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2011 PFW/PFWA awards

Jim Harbaugh is Coach of the Year

2011 PFW/PFWA awards

PFW/PFWA 2011 All-NFL team

Posted Jan. 16, 2012 @ 9:58 a.m.

Rodgers earns PFW/PFWA MVP honors

Posted Jan. 16, 2012 @ 11:10 a.m.

Suggs is Defensive Player of the Year

Posted Jan. 16, 2012 @ 12:15 p.m.

2011 All-AFC team

Posted Jan. 17, 2012 @ 4:36 p.m.

2011 All-NFC team

Posted Jan. 17, 2012 @ 4:45 p.m.

Newton chosen as Rookie of the Year

Posted Jan. 18, 2012 @ 12:01 p.m.

Aldon Smith wins Defensive Rookie of the Year

Posted Jan. 18, 2012 @ 12:59 p.m.

2011 All-Rookie team

Posted Jan. 18, 2012 @ 11:06 a.m.

Akers, Lee win PFW's Golden Toe Award

Posted Jan. 17, 2012 @ 12:42 p.m.

Stafford wins Comeback Player of the Year honors

Posted Jan. 17, 2012 @ 11 a.m.

Cruz named 2011's Most Improved Player

Posted Jan. 17, 2012 @ 12:29 p.m.

Phillips is Assistant Coach of the Year

Posted Jan. 18, 2012 @ 5:18 p.m.

49ers' Baalke named Executive of the Year

Posted Jan. 17, 2012 @ 6:24 p.m.

About the Author

Dan Arkush
Executive editor

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Posted Jan. 16, 2012 @ 1:03 p.m. ET
By Dan Arkush

Born into a loving family overflowing with football coaches, Jim Harbaugh, not surprisingly, went out of his way in his first season as the Niners' head coach to create a team that also happened to be one big, happy family.

"As far as what Jim has done here, it's been spectacular," said Niners PK David Akers, who had a prior history with the Harbaugh coaching clan before signing with the Niners last offseason.

"I had met him before — having worked with his brother, John (Ravens head coach John Harbaugh), for eight years in Philadelphia and almost playing for his dad (Jack) at Western Kentucky — and I felt comfortable.

"All the guys here bought in real quickly to what (Jim) was trying to sell. All of his sayings, telling us all the time to be thankful for what we've got and to pride ourselves on punching the clock every day and giving all we've got on the practice field.

"He's a very charismatic coach who really cares about his players."

And his players cared enough back to help him turn the Niners into a legitimate heavyweight contender that dominated the NFC West with an unconventional style by today's standards and made Harbaugh a runaway winner of the 2011 Pro Football Weekly/Professional Football Writers of America Coach of the Year award.

"It didn't take long for us to know that he was our guy," said Trent Baalke, whose dogged pursuit of Harbaugh in concert with chief executive officer Jed York immediately became Baalke's top priority after being promoted to general manager.

"He's a consummate football guy who's a players' coach, but at the same time, very structured. He really understands what it takes at every level. He's a tireless, enthusiastic worker."

One who works really hard to be one of the guys.

"He's very personable with all the players," Niners P Andy Lee said. "He won't hesitate to sit down and eat lunch with you. He's a head coach who is very likable, but at the same time, very demanding, but not in a bad way at all.

"He makes you want to play for him with all the things he does to try to bring the guys together. We had the talent, but the attitude he has brought here has been a great thing for the organization."

Harbaugh quickly created a dynamic similar to the one he established as the head coach down the road at Stanford, where he culminated a 12-1 campaign in his final season there with a one-sided Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech.

Although he certainly wasn't a stranger to the pro ranks, having played quarterback for five NFL teams over 15 seasons and having served as an offensive assistant with the Raiders for two seasons (2002-03), the failures of former "rock star" college coaches like Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier and former Niners head coach Dennis Erickson in the NFL created doubts in some circles about Harbaugh's ability to make good on the five-year, $25 million contract he signed five days after the Niners' disappointing 2010 campaign had mercifully ended.

Two preseason losses that couldn't have been uglier did nothing to remove those doubts. But a strong Week One performance in a 33-17 victory over the division-rival Seahawks — featuring a five-sack, three-takeaway effort by the defense — set the table for one of the more dramatic turnarounds in recent years.

Another key in the Week One win was an efficient, error-free performance under center by Alex Smith, the team's former No. 1 pick who had become a Bay Area whipping boy in recent seasons for having failed to come anywhere close to living up to his first-round billing.

The confidence that Harbaugh showed in Smith when he handed off his extensive playbook to the quarterback after the lockout was rewarded with the best season of Smith's career, highlighted by a league-low five interceptions.

Following a Week Two home loss to the Cowboys, the Niners raised eyebrows around the league with an improbable eight-game win streak. Four of those wins came on the road in Eastern time zones, including a gritty, come-from-behind 25-19 victory over the Lions, which was capped off by a well-documented tiff between a very animated Harbaugh and Lions head coach Jim Schwartz.

The Niners' six victories on the road were the most by the team since 1996 and also tied the Patriots for the second-most road victories in the league this season.

With a 13-3 record, the Niners' best since 1997, Harbaugh became only the fourth rookie head coach in league history to win 13 or more games, and the first coach to do so after the team had a losing record the previous season.

Not a bad year for a guy who was born to coach.



Coach of the Year

2011   Jim Harbaugh / S.F.
2010   Bill Belichick / N.E.
2009   Marvin Lewis / Cin.
2008   Tony Sparano / Mia.
2007   Bill Belichick / N.E.
2006   Sean Payton / N.O.
2005   Lovie Smith / Chi.
2004   Marty Schottenheimer / S.D.
2003   Bill Belichick / N.E.
2002   Andy Reid / Phil.
2001   Dick Jauron / Chi.
2000   Jim Haslett / N.O.
1999   Dick Vermeil / St.L.
1998   Dan Reeves / Atl.
1997   Jim Fassel / N.Y.G.
1996   Dom Capers / Car.
1995   Dom Capers / Car.
1994   Bill Parcells / N.E.
1993   Dan Reeves / N.Y.G.
1992   Bobby Ross / S.D.
1991   Wayne Fontes / Det.
1990   Art Shell / L.A. Raiders
1989   George Seifert / S.F.
1988   Mike Ditka / Chi.
1987   Jim Mora / N.O.
1986   Bill Parcells / N.Y.G.
1985   No Award
1984   Dan Reeves / Den.
1983   Joe Gibbs / Wash.
1982   Joe Gibbs / Wash.
1981   Bill Walsh / S.F.
1980   Chuck Knox / Buff.
1979   Dick Vermeil / Phil.
1978   Walt Michaels / N.Y.J.
1977   Red Miller / Den.
1976   Chuck Fairbanks / N.E.
1975   Ted Marchibroda / Balt.
1974   Don Coryell / St.L.
1973   Chuck Knox / L.A. Rams
1972   Don Shula / Mia.
1971   George Allen / Wash.
1970   Don Shula / Mia.
1969   Bud Grant / Minn. (NFL)
          John Madden / Oak. (AFL)
1968   Don Shula / Balt. (NFL)
          Hank Stram / K.C. (AFL)

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