everybody expected, Harbaugh said the Niners definitely would go with the West Coast offense in “the birthplace of the West Coast offense.”

“It will be similar to Stanford’s in some aspects,” Harbaugh said of his offensive plans. "The West Coast offense is a very broad system which can encompass the talents of a lot of different types of players."

Harbaugh no doubt scored huge points when asked about the impact that 49ers Hall of Fame head coach Bill Walsh has had on his life and career.

"He’s the most important person in my life,” Harbaugh said, “I look at his picture every day on my computer screen. He is a legendary coach and a great man.”

Harbaugh also hinted strongly that, as is widely expected, some members of his Stanford coaching staff could be following him to Santa Clara.

“There are guys on our staff that I would love to bring here, but there are also excellent coaches on the 49ers,” he said. “Together, we will put together a great staff. My job is to start talking with our players and getting to know them and simultaneously put together a staff.”

All in all, it looks like the Niners are ready to hit the streets running. Benefiting from playing in the league’s weakest division, a substantial turnaround in short order seems like a very reasonable possibility.

Displaying class and professionalism Friday without going overboard, which Singletary seemed to do on an almost daily basis, York, Baalke and Harbaugh together took a very strong first step.