49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

April 26, 2014
Harbaugh calls San Jose State's Fales a Top 5 quarterback


The top 5 quarterbacks in next month's draft? Gather up all the rankings available and Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr and Jimmy Garrapolo likely are on that list in one order or another.

But Jim Harbaugh, whose reputation for choosing and developing passers - some of them obscure at the time -- is well-earned, believes a local, less-heralded product deserves Top-5 ranking: San Jose State's David Fales. "I'm a big fan," Harbaugh said after watching Fales work out on Friday. "My personal evaluation of this (draft) class has David in the top five."

Fales completed 64 percent of his passes last season for nearly 4,200 yards. He had a memorable game in a shootout against Fresno State in which he completed 37 of 45 passes for 547 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions. It turns out 49ers general manager Trent Baalke attended that game, which was held only 11 miles south of the 49ers headquarters and its new stadium.

"I like a lot of things about David," Baalke said Friday. "He's very composed. He's a very smart football player. You look at him statistically. He's won a lot of games. He won a shootout against Fresno, which I happened to be at. He's got good arm talent. He can make all the throws. He's very accurate, especially in the short to intermediate game. There's a lot to like about him."

The biggest question about Fales has been his athleticism and his ability to throw the deep ball. Harbaugh, however, did not seem to be concerned.

"You see a very compact throwing motion today, more compact than I saw during his career," he said. "But he was still throwing the ball 50, 55 yards down field, throwing the deep comebacks, the outside lanes like he threw in college, easily, accurately and on a line. We talked a little after the workout. I don't see any deficiencies that way."

Harbaugh famously graded little-known quarterbacks like Tony Romo and David Garrard higher than the consensus top picks at the position, such as Joey Harrington, when he was a low-level assistant with the Raiders. He has seen Eastern Illinois' Garrapolo - another quarterback with a compact throwing motion - in person this year and also attended the workout for Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas. Fales and Thomas are expected to be taken in the middle rounds of the draft, which is where the 49ers are most likely to pounce on one as well.

Fales wasn't the only quarterback at the 49ers' "local" pro day on Friday. Vanderbilt's Austyn Carta-Samuels (Saratoga) and Delaware State's Cory Murphy (Santa Clara) also took part.

-- Matt Barrows

April 25, 2014
Harbaugh on Kaepernick: 'The only victim is Colin's reputation'


Jim Harbaugh today said he's heard Colin Kaepernick's version of what happened in Miami earlier this month and that he's confident the ongoing case there will have a good resolution for the 49ers' quarterback. "The only victim in Colin's case is Colin's reputation," he said.

Harbaugh noted that until this point, the only side of the story that has made its way into the media is that of the 25-year-old woman who told police April 3 that she blacked out and wound up in a hospital after a night of drinking with Kaepernick, 49ers receiver Quinton Patton and Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette. The case has been handled by the Miami Police Department's special victims unit, which handles sex crimes.

No charges have been filed and the three players involved have not been interviewed. Police have since said that Lockette twice called police early on April 2 to try to get the woman in question out of their hotel suite.

The police told The Bee and The Miami Herald last week that Kaepernick was not at the suite when police arrived following those calls. According to a source, Kaepernick was on hand earlier in the evening but left shortly after the woman arrived. Police are reviewing hotel video to see when Kaepernick left. Police had said they planned to release two 911 calls -- one from Lockette and one from hotel security -- but they have not done so this week.

Said Harbaugh: "Remember this, there's sometimes two sides to the story and I often see the one side that's reported in the media and it gains speed and attention. The other side still remains to be told. Looking at the Colin Kaepernick situation, at some point there needs to be a resolution to some of this jump-the-gun, witch-hunt scenario that we're seeing."

He included a quote from his favorite historical figure, Winston Churchill: "A lie will get halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to put on its pants."*

* The quote, "A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes," usually is attributed to humorist and novelist Mark Twain.

Related stories:

Miami police don't believe Kaepernick was in hotel suite at time of 911 calls

Kaepernick says reports are 'completely wrong'

April 24, 2014
49ers taking closer look at Indiana WR Cody Latimer

For the second straight season, the 49ers are sending a position coaches to check out a promising draft prospect who is coming off an injury. This time it's receivers coach John Morton, who will be among the contingent watching Indiana receiver Cody Latimer run and catch passes today in Indiana. A year ago, defensive line coach Jim Tomsula was on hand for Tank Carradine's workout. The 49ers ended up taking Carradine, who did not play any snaps last season, early in the second round, No. 40 overall.

Latimer's injury is not nearly as serious as the ACL tear Carradine suffered in November 2012. A broken bone in the receiver's foot prevented him from fully working at at the scouting combine in February, although he did lead all receivers with 23 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press. At Indiana's pro day a month ago, Latimer reportedly ran his 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds, and he had a 39-inch vertical leap.

He is considered a raw talent, but his size (6-2, 215), speed, leaping ability (he's a former basketball standout) and rugged, physical style likely are intriguing to the 49ers, who traditionally have preferred big-bodied receivers in their power-running, ball-control offense. Latimer caught 72 passes for 1,096 yards last season while playing against some of the best cornerbacks in the nation - Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard and Ohio State's Bradley Roby, for example - and while playing on a less-than-stellar Indiana squad. He also played special teams. At least 23 teams are expected at Latimer's workout today.

March 26, 2014
Harbaugh hints at changes to 49ers' offense


ORLANDO, Fla. - The 49ers are seeking wide receivers this offseason and, Jim Harbaugh hinted, perhaps some tweaks to their power-based offense.

"A real good scheme evaluation, I think, is what's next for us as coaches," the 49ers coach said today at a media breakfast. "Now that we've had Colin (Kaepernick) here for a year and half and understand what we all do well, what we could do better. I think that's something that's a priority right now that we'll attack."

Will they be big changes? "No, not big changes," he said. "But always be an evolution, always strive to make it better."

As is his custom, Harbaugh lavished praise on his starting quarterback and defended him against criticism, including accusations that he's a one-read passer.

"Some of the time there was just one guy to go to," Harbaugh said. "There were times we had Anquan (Boldin) and Vernon (Davis). And they were literally doubling Anquan and Vernon. And he had one other option to go to. ... There was tough sledding. It's up to all of us to get better."

One of the ways to improve, Harbaugh said more than once during the hour-long sessions, is to supply Kaepernick with more weapons. When receiver Michael Crabtree was injured last season, the 49ers' passing game revolved around two players - Boldin and Davis, who caught all but one of Kaepernick's 24 touchdown passes during the regular season and playoffs.

The situation improved when Crabtree returned to the field in December, but Harbaugh indicated that more firepower is needed. He and general manager Trent Baalke like Quinton Patton, a fourth-round pick in 2013 who was injured for half of his rookie season. This year's draft, however, is especially rich in wideouts, and the 49ers are likely to give Patton competition for the No. 3 spot.

March 26, 2014
NFL owners pass "Bowman rule," will experiment with longer extra points

ORLANDO, Fla. -- If you were one of the thousands of 49ers fans screaming for a replay review on NaVorro Bowman's obvious fumble recovery in the NFC Championship game, your pleas have been heard. The NFL owners today passed the so-called "Bowman rule," which will allow reviews on loose-ball scrambles like Bowman's against Seattle.

Although replays clearly showed that Bowman, who suffered a grisly knee injury on the play, stripped the ball from a Seahawks receiver, then was down by contact with the ball in his grasp, officials ruled that Seattle recovered. Jim Harbaugh was unable to challenge the play at the time. The 49ers voted in favor of the measure.

Centralized replay reviews, which will allow officials to consult with the league's officiating command center in New York, also passed. The 49ers voted in favor of that as well. "Hopefully it speeds up the time of the review," Jim Harbaugh said today. "Hopefully it gets (reviews) right better."

Also passed today: A proposal to raise the height of the uprights by five feet in order to eliminate tough-to-judge kicks that pass over the uprights. The league's owners tabled a proposal to install extra cameras along the end lines, goal lines and sidelines.

The league also will experiment with a proposal to move extra-point kicks from the 2-yard line to the 25-yard line during the first two weeks of the preseason. That will make the one-point try the equivalent of a 43-yard field goal.

- Matt Barrows

March 26, 2014
Harbaugh notes: Coach to scout QBs Fales, Carr; says 49ers seeking No. 3 WR


ORLANDO, Fla. -- Hotcakes with Harbaugh went well this morning. Like the other NFC coaches, Jim Harbaugh spent about an hour at a breakfast table with members of the media and, as you might expect, covered a lot of ground. Here are my notes from the session:

*As he had in the past, Harbaugh spoke highly of receiver Quinton Patton and noted that the then rookie made an impact last season despite dealing with a broken finger in training camp and then a broken foot that cost him eight games during the season. But Harbaugh also made it clear that the team is looking to augment the position and give Colin Kaepernick a better No. 3 option. He said Kaepernick's inability to spread the ball around, especially early last season, was largely due to his receiving corps.

What's he looking for? "A No. 3 receiver, a third guy that can get open, make plays, another option for the quarterback to go to. A chance to attack all areas of the field. A playmaker. That's what we're looking for."

* Harbaugh already has taken a look at Eastern Illinois' quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas. He said he wants to check out a couple of California products next - San Jose State's David Fales and Fresno State's Derek Carr. He said this year will be similar to 2011 when he scouted "five or six" quarterbacks, including Blaine Gabbert and Kaepernick.

* Asked specifically about Johnny Manziel, Harbaugh said, "He sees the field like no one who's seen the field in college football." That's a bit like the lavish quote he gave about Cam Newton - he called him "plutonium-grade raw material" -- in 2011. It turns out the 49ers had no intention of drafting a quarterback in the first round that year. They are very unlikely to have a shot at Manziel this year.

* Frank Gore is entering the final year of his contract and, at age 30, what many believe will be his final season with the 49ers. Harbaugh, however, said, "I really think Frank has three more good years. I truly believe that." Then he paused. "But we're in a game of taking it one year at a time, so ..."

March 25, 2014
Tension at 49ers headquarters? Yes, but they like it that way


ORLANDO, Fla. - Yes, there's been some tension at 49ers headquarters when it comes to fiery Jim Harbaugh and feisty Trent Baalke. "I think I've said this before: 95 percent of the time they're on the same page," team owner Jed York said on Tuesday. "Five percent of the time is gets really interesting."

But according to York, tension isn't always a bad ingredient, and it certainly hasn't hindered the 49ers in recent seasons.

"We've been competing for the Super Bowl - realistically competing for the Super Bowl - for the last three years," York said during a break at the owners' meetings here. "They get along. They're just grinding. They want a ring. And they're trying to battle and fight to get a ring. And sometimes it wears on people. But I like that tension," he continued. "I think they like that tension. And I think both of them compete better when there's something to compete against."

Stories about a cold war between Harbaugh and Baalke, the team's general manager, began emerging last month after news broke that the Browns had inquired about trading for the 49ers' head coach. One national report said that the two don't even talk, communicating instead through emails.

Both York and Baalke on Tuesday insisted the portrait being drawn of two men constantly at each other's throat is overblown. The coach and general manager, in fact, have been observed consulting with one another at the league's hotel in Orlando, and they emerged from one of the many meetings here side by side and laughing.

Said Baalke: "He's our football coach, he's a damn good football coach, and we expect him to be our football coach for a long time."

March 25, 2014
AFC roundup: Andy Reid thinks Alex Smith is "brilliant"


ORLANDO, Fla. -- Hotcakes with Harbaugh? That's tomorrow when the NFC coaches have breakfast with the media. Today was the AFC's turn. Here are some 49ers-related tidbits from the coaches in that other conference ....

When the Kansas City Chiefs gave up two second-day draft picks for Alex Smith, it seemed like a steal for the 49ers. Smith, however, finished the 2013 season with a career-high 3,313 yards (in 15 starts) and led the Chiefs to a surprising playoff berth after they had a 2-14 record the year before.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid today sounded as if he was more than happy with the deal. "He's a brilliant guy," he said of Smith. "He can digest a lot and not be paralyzed by it. I would say with him you're not going to run out of gigabytes, right? He's got plenty of those. He can still function well with a lot of knowledge."

Reid sounded a lot like Smith's previous coaches, especially Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh, in detailing Smith's strengths. Meyer once talked about how Smith would work late into the night on game plans with the Utah coaching staff.

Said Reid: "He's a gym rat. I mean, you've got to kick him out. I was almost on double-secret probation his first week in the building because he wanted to stay there forever. And I'd have to, like, kick him and out and (tell him) to come back. I said, 'You've got to go.' That's how he approaches the game."

March 24, 2014
So-called "Bowman rule" has Jim Harbaugh's backing.


ORLANDO, Fla. -- The so-called "Navorro Bowman rule," which would allow loose-ball scrambles to be reviewed by officials, has the support of Bowman's head coach.

"We'll be for it," Jim Harbaugh said today at the annual owners' meeting. "I think it has a good chance to be adopted. Common sense." NFL owners will vote on the proposal this week.

The league's owners will discuss all proposed rule changes today and either vote on them today or Wednesday.

Bowman, the 49ers' inside linebacker, became the unofficial face of the rule proposal when during the NFC Championship game he obviously recovered a fumble by Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse at the 49ers' 1-yard line. Although replays clearly showed he was down by contact with the ball in his possession, Harbaugh was not able to challenge the ruling that the Seahawks ended up with the ball because it was a non-reviewable play.

The scenario actually ended up working in the 49ers' favor, at least as far as field position. On the next play, Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch fumbled, and San Francisco recovered it at the 15-yard line.

Another possible rule change also would have helped officials sort out the Bowman play if it had been reviewable. The league also is considering adding more cameras along the goal line and sidelines, which also has Harbaugh's support.

He hasn't decided yet, however, how he feels about a proposal to move extra-point attempts from the 2- to the 25-yard line. The league is likely to experiment with that concept during the preseason.

"I have to think about that some more," Harbaugh said. "A negative argument is changing part of the game that's been long-standing. The positive - does it make it more exciting, more competitive to move the field goal line back? Does that differ for teams that play in domes, as opposed to outdoor weather? There will be more discussion on that.... I'm not for dramatically changing the game."

Kicker Phil Dawson also is wary of any rule changes. Dawson said he supports making the extra-point more challenging but not if it phases out the kicking game.

-- Matt Barrows

March 24, 2014
Harbaugh sloughs off "mini-controversy," talks Jonathan Martin

ORLANDO -- Jim Harbaugh likened the 49ers' acquisition of Jonathan Martin to Glenn Dorsey's addition a year earlier. San Francisco signed Dorsey, the former fifth overall pick in the draft, to a two-year deal after he spent five mostly quiet years with the Chiefs. Dorsey started 13 games at nose tackle last season.

The 49ers traded for Martin after the offensive lineman left the Dolphins in October amid allegations of hazing and bullying inside Miami's locker room. Harbaugh, appearing on the NFL Network, was asked if he and Martin have talked about what happened in Miami. "No, didn't ask him anything," he said. "Told him I don't want to know anything."

Harbaugh called Martin's addition "a great opportunity and a powerful motivator. I hope it works out for Jonathan Martin just the way it did for Glenn Dorsey."

The 49ers have made a habit of signing players who have failed to live up to lofty draft positions. In addition to Martin, a former second-round pick, the 49ers recently traded for one-time first-round pick Blaine Gabbert and also signed cornerback Chris Cook, a former second-round pick, to a one-year deal. Last year they added Dorsey and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, both of whom were first-round picks, and in 2011 they brought in Carlos Rogers and Donte Whitner, who also were former first rounders.

Meanwhile, Harbaugh reiterated that "there was zero chance of me leaving the San Francisco 49ers." In January, the Cleveland Browns approached the 49ers about trading their head coach. According to team owner Jed York, the Browns were quickly rebuffed.

"I love coaching my team too much," Harbaugh said. "It's a joy to coach my players. Love 'em. Love our coaches. And I love the organization I serve. That story hasn't been reported."

Harbaugh called it a "mini-controversy." "I treat mini-controversies and give them the respect they're due," he said.

-- Matt Barrows

March 18, 2014
49ers give Vic Fangio contract extension through 2015


Jim Harbaugh, who earlier this month lobbied for a better contract for top assistant Vic Fangio, got exactly that today when Fangio was given both a raise and an extension. Fangio's contract, which was set to expire after the 2014 season, now runs through 2015, which is when Harbaugh's deal is scheduled to expire. The new deal makes Fangio among the highest paid defensive coordinators in the league.

Fangio's defenses have ranked 4th, 3rd and 5th in the NFL since he took over in 2011. Those units ranked 13th, 15th and 13th in the three seasons before he arrived. Unlike his offensive counterpart, Greg Roman, Fangio has autonomy over the defense, and he also coaches the outside linebackers. He is the only coordinator in the league who also is in charge of a position group.

Before Fangio arrived with the 49ers, players like outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks, defensive end Ray McDonald and cornerback Tarell Brown never had been full-time starters with the team. Fangio gave them bigger responsibilities, and they flourished in his three-four defensive scheme. He also carved out roles that season for then-rookies Aldon Smith and Chris Culliver. With Brown now in Oakland, Culliver is a frontrunner to start at cornerback this season.

While protesting the notion that he wanted to be the highest paid head coach in the NFL, Harbaugh told Sports Illustrated earlier this month that Fangio deserved more money. "He has not had a raise since he's been here," he said. "Focus on that."

Meanwhile, defensive backs coach Ed Donatell also received a two-year extension earlier this month. Donatell has long been considered a candidate for defensive coordinator. The 49ers blocked interview requests by the Saints and Buccaneers in recent seasons because Donatell was under contract. He did not receive any interview requests prior to his extension. Donatell would be a candidate to run the 49ers' defense should Fangio leave for a head-coaching job in coming years.

Donatell also deserves credit for Culliver's development as well as that of Eric Reid, the team's first-round pick a year ago. The 49ers figure to draft a cornerback - and perhaps another safety - early in the May draft. The team attended the pro-day workouts of two highly rated cornerbacks, TCU's Jason Verrett and Ohio State's Bradley Roby, earlier this month.

-- Matt Barrows

March 4, 2014
Just win, baby: The prism through which Jim Harbaugh's words must be filtered


Monday wasn't the first time Jim Harbaugh - with gusto - felt compelled to set the record straight. For those just catching up, in an interview with Sports Illustrated Harbaugh dumped a barrel of ice water on the notion that: A.) He is gunning for a big contract. B.) He is unhappy with with general manager Trent Baalke and C.) He will leave the 49ers before the remaining two years of his contract expire.

In other words: Everything is great. How are you?

It was similar to Harbaugh's out-of-the-blue denial in May 2012 that the 49ers ever had an interest in signing Peyton Manning. The 49ers and Manning? Harbaugh made it sound like the most insane idea he had ever come across.

"It's an erroneous perception that we were flirting with Peyton Manning," Harbaugh said nearly two and half months after Manning signed with Denver. "I keep hearing that over and over again. It's silly, and it's untrue. It's phony."

Harbaugh insisted the 49ers were committed to Alex Smith at quarterback. Always were.

Later that year, Harbaugh made an unscheduled stop at the podium to deride, chide and otherwise shake his finger at reporters who had been critical of first-round draft pick A.J. Jenkins.

"I'll go on record: A.J. is going to be an outstanding football player," a fired-up Harbaugh said. ". ... There are these so-called experts who are making these comments, and there's going to be an I-told-you-so. I foresee that happening."

It turns out the 49ers weren't committed to Smith (traded to the Chiefs) and that Jenkins (traded to the Chiefs) was not outstanding.

Here's the common thread in both examples and in the most recent one: Harbaugh will say anything to keep his team strong. Winning comes above all else. And if you have to massage the truth here and there to keep your quarterback happy, to keep the locker room tight or to motivate a first-round pick who gets knocked to the ground in non-contact practices, you do it.

"As Mr. Al Davis said so profoundly, 'Just Win Baby,'" Harbaugh said after beating Carolina in January. The quote applies in this case, too.

Winning also is what makes Harbaugh popular in the locker room. Do you think veterans like Justin Smith and Frank Gore still love the 'who's got it better than us?' chant after three years? What they love is the fact that Harbaugh has brought them - a couple of players who had been on losing teams for most of their careers -- to within a hair's breadth to the Super Bowl in two of the three years he's been in town and nearly landed a title in the other.

That's why Anquan Boldin on Monday said he laughed when he read about a rift between Harbaugh and his players. "I heard of no griping in the locker room when it comes to coach Harbaugh," he said. "Like I said, he's a guy that wants to win. Everybody in the locker room wants to do the same thing."

Former 49ers Brian Jennings said the same thing this morning on KNBR radio: "There's no one inside the building who has more of a single focus than Jim Harbaugh," he said. That single focus: winning.

It's also the reason why, while not believing everything that comes out of Jim Harbaugh's mouth, I believe his central point from his SI interview: He does not want to leave the 49ers. His best chance of winning a Super Bowl title, after all, isn't in Cleveland, Miami or Dallas. It's here.

And finally it's the reason why Baalke will tolerate all the confrontations with Harbaugh and what will motivate Jed York to try to bridge the contract impasse with his head coach. Harbaugh knows quarterbacks, he knows how to motivate and, most of all, he knows how to win.

-- Matt Barrows

March 3, 2014
Harbaugh speaks: 49ers coach insists reports about contract demands aren't true


Jim Harbaugh says there is "zero opportunity or chance" that he will leave the 49ers before his contract expires in two years. In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Harbaugh refuted the notion that he wants to be the highest paid coach in the NFL or that he wants to wrestle power away from general manager Trent Baalke.

He also denied the Pro Football Talk report from two weeks ago that he was about to be traded to Cleveland but ultimately nixed the deal.

"There was never any opportunity to leave the San Francisco 49ers," he said. "If that existed, it existed in somebody else's mind, not mine. I am too fond of my team, the players, the coaches. I really feel like we have one of the best, if not the best organizations in football."

Team owner Jed York told The Bee last week that the Browns made an overture for Harbaugh after the 49ers season ended but that it was quickly rejected. York and Harbaugh's representatives, meanwhile, discussed a contract extension last summer but the subject was tabled. York said he was willing to resume talks whenever Harbaugh wanted but that he imagined they wouldn't come up again until after the May 8-10 draft.

Harbaugh currently earns $5 million a year, a middle-of-the-road salary for NFL coaches. "I get paid extremely well," he told SI. "Jed York has always been square dealing with me. I don't think about that as an issue ... I've seen it written like fact: 'Harbaugh wants to be the highest paid coach in football', or 'desperately covets a new contract'. For the record: I make plenty of money. I mean, plenty of money.'"

To read the complete story, click here.

-- Matt Barrows

March 3, 2014
Boldin says he's heard nary a gripe about Jim Harbaugh


Instability at the top of the organization? A rift in the locker room? Unhappiness with Jim Harbaugh? Anquan Boldin acknowledged he doesn't pay much attention to offseason NFL news - "At this time of year, people grab at whatever," he said - but he did laugh yesterday when he read about the recent drama involving Harbaugh and the 49ers.

"I don't think anybody in our locker room has an issue with coach Harbaugh," he said. "The way our locker room is built - I mean, we have an open-door policy. If anybody has a concern or wants to voice their opinion, they're more than welcome to. There has been times when we have voiced our concerns as players, and coach Harbaugh has listened to us and taken into consideration how we felt as players. So I don't think there's any rift between players and coaches, particularly coach Harbaugh. Like I said, he has a great rapport with all the guys I know of. I heard of no griping in the locker room when it comes to coach Harbaugh. Like I said, he's a guy that wants to win. Everybody in the locker room wants to do the same thing."

Boldin didn't sound like he expected Harbaugh, who wants to re-do his contract with the 49ers, to leave anytime soon, either. In fact, he said Harbaugh had a big role in his decision to re-sign with the 49ers. Boldin agreed to a two-year, $12 million deal earlier today.

"He's a guy I had a real good relationship with," he said. "Me and him were able to talk about anything. And I just like his demeanor, the way he approaches the game. He's a guy that wants to win. I'm the exact same way. So I think we mesh pretty good."

Boldin said he and his family felt embraced by the fans, his teammates and even the media, which is why he felt comfortable in signing with San Francisco and not testing the free-agency market next week. Boldin, 33, said he felt he could play until he's 38.

"Physically, I feel fine," he said. "I feel as if I can play five more years. So that's not a problem for me. I feel great. But we'll see how it goes."

-- Matt Barrows

February 25, 2014
Who benefits from the Harbaugh-to-Browns drama? Harbaugh, of course


The Harbaugh-to-Cleveland story has taken on a he said-she said-Browns said quality. The truth usually is in the middle. But in my mind, at least, it skews toward the 49ers' side of the story. Here's why:

Jed York said an offer was made for Harbaugh and was quickly rejected. Adam Schefter's report that a first-round pick was not part of the offer supports York's version. After all, Tampa Bay once gave up two first-round picks and a second rounder for Jon Gruden. York should have hung up the phone if two first-round picks weren't included. A league source told me Sunday that the Browns' offer was "laughable." That's a far cry from the imminent deal that was painted in the original report on Friday.

So why would Browns owner Jimmy Haslam say his team had an "opportunity" to get Harbaugh? It's quite possible he was led to believe by either one or two men who realized their jobs were on the line -- CEO Joe Banner and GM Mike Lombardi -- that landing Harbaugh was more realistic than it was. That sense easily could have been bolstered by Harbaugh's agent, David Dunn, who has been in the background pulling strings and trying to leverage a bigger deal for his client. It's no coincidence that Harbaugh's name came up during USC's and Texas' coaching searches even though he had no intention of taking either job.

The Browns had suffered through a humbling coaching search to that point. That also may have made Haslam, et alia more desperate to shoot the moon with a whopper of a hire and made him more willing to believe that was a possibility. Perhaps Haslam felt that by essentially saying, 'Well, we did almost land Jim Harbaugh,' it adds legitimacy to what has been a widely panned coaching search. Was Haslam unhappy with how everything turned out? The man who inquired about Harbaugh, Banner, was fired earlier this month. So was Lombardi.

Who wins in all this? Certainly not the Browns, who only have undermined their current head coach, Mike Pettine. And definitely not the 49ers, who now have to deal with all sorts of questions about tension at the top of their organization.

February 24, 2014
York: 49ers had "no interest" in trading Jim Harbaugh


Yes, the Browns reached out to the 49ers about a possible trade for Jim Harbaugh, 49ers owner Jed York said today, but the overture was quickly turned down. York, who has had on-and-off contract discussions with Harbaugh, also reiterated what he said in December: "We want Jim to be our head coach, and we've said that very clearly."

When Pro Football Talk's initial report about about a near-trade of Harbaugh to Cleveland first surfaced Friday, York went onto Twitter to say it wasn't true. He elaborated today, confirming an earlier report in The Bee that the Browns, the only team without a head coach when the 49ers season ended Jan. 19, initially called to ask about offensive coordinator Greg Roman and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. They followed that by asking about Harbaugh.

How far did the conversation get? "Not far at all," York said. "We had no interest in entering those discussions."

ESPN's Adam Schefter has reported that a first-round pick was not part of the compensation the Browns offered, lending credence to the stance that any trade discussion was short-lived.

Asked why he initially offered a flat denial of the PFT story, York said it's because the story wasn't true. The original story said the two sides nearly pulled off a trade for Harbaugh and that it was Harbaugh who ultimately decided not to leave the 49ers.

Asked why he waited to address the story, York said he and the 49ers have a policy to keep trade discussions private. "We keep calls to ourselves," he said. "I see no reason talking about another team - that's how we do business."

February 23, 2014
Source: Browns asked about several 49ers coaches, including Harbaugh


Shortly after the 49ers season ended on Jan. 19, the Browns called to inquire about 49ers assistant coaches Greg Roman and Jim Tomsula, according to a source with knowledge of the conversation. During subsequent conversations, Jim Harbaugh's name also came up, at which point then-Browns CEO Joe Banner listed the compensation Cleveland was willing to provide for the 49ers head coach.

The source, however, said the offer was rebuffed and the conversation never developed from there.

That scenario starts to explain the widely differing reactions by the 49ers and Browns to Friday's report by Pro Football Talk that the two teams were close to pulling off a deal that would have sent Harbaugh to Cleveland for multiple draft picks.

"There was an opportunity there, and it didn't materialize," Jimmy Haslam told told USA TODAY today. Haslam did not elaborate on why the deal fell through.

Haslam's counterpart, however, took to Twitter on Friday with a terse take on the subject. "Report isn't true," Jed York wrote. Harbaugh, meanwhile, said the same thing to several reporters and called it "ridiculous" in a brief interview with CSN Bay Area. While the Browns issued a press release that did not deny the original report, the 49ers have not had an official statement.

It's in the 49ers' interest, of course, to steer clear of a story about trade talks involving their head coach. Acknowledging would only add to any sense of instability at the top of the organization.

Why would the Browns have asked about Harbaugh in January? A month earlier, a report by The Mercury News detailed friction between Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke. Harbaugh and the 49ers also began talking about a contract extension during the summer, but it was tabled when the two sides realized how far apart they were. Talks are expected to resume this offseason.

Meanwhile, the Browns' general manager at the time, Mike Lombardi, is a friend of Harbaugh's from their time with the Raiders. Harbaugh hired Lombardi's son, Mick, as an assistant last year. The Browns may have thought that working alongside Lombardi would appeal to Harbaugh.

Both Banner and Lombardi were fired earlier this month. The Browns never have denied the initial report. Mere days after they called the 49ers, they settled on Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine as their head coach.

-- Matt Barrows

February 22, 2014
New Browns coach calls team's pursuit of Jim Harbaugh a positive


INDIANAPOLIS -- New Browns coach Mike Pettine got a heads up yesterday that a report soon would appear that said the Browns nearly completed a trade that would make the 49ers' Jim Harbaugh their head coach.

Pettine admitted his initial reaction was a bit animated.

"I shot the messenger a little bit," he said today at the NFL Scouting Combine. "Because I asked him, 'How does that affect my tenure as head coach?' And then in the next sentence, maybe I used the word 'flying' followed by something (laughter) or referenced a part of a rat's body."

But Pettine said he ultimately decided that a pursuit of Harbaugh, who has gone to three straight NFC Championship games, showed the Browns were intent on changing their losing ways. "When you look at it, I think that it shows that the organization is committed to getting it turned around, that it would investigate that option," he said. "Me, I see that as a positive."

Pettine's words were an acknowledgment that, at least in his mind, an attempt was made by the Browns to land Harbaugh. Both Harbaugh and 49ers owner Jed York have denied the initial report from Pro Football Talk, which said that it was Harbaugh who ultimately nixed a deal. The 49ers and Harbaugh have been negotiating an extension to Harbaugh's contract.

Pettine, however, said that the Browns' coaching search has no bearing on him or the organization. The two men who conducted it, Mike Lombardi and Joe Banner, were fired earlier this month. The team hired Ray Farmer as its new general manager.

"I think that's noise," Pettine said. "It's something that has no bearing on my job moving forward. I think that's a critical thing. I think a big part of being an NFL head coach is dealing with the noise and dealing with the distraction and you can just add that one to the list."

-- Matt Barrows

February 21, 2014
49ers owner denies Harbaugh-to-Browns report

Jed York, the 49ers' team owner, issued a terse and pointed denial of the report that the 49ers and Browns nearly pulled off a deal that would have sent Jim Harbaugh to Cleveland in return for multiple draft picks. The report said that Harbaugh ultimately nixed the deal. York took to Twitter to write, "report isn't true."

Hours later, ESPN's Ed Werder Tweeted that Harbaugh had sent him a text message that reads: "I echo Jed York's comment - isn't true. I know nothing about a trade between the Cleveland Browns and us, involving me."

Here's the timeline to which York was responding:

Two of the main points to keep in mind when it comes to this story: 1.) York and Harbaugh began discussing a contract extension last offseason but talks broke off when there was little progress. 2.) Harbaugh is close to former Browns general manager Mike Lombardi, who was fired earlier this month.

-- Matt Barrows
The report said that Harbaugh ultimately nixed the deal. Team owner Jed York took to Twitter to write, "report isn't true."

February 21, 2014
Report: Browns, 49ers discussed trading Jim Harbaugh


Citing multiple sources, Pro Football Talk today reported that the 49ers and Browns were close to pulling off a whopper of a trade that would have sent multiple draft picks from Cleveland to San Francisco. The kicker: It involved head coach Jim Harbaugh and not a player.

The report said that Harbaugh ultimately nixed the deal. Team owner Jed York took to Twitter to write, "report isn't true."

The backdrop to the alleged transaction is Harbaugh's pending contract extension. The two sides began discussing one last year but talks broke off with no progress with the understanding they would resume this offseason. Harbaugh, who took the 49ers at least to the NFC Championship game in the three seasons he has been in San Francisco, just completed the third year of a five-year deal that pays him $5 million a year. He is currently the third-highest-paid coach in the NFC West.

It's also notable that Harbaugh's close friend, Mike Lombardi, is the former general manager of the Browns. Harbaugh hired Lombardi's son, Mick, to his staff last season. Lombardi was let go in Cleveland earlier this month. The team ultimately hired former Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine four days after the 49ers lost to the Seahawks in the NFC Championship game.

Cleveland issued a statement today that did not deny they discussed trading for Harbaugh.

"The team conducted an extensive coaching search, and explored several options," the statement read. "That search produced an outstanding head coach in Mike Pettine and we're excited about his future with the club."

General manager Trent Baalke spoke to the media today in Indianapolis before the report of trade talks surfaced. A report in The Mercury News two months ago cited a strained relationship between Harbaugh and Baalke, who has the ultimate say in personnel decisions. Baalke, however, painted a rosy picture of his relationship with Harbaugh as it pertains to scouting prospects.

"There's been no change," Baalke said. "We continue to work hard at it. What we're trying to do is get it right for the 49ers and the best way to get it right is to be on the same page and to work hard together and try to make the best decisions for the team and the organization as a whole. We're going to continue to do that, so from that standpoint nothing has changed."

The 49ers have not yet commented on the report.

-- Matt Barrows

February 19, 2014
New gig: Mangini to coach 49ers tight ends in 2014


INDIANAPOLIS - Eric Mangini, who spent his first season in San Francisco with the nebulous title of senior offensive consultant, will have a more specific job description in 2014 -- tight ends coach.

Reggie Davis, who coached 49ers tight ends for the last three years, will become the team's assistant offensive line coach, a spot that opened when Tim Drevno was hired to coach the offensive line at USC.

Mangini formerly coached the Jets and Browns. Until last season, his expertise mainly has been on the defensive side of the ball. But he was brought in by Jim Harbaugh to work with the team's offense by offering a defensive-minded perspective.

Harbaugh also said he consulted with Mangini, who watched games from the coaches' booth, on replay reviews. The 49ers were 2-9 on replay challenges in 2013. Only five teams were worse.

Asked Thursday what made Mangini right for coaching tight ends, Harbaugh said, "He has a very extensive resume as a football coach. He spent the whole season on the offensive side of the ball last year. He's coached an entire defense, an entire team. He's more than qualified to coach three, four, five tight ends."

Mangini, 43, spent 2011 and 2012 as an NFL analyst for ESPN. But after being hired by the 49ers, he was frank about his desire to be a head coach again.

"That's definitely a goal of mine," Mangini said in June. "Right now, I'm doing what I can do here as well as I can do it. I think it's every coach's goal to eventually do that."

Mangini first met Harbaugh three years ago when the 49ers spent a week in Youngstown, Ohio. Mangini remained close with special teams coach Brad Seely, Magini's assistant when he was the head coach of the Browns, and Seely invited him to the session. He took a trip to Santa Clara early last offseason, which is when Harbaugh and he first discussed a spot on his staff.

"The great thing that I've found with Jim and (offensive coordinator) Greg (Roman) and all the guys here is it's ego-less," Mangini said. "And that's really appealing. Everyone just wants to get to the right answer. And to me, input seems to be really encouraged, and I'm happy to offer it if I think it will help."

One of the new tight ends coach's main tasks will be to get more production out of No. 2 tight end Vance McDonald. A second-round pick in April, McDonald played 480 snaps in 2013 but finished with only eight catches for 118 yards and no touchdowns.

-- Matt Barrows

February 14, 2014
Harbaugh: Jonathan Martin can resume successful NFL career


The Ted Wells report, which details "a pattern of harassment" among Dolphins offensive linemen, included an interview with Jonathan Martin's former coach at Stanford, Jim Harbaugh. Both Harbaugh and current Stanford coach David Shaw said that Martin fit in well inside the Stanford locker room.

"(Harbaugh), told us that he had never doubted Martin's tenacity, work ethic and dedication to the game, and that he had never seen Martin exhibit problems with social adjustment," the independent report says. "Coach Harbaugh told us he believed that Martin likely could continue to have a successful career in the NFL. It appears that Martin was up to the challenge of dealing with physical or verbal intimidation by opposing players during NFL games, but fell victim, at least in part, to persistent taunting from his own teammates."

The full report can be read here.

It says that while there was ribbing inside the Stanford locker room and that Martin dealt with bouts of mild depression, he felt comfortable there. Furthermore, Harbaugh told Wells that he didn't think the 49ers' locker room was all that different than Stanford's.

"Although initially quiet, he became a vocal leader on the team by his final year," the report reads. "Coach Harbaugh emphasized that he never doubted Martin's physical or mental toughness, and he believes that Martin can continue to have a successful career in the NFL. Coach Harbaugh also said that the atmosphere in the Stanford locker room, in his view, was not materially different from that of the San Francisco 49ers' locker room."

This, of course, makes San Francisco a possible landing spot should Martin return to the NFL. Martin played left tackle at Stanford and was a second-round pick by the Dolphins in 2012. As I wrote earlier this month, however, the 49ers do not have a big need along the offensive line. Still, they could use a young, backup tackle who can play both the right and left sides, which Martin has done. Furthermore, Martin currently is taking classes at Stanford.

Martin left the Dolphins during the 2013 season but is still under contract with them. For another team to acquire him, the Dolphins would have to release Martin or work out a trade with that team.

When allegations of bullying inside the Dolphins locker room first broke in November, Harbaugh called Martin a "personal friend."

"As far as that situation, there's only one thing I can intelligently comment on and that's knowing Jonathan Martin," Harbaugh said on Nov. 6. "I know him to be a fine person and his family. (He was a) great contributor as a student and an athlete at Stanford, epitomizes the student-athlete model and a personal friend. I support Jonathan."

-- Matt Barrows

February 2, 2014
Super Bowl observations ... with a 49ers twist


A lot of comments on social media during the Super Bowl noted that it was a throwback to the 1980s and 90s when the games were routinely blowouts. Back then, the NFC -- with teams like the Redskins, Giants, Cowboys and Bears -- was decidedly more physical than the AFC. The 49ers were known more for precision than power but were physical in their own way. The bottom line is that by the time the Super Bowl arrived, teams from the NFC were more battle-tested than their AFC counterparts, and it showed.

History repeated itself this year. It can safely be said that the Broncos were not the second-best team in the NFL this year. The 49ers get that honor. Heck, the Broncos might even be behind the Panthers and Saints after their anemic effort against Seattle. The 49ers' fans won't be happy that their arch rivals are Super Bowl champions. One of the bottom lines, however, is that three games against the 49ers made the Seahawks better.

The other take-away is that the 49ers are built very much like the Seahawks. Which is to say, power still trumps finesse in the National Football League, and the 49ers are one of the league's two most powerful teams.


Colin Kaepernick and Greg Roman, who took their lumps in the media and from the fan base two weeks ago, don't look so bad right now. Seattle's defense -- in a neutral site, mind you - thoroughly throttled the league's No. 1 offense and the league's MVP, Peyton Manning. The Denver quarterback, not known for his mobility, was a sitting duck for the Seahawks' wolfish defense, and he threw ducks all evening. Kaepernick and the 49ers, meanwhile, beat the Seahawks in San Francisco, and Kaepernick -- thanks to his athleticism and his running ability -- was one throw away from doing it in Seattle, too. I imagine that Manning and the Broncos added value to Kaepernick's contract, if it is indeed extended this offseason.

January 17, 2014
Beats by Jim: 49ers coach raves about QB's headphone ad that upset some Seahawks fans

When it comes to Colin Kaepernick's Beats by Dre commercial, life imitates art. At least according to Jim Harbaugh.

"I love it. I absolutely love it," the 49ers coach said of the ad in which Kaepernick escapes the taunts of opposing fans by slipping on a pair of black headphones. The fans in the ad are particularly rabid, they live in a rainy city and they wear colors similar to those of the Seattle Seahawks. When it was released last month Seahawks fans complained about the near-feral manner in which they were depicted.

Is the portrayal accurate? "It's somewhat like that," Harbaugh said of arriving at an opponent's stadium. "Yeah, definitely. Riding in and the fans are all out there. Sometimes they're the way that they are in the video."

The 49ers, of course, won't have the luxury of noise-canceling headphones Sunday at CenturyLink Field.

To prepare for the din there, the 49ers cranked up the music and artificial fan noise at their Friday practice to higher volumes than they would for a typical road trip and played it for longer durations. The offensive linemen, who must get used to snapping the play off of silent counts, wore earplugs.

The 49ers also have altered their travel routine.

January 16, 2014
49ers notes: Fangio says "we'll see" when it comes to Carlos Rogers' role


Cornerback Carlos Rogers went through his second straight limited practice today, but defensive coordinator Vic Fangio wouldn't commit to giving Rogers his old job back, even if he's fully recovered from his hamstring strain.

"We're hoping that he can get 100 percent healthy," Fangio said today. "And then we'll see exactly what his role will be at that point."

With Rogers out of action the last two games, Tarell Brown and Tramaine Brock have started at cornerback with Perrish Cox filling in as the nickel cornerback. Asked if there might be an inclination to continue with that largely successful arrangement, Fangio said, "All possibilities are on the table."

Rookie tight end Vance McDonald hasn't caught a pass since Nov. 25. In fact, he hasn't been targeted in the passing game since Dec. 23.

But McDonald, who primarily served as a pass catcher at Rice, has improved as a blocker throughout the season, and he even lined up as a fullback on Sunday after Will Tukuafu left the game with a sprained knee.

"Oh, he's getting a lot better without question," offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. "All the little things, the nuances ... all the little tricks of the trade -- he's starting to get a little bit more comfortable with. He's developing nicely into the player that we really felt he would be. He's been a very valuable asset for us this year."

McDonald has played about 50 percent of the 49ers' offensive snaps through the first two playoff games.

Michael Crabtree today was willing to praise the Seattle defensive backs he'll face on Sunday. But only so far.

Asked if Richard Sherman, who led the NFL this year with eight interceptions, was the best cornerback in the league, Crabtree said, "I don't know (anything) about the best cornerbacks in the league. I just know teams, you know. We are playing the Seattle Seahawks and hopefully we come out with a win. We are going hard."

So how does the entire Seattle defense rank, in terms of its secondary? "They move around, they are pretty good, pretty good," Crabtree said. "They are a good football team. We got some good guys too. So it is going to be a good game."

-- Matt Barrows

January 16, 2014
Harbaugh on Aldon Smith: "We tend to forget that the reason we got smart is because we learned from our mistakes"


Edge rusher Aldon Smith figures to play a key role for the 49ers' defense in Sunday's NFC championship game as it deals with the dual threats of the Seahawks' conventional, Marshawn Lynch-fueled running game and the scrambling ability of quarterback Russell Wilson.

The good news for the 49ers is Smith has been his disruptive self of late, with head coach Jim Harbaugh going so far this week as to say that opponents trying to contain Smith with a solo blocker are "whistling Dixie."

"That's the way he's playing right now," Harbaugh said. "Therefore he's getting quite a bit of double-team chips, help from the backs and the tight ends. And he's really playing well."

After going through the final six games of last season -- postseason included -- with no sacks, Smith registered 1 ½ in the wild-card round against the Packers before being held without one last week in Carolina. Still, he was part of a defense that held the Panthers to 93 rushing yards and didn't allow mobile quarterback Cam Newton (10 rushes, 54 yards) to cause too much havoc with his legs.

Smith today said he feels "a lot more healthy" than at this time last season -- likely due in part to his missing five games earlier in the year while attending an out-of-state treatment facility following his second arrest for DUI in as many years. Smith returned in Week 10 against Carolina and was eased back into his normal role on the defense.

Harbaugh was asked this week about Smith's performance and behavior since rejoining the team -- both of which have been by most accounts very good -- and had this to say:

January 15, 2014
Jim Harbaugh Q&A: Relaxed coach talks Johnny Cash and Dickies

Super-fast transcriber, Matt Kawahara, got the jump on Jim Harbaugh's Wednesday transcript today. The 49ers head coach was loose, funny and -- for him -- expansive. That tends to diminish as the week goes on, and Harbaugh is scheduled to speak Thursday and Friday, too. So enjoy....

Q: How would you describe your relationship with Pete Carroll? Is there any animosity?
A: Animosity, no. Erroneous, erroneous. It's football, it's competition, it's winning.

Q: You guys interact?
A: We've had football. Competition. Winning. That's what we've had. Great competition.

Q: Colin is a good QB. Is there an intangible that makes him stand out?
A: Yes. A-plus in all those regards in terms of intangibles. Poise, big stage never seems to bother him. And his leadership ability. Players love him, coaches love him. Work ethic off the charts. A-plus-plus.

Q: Does he have the same composure in a big game like this weekend as in a regular season game?
A: Just noticed it watching him play even going back to college when I first started watching him play. The big game, the big challenge, the big task, he has that special ability the great ones have to elevate their game in those situations.

Q: Do you have to give him stronger emphasis in the playoffs on protecting the ball?
A: We do that with the whole team, in terms of protecting the ball, daily, hourly.

Q: How so?
A: Remind them to protect the ball. Daily and hourly.

Q: When it comes to protecting the ball against Seattle, what are the biggest challenges?
A: The Seattle defense is looking to get the ball at all times, create turnovers in any situation, generate them on all downs. They're looking to take the ball away.

Q: Why have they had success in the past doing that against Colin?
A: Well some they have, some they haven't in previous matchups.

January 15, 2014
Vikings hire head coach; Roman, Tomsula passed over


The Minnesota Vikings, one of two teams still looking for a head coach, found their man today, and it wasn't 49ers assistant Greg Roman or Jim Tomsula. Both had interviewed with the Vikings on Saturday in Charlotte, N.C. Instead, the Vikings tapped Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer for the job.

With the 49ers playing in the NFC Championship game for the third straight season, and with the possibility that an assistant could not join another team until after the Feb. 2 Super Bowl, it seems unlikely that any 49ers assistant will get a head-coaching gig this year. I wrote about the obstacles the 49ers assistants face last week.

Still, there remain possibilities, including the Cleveland Browns, the lone team without a head coach. Cleveland's general manager, Mike Lombardi, is close to Jim Harbaugh from their time together on the Raiders. Lombardi, who was a finalist for the 49ers' general manger job (loud cough/the 49ers were going with Trent Baalke all the way), presumably likes Harbaugh's style of play and could be interested in bringing an assistant or two for an interview. The Browns certainly seem intent on slow-playing the process.

There also remains the possibility of a 49ers assistant taking a better assistant job elsewhere. Secondary coach Ed Donatell, for instance, has been a candidate for defensive coordinator the last two seasons but the 49ers have blocked his interviews. They cannot do so this offseason. Tomsula, meanwhile, is a defensive line coach and may be looking to become a coordinator. The Vikings ostensibly could be looking at him in that capacity now that they've found their head coach.

-- Matt Barrows

January 13, 2014
How to beat Seahawks in Seattle? The Cardinals give advice


The only team to beat the Seahawks at home in the last two seasons? That would be the Arizona Cardinals, who won, 17-10, at CenturyLink Field in Week 16. The 49ers played the Cardinals the following week, and we asked coach Bruce Arians and cornerback Patrick Peterson how they pulled off the upset.

* Arians: "I thought stopping the run was huge in that game. We wanted to win both lines of scrimmage, and I felt like our defensive line stopped them pretty good. And our third-down conversion rate was outstanding on defense, getting off the field."

* Peterson: "Honestly, just jump on 'em early. Seattle is a pretty good team and the things they like to do, they do it well. I believe if you shut down those things early, get 'em into a one-dimensional team, which is throwing the football, I think you have a pretty good opportunity to win it."

Indeed, Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch had a decent game in carrying the ball 18 times for 71 yards. But he didn't get into the end zone and he had 10 carries of 2 yards or fewer. Furthermore, quarterback Russell Wilson had a bad day (108 passing yards; 49.6 passer rating), and the Seahawks had seven three-and-out series. They were 2-13 (15 percent) on third downs. As Peterson said, the Cardinals got out to an early lead. But they certainly never had a big lead; their widest margin was seven points, which occurred when they scored a touchdown with 2:13 left.

-- Matt Barrows

January 11, 2014
Report: Vikings to interview Greg Roman, Jim Tomsula in Carolina


Offensive coordinator Greg Roman could not go to Minneapolis to interview for the Vikings' vacant head-coaching job, so the Vikings instead will come to him. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, a contingent of Vikings officials, presumably including general manager Rick Spielman, will interview Roman today in Charlotte, N.C.. The Vikings also have requested an interview with 49ers defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, and they will interview him in Charlotte as well.

Roman also had been on Penn State's and the Washington Redskins' radar. Both of those organizations found head coaches this week. Roman reportedly interviewed for the Penn State opening on Monday in Chicago after the rest of the team flew back from Green Bay on Sunday. Asked about job possibilities this week, Roman said, "Really focused on this game and I'm sure there's a lot of rumors floating around out there, but really irrelevant. Focused on this game and beating the Panthers."

The Vikings also have interviewed Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Cleveland defensive coordinator Ray Horton.

-- Matt Barrows

January 9, 2014
Coaching openings close on Roman, Fangio

Coaching opportunities spring up out of nowhere but vanish just as quickly.

On Wednesday, for example, Greg Roman was a head-coaching candidate in Washington and at Penn State, with whom he had interviewed on Monday. By this morning, the Redskins had hired Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden as its next head coach while Penn State was zeroing in on Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin, according to multiple reports.

That takes Roman and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio out of the running for the Washington gig and Roman out of the running at Penn State, which he once called a "lifetime job."

Of course, more possibilities are likely to spring up. The Vikings presumably still are interested in Roman and, according to Sirius XM's Adam Caplan, Minnesota also has requested an interview with defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. It's unknown if interviews have been scheduled. The initial interview would have to happen before Sunday, and it would either occur in the Bay Area or in Charlotte, N.C.

-- Matt Barrows

January 8, 2014
Harbaugh insists assistants -- whether they're staying or not -- are focused on Panthers


For the first time since joining the 49ers, Jim Harbaugh will have significant defections on his coaching staff. But he insisted today they won't be a distraction. "I know our people," Harbaugh said at his weekly press conference. "Their focus is right here on this game."

The latest to go appears to be senior offensive assistant Paul Wulff, who reportedly was hired by South Florida to be their offensive coordinator. Harbaugh would neither confirm nor deny that Wulff, formerly the head coach at Washington State, was leaving the team.

"I'll let other people comment on their job status and let other programs go through their process without interfering," he said.

The 49ers also will lose assistant offensive line coach Tim Drevno at the end of the season. USC last month hired Drevno, who has coached under Harbaugh since 2004, to be its offensive line coach.

The big loss could come at one or perhaps both of the coordinator positions. ESPN's Adam Schefter today reported that offensive coordinator Greg Roman interviewed with Penn State officials Monday in Chicago for the school's head-coaching job. The 49ers flew back from Appleton, Wi. on Sunday night and began preparing for the Panthers on Monday. Roman also interviewed for the Penn State opening in 2012, but the job went to then-Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien.

"There's only one job I'm concerned about, and that is this one," Roman said as he was walking off the practice field today.

Harbaugh said on Monday that he has received interview requests for Roman, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula.

-- Matt Barrows

January 8, 2014
Report: Roman to interview with Penn State, which he called "lifetime job" two years ago


Greg Roman, who was a finalist to succeed Joe Paterno as Penn State's head coach in 2012, will get another crack at the job, according to a report by CBS Sports. The school has an interview set with the 49ers' offensive coordinator, presumably after the 49ers play the Panthers in Charlotte, N.C. on Sunday. ****UPDATE*** Another CBS reporter, Bruce Feldman, reports that the meeting with Penn State already has occurred.

Two years ago, Roman, a native of Ventnor, N.J., called coaching at Penn State a "lifetime job."

"I've coached in college at Stanford and in the pros for 14 years in the NFL, so it's more about the individual opportunity, the people you're surrounding yourself with," Roman said at the time. "And a job like Penn State is a lifetime job. That's a job if I were to become the head coach there, I wouldn't leave there. I'd be back East, setting up camp, I'd be at the (Jersey) Shore in the summer. And that would be my routine."

Jim Harbaugh this week confirmed that Roman also has drawn interest in NFL circles, reportedly from the Vikings and Redskins. Washington also is interested in defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, and it's possible the Redskins could send a contingent to Charlotte, N.C. on Saturday to meet with both men.

In 2012 the Penn State job went to then-New England offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien, who was recently named the Texans' head coach. When news that Roman was in the running for the job broke two years ago, the 49ers were preparing to face either the Saints, Falcons or Giants in the divisional round of the playoffs. Roman had interviewed for the position in November of that season.

The 49ers ended up scoring 36 points and gaining 406 yards of offense in a win over the Saints the following week.

Penn State also is reportedly considering Vanderbilt coach James Franklin, Miami coach Al Golden, former Titans coack Mike Munchak and Penn State defensive line coach/interim head coach Larry Johnson for the position.

-- Matt Barrows

January 6, 2014
Harbaugh confirms interest in Roman, Fangio, Tomsula

SANTA CLARA -- 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh confirmed today that teams have contacted the 49ers about potential interviews with offensive coordinator Greg Roman, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula.

Harbaugh did not say which teams have reached out to the 49ers. Multiple reports this morning have the Washington Redskins interested in Roman and Fangio Tomsula, with Roman also on the radar of the Minnesota Vikings for their head coaching vacancy.

"I imagine there'll be some interviews taking place in the coming week or weeks," said Harbaugh. "You know, it's smart on their part. Those guys are great coaches, all of them. There's nobody that's got a better staff in my humble opinion than we do here."

January 6, 2014
Report: Greg Roman drawing interest from two teams

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman has caught the interest of at least two teams in need of a head coach. According to Albert Breer of NFL Network, the Redskins and Vikings have reached out to Roman and that he "could have" interviews with those teams. As a member of a team that played in the Wildcard round, Roman is permitted to interview this week. The Vikings are a short plane ride from the 49ers' most recent destination, Green Bay, Wis.; the Redskins are a short flight from their upcoming destination, Charlotte, N.C.

Both Washington and Minnesota would appear to be good fits for Roman, who has run power-based offenses at Stanford and San Francisco. The Redskins finished fifth in rushing offense and have a quarterback, Robert Griffin III, with similar abilities as Roman's current passer, Colin Kaepernick. The Vikings, of course, have perhaps the league's best running back in Adrian Peterson and finished eighth in rushing offense.

Roman's name was bandied about last year as well, but he never had any interviews. The 49ers played in the Super Bowl in early February whereas most teams try to secure new head coaches by mid January. The general manager of at least one team, the Jaguars, said he would have interviewed Roman had he not been preoccupied with the 49ers' Super Bowl run.

Could the same scenario occur again? The 49ers are now two wins away from going to their second straight Super Bowl and Roman recently told The Merc's Tim Kawakami that job interviews are "just not something I'm thinking about right now." Still, he conceded that landing the right head-coaching job is a lifelong pursuit.

-- Matt Barrows

January 3, 2014
Snow day: 49ers to practice outdoors in Green Bay on Saturday


While the 49ers have been practicing in unseasonably warm, mid-60-degree weather in the Santa Clara Valley this week, the Packers have ventured outside in an effort to get better acclimated with the bitter cold that awaits them on Sunday.

The 49ers, however, at least will get a taste of the arctic blast that's sitting over the upper Midwest.

Jim Harbaugh today said the team would hold a Saturday walk-through outdoors, either at Lambeau Field or at a nearby practice field. As The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Tom Silverstein writes, that walk through likely will be at the practice facility, especially if it snows Saturday morning as forecast.

If that's the case, the Lambeau playing surface will be covered with a tarp, which won't be lifted until shortly before kickoff at 1:40 p.m. (PST).

The good news for the 49ers is that Green Bay will experience a warm-up (relatively speaking, of course) on Saturday, with temperatures topping out at 26 degrees. The bad news is that the temperature won't give Harbaugh and his players a true sample of what they'll get the following day.

The forecast calls for rapidly dropping temperatures Sunday with an expected high of 4 degrees, a low of minus-20 degrees and a wind-chill of up to minus-50 degrees. That means the swing between the high temperature Saturday to the low temperature Sunday is roughly the same as the difference between Santa Clara's high temperature this week and Green Bay's high temperature Saturday.

That is, the 49ers are easing themselves into what could be one of the coldest NFL games ever played.

-- Matt Barrows

December 31, 2013
Drevno to exit Harbaugh's staff. Who's next?


There will be a rare occurrence this offseason for Jim Harbaugh's 49ers: The head coach will lose an established assistant. When the 49ers' season ends, assistant offensive line coach Tim Drevno will leave the team to become USC's offensive line coach, the school announced Monday.

Drevno has been with Harbaugh since 2004 when Harbaugh took over at the University of San Diego. Drevno has split his position coaching duties with Mike Solari the last three years in San Francisco. The 49ers' offensive line is considered one of the best in the league, and the 49ers finished third in rushing this season.

Drevno is the most well-known assistant to leave Harbaugh's staff. Still, he could lose more lieutenants this season because some of his more in-demand assistants are reaching the end of their contracts. For example, the team twice has blocked secondary coach Ed Donatell from interviewing for a defensive coordinator position because he had years left on his contract.

Who else could leave?

Greg Roman. The 49ers offensive coordinator wants to be a head coach whether it's at the NFL level or perhaps with a prominent college program. Roman would have gotten interviews with Jacksonville and perhaps San Diego last year if the 49ers hadn't gone to the Super Bowl, which restricted his chances to talk to possible suitors.

Vic Fangio. NFL teams typically like to hire offensive-minded coaches or young, energetic defensive coaches. Fangio, the 49ers defensive coordinator, is neither. But a smart owner would see Fangio's strengths. He's got plenty of experience, patience and a knack for putting the right players in the right roles. He'd be an excellent fit in, say, Houston where the roster already is loaded with talent.

Brad Seely. Special teams coaches don't get hired as head coaches, right? Tell that to John Harbaugh, who was the special teams coordinator in Philadelphia before being hired by the Ravens. Like Fangio, Seely would be a calming presence atop a team's coaching tree. An unstable organization - hello, Washington and Cleveland - would be well-served by a wise, patient coach like Seely.

Ed Donatell. The Buccaneers were eying him in 2011 and the Saints were interested last year. He'd pair nicely with a young, offensive minded head coach. (Say, for instance, Roman or Denver's Adam Gase). If Donatell leaves, assistant secondary coach Greg Jackson is an option to replace him.

December 20, 2013
The halftime hustle: Coaches won't miss trek to Candlestick locker room


Candlestick Park has the slowest elevator in North America. NFL coaches will back me up on this.

At halftime, coaches who watch the game from the booth in the press box must use this elevator to get to the locker room in order to talk to the team and the other assistants. In newer stadiums, there is a bank of modern elevators that deposit those coaches under the stadium only a few yards from the locker rooms.

In Candlestick, there's one, rickety, tortoise-like one that is prone to breakdowns. Not only that, it only goes down two levels. The coaches then must walk through the field-level stands to get to the playing field and then walk -- or more commonly, run -- across the field and into the locker rooms.

Vic Fangio today estimated he has six or seven minutes in the locker room before he has to turn around and make the reverse journey. Fangio said he's able to communicate the same things he can when the 49ers are on the road. Still, he said it's different.

"You don't feel the stress," he said of when the 49ers are on the road. "You know you're going to get up and down at a normal stadium. Here you've got to fight through the crowd, which can be a little bit chaotic at times. It's nobody's fault. It's just a lot of people going up and down those steps. And then you've got the elevator there and you might have to wait for it because there's only one whereas the new stadiums usually have a bank of three or four there."

Here's Greg Roman describing the journey: "You have to get on the elevator and take it down to the main concourse, fight your way through the people getting beer and pretzels and hot dogs, go down the stairs of the first level, get on the field, sprint to the dugout, sprint to the locker room. You've got about five minutes there, and then it's a full sprint back. What does that tell me each week? Man, I've got to get more exercise. I'm breathing really hard by the time I hit that elevator. We all are. We just look at each other and go, 'Whew, we've got to get more exercise.'"

Added Roman: "It's interesting. It's definitely part of the lore of Candlestick Park."

Fangio, who was an assistant with the Panthers and Saints when those teams were in the NFC West, said he's never had an issue with the fans as he's made his way through the stands at halftime. He hasn't in the last two and half seasons, either. "Luckily in the last three years, we've been fairly successful at home and the fans have been cordial," he said.

- Matt Barrows

December 18, 2013
York: Harbaugh's never asked for more personnel power


Jed York today said that there's always going to be push and pull between an NFL general manager and a head coach, and he acknowledged that Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke "butt heads" from time to time. But on KNBR radio this morning the 49ers owner said that Harbaugh never has asked for more control of personnel and that he doesn't envision Harbaugh having more control in the future. As of now, Baalke has the final say on the team's roster.

"He's never asked for that, he's never intimated any of that," York said. "And it's easy to say, it's easy to speculate, 'Well, he was in college and he had full control and he wants full control here.' That sounds great until you actually get to reality. And Jim's never really ever asked for that. Now do we butt heads on players from time to time? Of course. That's what GMs and coaches do. But Jim knows that being a coach is a full-time job, and he has a lot of respect for the job that Trent has done. I mean you look at the folks we've added through the draft, free agency and trade - we're in a pretty good spot from a talent standpoint."

York continued: "And I've always said, you can have control in your contract, but if you can't sit down and actually talk something through, it really doesn't matter what your contract says. And I think that's where Jim and Trent are. They sit down and argue things out. And then they figure out, 'What's the best thing for the 49ers?' and let's move forward. And that's how I really see this team operating in the future and in perpetuity."

Harbaugh is reaching the end of the third year of a five-year, $25 million deal. He's the third-highest paid coach in the NFC West - behind Seattle's Pete Carroll and St. Louis' Jeff Fisher - and York has said that the two sides will sit down in the offseason to work out something better for Harbaugh.

"You can't really ask for a much better job than what he's done over the last two and a half seasons," York said. "Now's not the right time to get into a deep contract discussion. But he knows we want him here long term, and we'll sit down at the end of the season, we'll assess like we always do, and I definitely anticipate Jim being here for a long period of time."

-- Matt Barrows

December 15, 2013
So long, 'Stick: DeBartolo has mixed feelings about stadium's final game


TAMPA -- "It truly is an end of an era," said Eddie DeBartolo Jr., who will be among the 49ers luminaries on hand for next week's goodbye to Candlestick Park. The former 49ers owner said he will serve as honorary captain for the Monday Night Football game against the Atlanta Falcons.

DeBartolo, who lives 12 miles from the Buccaneers stadium in Tampa, hasn't always been an adoring fan of the stadium, which will be razed after this season. He once referred to it as a "pig sty." And he said one of his most lasting memories came in 1977 - the 49ers were one of the worst teams in the NFL at the time - when a fan clocked him in the head with a full can of beer.

"It almost knocked me out," he said with a laugh. "That probably sticks out in my mind more than anything."

But he said Monday's farewell will be an emotional one. He, Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott, Roger Craig and Dwight Clark will be part of the ceremony. "In a different way, I left a lot of my heart and my blood, sweat and tears on that field, too," DeBartolo said. "And I think it's fitting that we're all there."

DeBartolo spoke on a range of topics before today's game, including:

* Jim Harbaugh's contract. The coach and DeBartolo's nephew, Jed York, will try to work out an extension after this season. "They get ... wound really tight," DeBartolo said of NFL coaches. "And there is a certain amount of time when you get a burn out." But he said he thinks Harbaugh and York will come to an agreement. He said he and York "talked yesterday, and I think they're well on their way to getting it done."

* The 49ers' chances this year. DeBartolo said he expects San Francisco to go to its second straight Super Bowl. "They are by far the best team in football," he said. "Seattle is great and they've had trouble in Seattle. But (the 49ers) have players back, the offensive line's coming back, the receivers. (Colin) Kaepernick's got confidence. It reminds me of our teams. It reminds me of '88, '89."

* Charles Haley's hall-of-fame chances. DeBartolo said he's sure the former 49ers pass rusher will get in this year. In fact, Haley asked DeBartolo to induct him

DeBartolo said he hasn't seen the 49ers' new stadium. But he said he's certain it will be so innovative that it will make Jerry Jones' stadium outside of Dallas "look obsolete." The 49ers will play their first game at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara next season. DeBartolo said he figures to get an invitation to help open it.

Said DeBartolo: "We've suffered with Candlestick for a long time."

- Matt Barrows

November 11, 2013
Harbaugh refuses to discuss Kaepernick's performance vs. Panthers


Late in Sunday's game against the Panthers, Colin Kaepernick escaped the pocket and took off down field for a 16-yard gain. When a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on the Panthers was tacked on, it seemed like the spark the 49ers bedraggled offense needed to topple Carolina once and for all.

But on the next play, receiver Anquan Boldin was called for a false start, one of numerous first-down mistakes the 49ers were unable to overcome in the 10-9 loss. Four sacks of Colin Kaepernick also occurred on first down, one of the reasons the 49ers only were able to convert two, third-down scenarios during the game.

"Too many negative plays -- loss of yardage plays, penalties, sack, turnover -- that we've got to get better at," Jim Harbaugh said Monday. "We didn't do a good enough job."

That, however, was as far as Harbaugh was willing to go when it came to laying blame. The 49ers coach never criticizes a player or an assistant and refused to do so whether it was backup tight end Vance McDonald failing to haul in a deep pass or offensive coordinator Greg Roman's play selection.

"Not going to go through, dissect position by position, raking anybody over the coals," Harbaugh said. "I don't think that's the best thing for us. We have a tough game coming up. We're not going to wallow in it. We're going to move on to New Orleans."

Harbaugh specifically was asked about Kaepernick, who had perhaps his roughest outing as a 49er starter. He was sacked a career-high six times total, completed just half of his passes and his longest completion of the day was a modest 14 yards. The 16-yard scramble, combined with the 15-yard penalty, at the end of the third quarter was the 49ers' longest play of the game.

November 7, 2013
Bill Walsh didn't like hazing


I received this email Wednesday afternoon from Jim Dennis, a former San Jose State and San Diego State offensive lineman who had a cup of coffee with the 49ers in the spring of 1986. The email is brief and to the point. And it's further proof that locker-room hazing is not an essential element for winning NFL championships. Here's Dennis:

"I was only there a few days in Redwood City due to a medical back issue but I will never forget Bill Walsh walking onto the field,and the first thing he said was, 'Welcome, we are here for one reason only and that is to win the World Championship and nothing else.' Then he said there will be no hazing of any kind as we are all equal. He also went on to say that the 49ers will overcome any penalty during the game as penalties are part of the game and there is no use complaining about it. As a life-long 49er fan growing up I was in complete awe of him but I have never forgot that first impression."

Jim Dennis
Sacramento, Ca

-- Matt Barrows

October 8, 2013
Hard Knocks? It would drive 49ers, Baalke bonkers


I'd hate to be the guy who has to tell Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke about the NFL's latest rule change. Today in Washington, D.C., league owners voted to compel one team each year to appear on HBO's Hard Knocks, which follows - sometimes in intimate and embarrassing ways - a team's training camp and its preparation for the regular season. In previous years, teams have been reluctant to appear on the show, causing last-minute scrambling by the network and the league.

As any true fan knows by now, Harbaugh and Baalke barely can tolerate even the slightest media intrusion. Practices are, for all intents and purposes, closed. Injury information is guarded like KGB files. Getting to within 300 yards of team headquarters requires a badge and a retinal scan.

Yes, Harbaugh has the ability to ham it up and would make for extremely compelling television (and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula has so much personalty, HBO would craft a spinoff for him, "Tomsula Tonight"). But Baalke is very serious and very reclusive. Baalke is filmed less often than the endangered snow leopard of the Himalayas.

There's one way the two men can avoid the root-canal that would be appearing on Hard Knocks. And that's to make the playoffs. Today's rule change came with several loopholes. Every team will be eligible to be picked except: teams that have made the playoffs in at least one of the last two seasons; teams that have a first-year head coach; and teams that have participated in the previous 10 seasons. (Chiefs, Cowboys, Jets, Dolphins, Bengals).

It also helps that HBO's formula calls for lesser-known players on lesser-known teams. That is, the Cardinals and Raiders might be more compelling to them than the 49ers.

I wonder if Jed York also would be willing to work out a deal with the league. That is, have a handshake agreement that the 49ers will play in London again after this season if they are kept off of Hard Knocks. Owners today also approved three London games in 2014 to be hosted by the Raiders, Falcons and Jaguars.

The 49ers are in line to visit the Raiders next year, and it's possible the league could play that game overseas to avoid the violence that ended the teams' annual preseason meeting two years ago.

- Matt Barrows

September 18, 2013
Mind games: Luck recalls picking Fangio's brain about defense


Cornerback Richard Sherman, who has a history with Jim Harbaugh and familiarity with the 49ers' offense, was named NFC's defensive player of the week today for his role in the Seahawks' recent blowout win over San Francisco. On Sunday, another player with long background with Harbaugh and the 49ers' system will try to do the same.

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck said he used to knock on Vic Fangio's door when Fangio was Stanford's defensive coordinator in 2010. His objective - learn as much as he could about Fangio's defense because it would help him learn more about himself.

"They whupped our butts every now and then in practice, and then (the goal) was to figure out why was the defense doing so well, what are our weaknesses, what are my weaknesses?'" Luck said on a conference call this morning. "And he was always very accommodating and very patient probably with what seemed to be a very young, sort of brat, snot-nosed quarterback coming in and trying to learn a little bit about the defense."

There are plenty of other Colts who know a thing or two about Fangio and the 49ers defense as well. Starting defensive end Ricky Jean Francois spent his first four NFL seasons in San Francisco while backup outside linebacker Cam Johnson was traded from San Francisco to Indianapolis on Sept. 2.

In addition, tight end Coby Fleener - who becomes Luck's No. 1 tight end with Dwayne Allen on injured reserve - also practiced against Fangio's defense at Stanford while Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton was Stanford's wide receivers coach in 2010.

It will be Hamilton and Luck who will be charged with figuring out Fangio on Sunday.

"I wish I'd paid more attention to those (2010) conversations now, I guess," Luck said with a laugh.

"It'll be sort of fun, I guess, to see those guys," he added. "I feel very fortunate to have played under them in college and they taught me so much about football and growing up. But at the end of the day, it'll be another game."

-- Matt Barrows

September 11, 2013
Earl Thomas sticks to his story about Harbaugh Honk-gate


Seahawks safety Earl Thomas is sticking to his guns when it comes to Honkgate.

After the second 49ers-Seahawks meeting last season, Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman told Yahoo! Sports that Harbaugh honked, saluted and otherwise mocked the Seahawks team bus following a 49ers victory at Candlestick Park earlier in the year.

"He honked his horn at the bus and waved," Sherman said. "That happened -- a bunch of the guys told me. Yeah, he was [honking]."

At the time, Harbaugh called it a "fabrication." Asked if he would be in his car at that time, he said, "I can't think of a time when I've left the game and the other team's still been there this entire season."

Thomas, however, didn't back down when asked about the alleged incident Wednesday. "It's just that he has a lot of personality," he said of Harbaugh. "And that's all fun and games. It's good for the sport of football. ... He's a competitor it seems like, and our coach is the same way. I don't think our coach would do that, but I'm not trying to get into that. I'm just trying to get ready for this game."

Did it feel like you were being mocked?

"Of course we took it that way," Thomas said. "But the good thing about it is when you carry yourself like a champion on and off the field, good stuff is going to happen for you, and of course we'll use that stuff for motivation."

The Seahawks won the rematch 42-13. It was the worst loss of the Harbaugh era and it occurred on Harbaugh's 49th birthday.

-- Matt Barrows

September 5, 2013
Vic Fangio to Sacramento State: You stink


Sensitive Sacramento State alums and students may not want to read any further.

Forty-niners defensive coordinator Vic Fangio today was asked what he thought about rookie safety Eric Reid getting his first NFL start Sunday against a quarterback as accomplished and savvy as Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers.

"I'm sure there are other teams we would prefer him to start against," Fangio said before going for the kill shot. "But there are no Sacramento States in this league."


Why, of the myriad college programs, did Fangio pick on your beloved Hornets, who, by the way, beat Colorado in Boulder last season and a year earlier beat Oregon State in Corvalis in the season opener? (Take that, Fangio!) Why not some sounds-like-it-was-made up school like Tarleton State or College of the Ozarks or St. Olaf or Duke? Or he could have used a good ol' standby like The Little Sisters of the Poor.

Fangio may have seized Sac State from his memory bank because in 2010, his only season coaching in the college ranks, his Stanford defense opened against Sacramento State. Stanford won 52-17. Some guy named Andrew Luck was the Cardinal quarterback - he threw four touchdowns that day -- while the Hornets' starter got hurt.

But it should be noted that someone was impressed by Sacramento State that day. The 49ers would later sign both of the Hornets quarterbacks who played in the Stanford game, albeit to quickie contracts. McLeod Bethel-Thompson, the starter who was injured that day, spent the 2011 training camp with the 49ers. His backup, Jeff Fleming, took part in a 49ers rookie minicamp the next year.

Bathel-Thompson is now the Vikings' No. 3 quarterback.

Where did Fangio attend college? East Stroudsburg University.

-- Matt Barrows

August 6, 2013
49ers running back D.J. Harper earns rare praise for a rookie


Rookie running back D.J. Harper is wearing a badge of honor across the bridge of his nose -- a gash he acquired early in training camp when he tangled with one of the 49ers linebackers in a pass-blocking drill.

The encounter may have cut Harper's nose, but he won his battles that day, including against veteran linebacker NaVorro Bowman whom he briefly knocked to the ground. Afterward in the running backs meeting room, Harper was singled out by position coach Tom Rathman, a rarity for any rookie tailback much less an undrafted one like Harper.

"I've got to live up to it now," Harper said today. "I can't go out there and have one or two good days. I have to live up to it. So every single day I come out here I want to continually get better and keep on trying to win those battles."

Picking up blitzing linebackers doesn't get a running back noticed by the fans. But failing to do so can keep a young player on the sideline. Harper, who ran for 1,137 yards and 15 touchdowns last year at Boise State, said it's something that was drilled into him in college, and it may lead to a few carries in Thursday's preseason opener against the Broncos.

August 2, 2013
Fangio: jury still out on Nnamdi Asomugha


Jim Harbaugh on Thursday was ebullient about how newcomer cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha has looked in training camp. Vic Fangio on Friday was less so.

"He's had some good days out here and some days where we weren't sure if he was going to be able to still have it," the 49ers defensive coordinator said. "So I think we're kind of in between with him right now. Hopefully he'll be able to still have gas left in the tank to be able to go out and play like he did prior to going to Philadelphia. So I think the jury is still out."

The difference in assessment is partially do to personal style. Harbaugh always will defend his players and otherwise talk them up, even if they have been less-than-stellar on the field. (See: Jenkins, AJ; circa summer 2012). Fangio, meanwhile, is more reserved and circumspect, and he's more difficult to impress.

Fangio also has a competition on his hands and doesn't want anyone to feel too comfortable.

Before Chris Culliver's season-ending injury Thursday, the makeup of the 49ers' cornerback rotation was clear: As was the case last year, Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown would be the starting cornerback while Culliver would come in on nickel downs.

With Culliver out, that third-down role is now up in the air, and Fangio said there was competition among Asomugha, Tramaine Brock and Perrish Cox to win it. Brock mostly filled in for Culliver on Thursday; Asomugha on Friday.

Brock was the team's No. 3 cornerback early in 2011, and he began that season with two interceptions. But he broke his hand in Week 2. Culliver -- then a rookie -- stepped into the role in Brock's absence and never gave up the job. Now Brock has a chance to win it back.

"Good quickness, good speed, good ball skills," Fangio said of Brock. "Now it may be a chance to go out there, show what he's got and take this job."

-- Matt Barrows

July 27, 2013
Fangio: Locker room normal after Brooks-Divens incident


Many of you have been asking how Ahmad Brooks and Lamar Divens possibly could coexist in the 49ers locker room this summer and perhaps beyond. After all, it's only been a month and a half since Brooks clocked Divens over the head with a beer bottle, sending him to the hospital for stitches, according to court records. In return Divens has demanded $1 million from Brooks, which Brooks has refused to pay, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney.

One observer, however, says there have been no flare ups since the June 8 altercation. "I have not seen any indication that it has dragged inside the building at all," defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. "And if I hadn't known that something happened, I wouldn't have known something happened by the way that people are acting."

Fangio not only runs the 49ers' defense, he is the de facto position coach for the outside linebackers. That would give him a lot of time with Brooks in particular.

Brooks is a starter while Divens is a journeyman nose tackle who is currently behind Ian Williams and Glenn Dorsey on the depth chart. Which means the situation is likely to resolve itself when the 49ers begin paring down their roster in a month or so.

Is there any precedent for two 49ers fighting and then coexisting inside the locker room? Yes, but it wasn't nearly as ugly -- and as public -- as the one that went down last month.

In 2002, a locker-room fistfight broke out between tailback Kevan Barlow and fullback Fred Beasley after Barlow, so the story goes, accused Beasley of blocking harder for Beasley's buddy, tailback Garrison Hearst, than he did Barlow. The 49ers attempted to defuse that situation by moving Barlow's locker across the locker room from where the rest of the running backs and fullbacks had their space. During most of Barlow's career with the 49ers, his locker room was with the offensive linemen's.

There were no more fistfights. But it always was an uneasy relationship between the two players. Both remained with the 49ers through the 2005 season when Beasley retired and Barlow was supplanted by some guy named Frank Gore.

Neither Divens nor Brooks has been made available to the media since the start of training camp.

-- Matt Barrows

July 22, 2013
Harbaugh no-comments his way through touchy questions on Wright, Brooks


The curious case of Eric Wright came to a sudden end Monday when the cornerback failed his physical with the 49ers, rendering null and void a trade with Tampa Bay three days earlier. The 49ers had agreed to send a late-round draft pick in 2014 to the Buccaneers for the troubled cornerback pending a physical. The trade was conditional, meaning that if Wright, 27, did not make the 53-man squad the 49ers would not owe the Buccaneers anything.

The failed physical sent Wright back to the Buccaneers, who promptly released him. Wright is now a free agent.

The sequence re-raised suspicions that the 49ers were not aware of Wright's recent suspicion-of-DUI arrest in Los Angeles before agreeing to the trade. Wright was pulled over on July 12, about a year after another DUI arrest in Los Angeles. He was never charged in the 2012 case and has not yet been charged in this one, either. News of Wright's July 12 arrest was not made public until after the trade was made.

Jim Harbaugh was characteristically closed-lipped on the matter on Monday. Asked if he knew about Wright's DUI arrest, the 49ers coach referred questions to general manager Trent Baalke. "He's got a clearer understanding of the specific transaction," Harbaugh said. "So I'll defer to him on that."

Baalke, through the team's public relations director, declined comment.

When minicamp ended last month, Harbaugh warned players about appearing in police blotters during the seven weeks before training camp. Wright's acquisition seemed to undermine that message.

July 18, 2013
Harbaugh's list: Coach warned players about appearing in summer police blotters


Before the 49ers broke for a seven-week vacation last month, coach Jim Harbaugh held up a sign in front of the team. On it were a list of players who had run afoul of the law during that seven-week period in the past. The message: Be on your best behavior.

"You don't really want to be a guy that's on that list, especially for a team that has high goals and aspirations like the San Francisco 49ers," safety Donte Whitner said this week. "... You don't want to be a team distraction. You don't want to be a distraction to yourself. That's why we've been so under-the-radar."

Whitner was being interviewed by the Tuesday Morning Football podcast in the United Kingdom where he and other players are doing a media tour in advance of the NFL games there this season. The 49ers play the host Jaguars in London on Oct. 27. He was answering a question about why the 49ers have managed to stay under the radar in recent years.

Whether the 49ers have accomplished that is highly debatable. Linebacker Aldon Smith alone has been in the police blotters three times since January 2012 and three different 49ers have been arrested for driving under the influence in that span. One of them, defensive end Demarcus Dobbs, ran off the road and crashed his car in December.

Meanwhile, Smith's counterpart at outside linebacker, Ahmad Brooks, is under investigation for allegedly assaulting teammate Lamar Divens with a beer bottle in June. No charges have been filed, but the Santa Clara District Attorney's office continues to gather information related to the case. The incident also is being reviewed by Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has the authority to punish Brooks, including with a suspension.

-- Matt Barrows

June 24, 2013
Fact: People have wanted to punch Jim Harbaugh for nearly five decades


So, you want to pop Jim Harbaugh in the nose or wring his neck or otherwise lay him out?

Take a number, honey. There's a line. That goes around the block.

Maybe all this animus toward a head coach is new to the NFL, but it's yawns-ville to Harbaugh. People have been wanting to punch him for a long, long time. After all, a young Jim Harbaugh once plunked a little girl between the shoulder blades - hey, she was crowding the plate! -- drawing hisses and boos from the parents in the stands.

"He would alienate the other kids, so I was really the only friend he had," his brother, John, said in 2011. "We joke that dad's profession was the perfect profession for Jim, because after two years, he'd be like, `It's time to move, dad. I've lost all my friends.' We were in Iowa one time and dad felt bad because we were leaving for Michigan. He tried to break it to us, and Jim goes, `Just in time, dad. I just ran out of my last friend.'"

CSN Bay Area's Dave Feldman, a high school basketball teammate of Harbaugh's at Palo Alto High, tells a story about a Santa Clara High team that became particularly rattled by Harbaugh during a game in 1982. When a fight broke out, not only did the opposing players go after Jim, the fans spilled out of the stands to take a swing at him, too.

The latest person to join the line is Seahawks receiver Golden Tate, who on Friday told a Seattle radio station he'd give Harbaugh "the Sean Lee treatment" if Harbaugh ever were on the field. Tate, you see, leveled an unsuspecting Lee, a Cowboys linebacker, in a game last year, a hit which drew a $21,000 fine from the league. He was responding to Harbaugh's well-publicized comments from earlier this month about the rash of PED suspensions in Seattle.

June 12, 2013
Greg Roman plans to lock himself in a room with Eric Mangini


Greg Roman wants to lock himself in a room with new hire Eric Mangini. But don't worry, he's not planning a Thunderdome-esque fight to the death between the two most prominent members of the 49ers offensive coaching staff.

"Eric's a wealth of knowledge," Roman said Tuesday. "He's a guy that's got a great pedigree. And he's a very hardworking, intelligent. He can come at things with a different angle than we might do. So, it's been great. And he's getting caught up with what we're doing. And then in the next week probably we're going to sit down just lock ourselves in the room and really look to the future a bit."

The 49ers hired Mangini, a two-time former head coach, last week and gave him the title of "senior offensive consultant." Exactly what Mangini will do hasn't been nailed down - not even by the 49ers - but the intent of his hire was to put another set of eyes onto San Francisco's offense.

Roman said the two might go over the game film from the 2012 season, and they presumably will look ahead at the 49ers' 2013 opponents as well. "You could take one play and you could end up talking about it for 30 minutes because of all the different things you could branch off and talk about," Roman said. "So, just excited to have Eric's expertise on our side and looking forward to working with him."

Roman shouldn't feel threatened by Mangini, whose expertise to this point has been almost entirely on defense. As was noted last week, Mangini gains plenty by his exposure to Roman and the 49ers' offense, which employs the pistol formation and read-option elements that have started to become en vogue across the NFL. His two-year stint with the 49ers presumably will make him a more well-rounded head-coaching candidate.

That said, the only competition Mangini might pose to Roman would come after the season when both presumably would be hunting for a head-coaching job.

-- Matt Barrows

June 11, 2013
Harbaugh on PED use: Play by the rules

The rash of performance-enhancing drug suspensions in Seattle hasn't escaped the notice of 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, who on Tuesday said his message to his own team is, "play by the rules."

"It has no place in an athlete's body," Harbaugh said. "Play by the rules, and you always want to be above reproach, especially when you're good. Because you don't want people to come back and say, 'Oh, they're winning because they're cheating.' That's always going be a knee-jerk reaction by people in my experience ever since I was little kid.

"So we want to be above reproach in everything," he continued. " ... Because if you cheat to win, then you've already lost, according to Bo Schembechler. And Bo Schembechler is about as close to the word of God as you can get in my mind. It's not the word of God, but it's close."

Five Seahawks have been suspended for PED use since 2011, most recently 2012 first-round draft pick Bruce Irvin. Adderall, a stimulant prescribed mainly for attention deficit disorder, reportedly has been the culprit in Seattle, though Harbaugh said no one could be sure.

"You don't know what it is," he said. "Even when people say what it is, you don't know that that's what it is. I've heard this thrown out or that, but that's usually the agent or the players themselves saying it's, for example, Adderall.  But the NFL doesn't release what it actually is, so you have no idea.  You're taking somebody at their word that I don't know if you can take them at their word, understanding the circumstances."

One 49er, linebacker Larry Grant, tested positive for PEDs and has been suspended the first four games of the season. Grant currently is a free agent.

-- Matt Barrows

June 4, 2013
Opinions wanted: Mangini calls Harbaugh's staff "ego-less"


The big news of this, the last week of 49ers OTAs: Eric Mangini was on hand in his new role as senior offensive consultant. Mangini, who started his new job on Monday, signed a two-year deal with the team. He said his duties will evolve as the season goes on but that he was brought in to offer another set of eyes to the organization, specifically the offense.

"Any time you can have different ideas, it's a good thing," Mangini, who said he liked to bring in college coaches or former head coaches when he was with Cleveland and the Jets. " ... It's just a way to try to keep growing, I think."

Mangini said he first met Jim Harbaugh two years ago when the 49ers spent a week in Youngstown, Ohio. Mangini is still close with special teams coach Brad Seely, Magini's assistant when he was the head coach of the Browns, and Seely invited him to the session. He said he took a trip to Santa Clara earlier this offseason and that he and Harbaugh have been talking about a role since.

"The great thing that I've found with Jim and Greg (Roman) and all the guys here is it's ego-less," Mangini said. "And that's really appealing. Everyone just wants to get to the right answer. And to me, input seems to be really encouraged, and I'm happy to offer it if I think it will help."

Mangini, whose background is mostly on defense, said that he'll be busy in the coming weeks learning the 49ers offense. The team's west-coast system uses a different lexicon than what Mangini is accustomed to, and that alone will make him a more well-rounded coach, he said.

Mangini, 42, spent the last two years working for ESPN. He said he aspires to be a head coach again.

"That's definitely a goal of mine," he said. "Right now I'm going to do what I do here as well as I can do it. But I think it's every coach's goal to eventually do that (become a head coach)."

-- Matt Barrows

June 2, 2013
Two hurt as oak tree crashes down on 49ers coaching outing

Thumbnail image for donatell.jpg

A sprawling, 150-year-old oak tree came crashing down during a lawn bowling outing for 49ers coaches and their wives Saturday evening, injuring two people.

Neither of those hurt suffered life-threatening injuries and neither is affiliated with the 49ers. The tree was so wide that it spread from a parking lot outside the San Jose Lawn Bowls Club in the Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose to over the club's green. One man in the parking lot was injured when the tree crashed down on his car, one of six vehicles struck. He had to be cut out of the vehicle by the San Jose Fire Department, said club president Larry O'Dea.

A club member, a woman in her 60s, was on the green and suffered a compound leg fracture and a gash to her head, O'Dea said. He said the group - about 20 49ers assistant coaches and their wives - scattered as the tree started coming down. A testament to how fast it fell and how close it came to inflicting more injuries: One unnamed assistant coach came away with scrapes on the back of his neck.

"It was so unbelievably violent and fast," O'Dea said of the fall. "It took five seconds. It was incredible. It just split right down the crotch of the tree from the crotch to the roots. Everybody was yelling, 'run for your lives!'"

Running backs coach Tom Rathman said he and his wife, Holly, heard a sharp crack from the tree and just started running. When he looked back, he said the tree had fallen precisely in the spot everyone had been standing moments earlier. "Very easily someone could have died," he said.

O'Dea said the outing was hosted by defensive backs coach Ed Donatell and that special teams coach Brad Seely, Rathman, quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst and linebackers coach Jim Leavitt were among those in attendance. Jim Harbaugh was not on hand. The group had been bowling for about 20 minutes when the tree fell at about 6 p.m.

O'Dea said the tree was so big that, in the immediate aftermath, there was no way to know how many people were trapped beneath it. He said the 49ers assistants were busy pulling tree limbs away as the fire department and Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office arrived on the scene.

One of the 49ers had been standing next to the woman who was injured when the tree started to fall. After it went down, he realized the woman was no longer next to him and the group began clearing branches to find her. "Those guys were so helpful," O'Dea said.

There was no wind when the tree fell, O'Dea said, and the City of San Jose had trimmed the tree a few weeks earlier.

Photo: Defensive backs coach Ed Donatell.

-- Matt Barrows

June 1, 2013
49ers to hire Mangini as offensive consultant


The 49ers will hire former Browns and Jets head coach Eric Mangini as a "senior offensive consultant," a league source confirmed today. Mangini's name surfaced in relation to a 49ers' consulting job last month, and Jim Harbaugh on Tuesday hinted that a move could be made soon. Mangini is expected to report for work Monday.

ESPN's Chris Mortenson was first to report the imminent hire.

Harbaugh, as is his habit, refused to talk about the particulars of the job. "Well, rather than be premature about what we're looking for, or what we're going to do, there will be a time and a place to talk about that," he said on Tuesday.

That Mangini, 42, would offer expertise on the offensive side of the ball at first seems odd. He made a name for himself as a defensive coach, first coaching the secondary with the Jets and Patriots and then as a defensive coordinator in New England. Furthermore, the 49ers have an abundance of coaching talent on offense, including Harbaugh himself, offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who is expected to become a head coach at some point, and assistants like Tim Drevno, John Morton and Tom Rathman.

Mangini's role will be to break down film of upcoming opponents and to offer defensive expertise -- and a defensive perspective -- to those offensive coaches. When former Nevada coach Chris Ault was shopping his services to the NFL as a consultant, for example, he found that most of the interest came not from offensive coaches wanting to know how to run Ault's famed "pistol" formation but from defensive coaches eager to figure out how to stop it.

Hiring Mangini, who's been working as an ESPN analyst the last two seasons, also presumably would give the 49ers a jump on hiring him as an assistant if, say, someone like secondary coach Ed Donatell or defensive line coach Jim Tomsula were hired elsewhere. Donatell has been on several teams' short lists for defensive coordinator the last two seasons, but the 49ers have blocked those overtures.

Perhaps more significant, the newly created position gives Mangini experience with, and exposure to, offensive minds like Harbaugh and Roman to make Mangini a more well-rounded and more desirable head-coaching candidate in the future. Mangini has only coached offense for one season in the NFL, when he was an offensive assistant for the Ravens in 1996.

Mangini was on hand for one of the 49ers' practices in Youngstown, Ohio, in 2011. In addition, he has a relationship with 49ers special teams coordinator Brad Seely, who also is San Francisco's assistant head coach and is a trusted adviser for Harbaugh. He also was on the Jets staff when 49ers general manager Trent Baalke was a scout in that organization.

-- Matt Barrows

May 15, 2013
Report: 49ers looking at Mangini for consulting role


The 49ers are talking with former Jets and Browns head coach Eric Mangini about a consulting position, according to CBS' Jason LaCanfora.

Mangini has been out of football since being sacked by the Browns at the end of the 2010 season, and he's been working as an analyst for ESPN since. Mangini was a defensive coordinator in New England before the Jets hired him as head coach in 2006, and most of his coaching experience is on the defensive side. If he were hired by the 49ers, however, his role would be to consult with the offensive staff on dealing with certain defenses, LaCanfora writes.

That makes sense. Former Nevada coach Chris Ault invented the Pistol formation that has become all the rage in the NFL. But NFL teams were interested in hiring Ault not so much to aid their offenses but to better prepare their defenses for facing the Colin Kaepernicks and Robert Griffin III's of the league. The Chiefs recently hired Ault as a full-time consultant. (The 49ers were not one of the teams pursuing Ault).

Back to Mangini. He's only 42 and ostensibly is looking at a consulting job as a way of returning to the NFL. Is he looking at a future opening on the 49ers' staff?

May 6, 2013
Harbaugh adds ex-Raider Ronald Curry to coaching staff

Jim Harbaugh was a lowly offensive assistant on the Raiders in 2002 when Oakland drafted wide receiver Ronald Curry in the seventh round. Now Curry will begin his coaching career at the same level on Harbaugh's 49ers staff.

"The 49ers and our staff are pleased to be initiating Ronald's NFL coaching career," Harbaugh said in a statement. "Our team will greatly benefit from Ronald's athletic experiences, and we are happy that he and his wife, Stacie, are joining our football family."

Curry also is familiar to receivers coach John Morton, who held the same position in Oakland when Curry arrived. He also will recognize cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, whom the Raiders drafted in 2003 and who is competing for a roster spot this season.
Curry, 33, played seven years in the NFL, recording 193 receptions for 2,347 yards and 13 touchdowns for the Raiders. He tore his Achilles tendon in 2004 and 2005.

Offensive assistant is the first rung on the NFL coaching ladder, but good prospects don't spend much time at that level. Harbaugh, for example, was the head coach at the University of San Diego two years after he took the Raiders job. The 49ers' offensive assistant in 2011, Bobby Engram, now coaches receivers at Pitt.

-- Matt Barrows

April 11, 2013
From discus to d-line? 49ers host British Olympian


A 6-6, 304-pound mountain of muscle who ran his 40-yard dash in 4.78 seconds and who can broad-jump nearly 10 ½ feet? Yes, it's safe to say the 49ers are intrigued by Lawrence Okoye, who visited Santa Clara Wednesday, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Okoye's rather prominent blemish - he's never played American football before. Instead he is a British Olympic discus thrower who has a rugby background and who says he's a long-time NFL fan. Okoye's combination of size and speed caught the NFL's attention at the super regional Combine in Dallas this week, and teams - presumably including the 49ers - are looking at him as a defensive end.

"I came over to the States for warm-weather training for my discus," Okoye told the London Daily Mail last month. "But when I saw that there was an American football regional combine taking place in Atlanta, I applied online. And when I passed, I went along.

"At the combine, I really stood out because of my size, strength and speed. I don't want to sound arrogant, but I was good on the day -- to the point that a lot of NFL clubs began talking to me immediately on the back of it. They all see me as a defensive end, which suits me just fine."

March 20, 2013
49ers add a Lombardi to their coaching staff

The 49ers made an addition to their coaching staff - Mick Lombardi, the son of Browns general manager Michael Lombardi. The younger Lombardi will serve as an assistant to Jim Harbaugh. The Lombardis are not related to former Packers great, Vince Lombardi.

Michael Lombardi was a finalist along with Trent Baalke when Jed York was looking for a general manager two years ago. Lombardi became friends with Harbaugh when both worked for the Raiders 10 years ago. Lombardi remained in Oakland until 2007 at which point he began working as an analyst for NFL Network. The Browns hired him at general manager and VP of Player Personnel earlier this year.

Lombardi also worked as a scout for the 49ers in the 1980s and has spoken at length on NFL Network about what he learned from Bill Walsh. The younger Lombardi presumably wants to emulate that experience with Harbaugh. Last year Mick Lombardi worked as a scouting assistant to the Patriots.

This is the only known change to the 49ers' coaching staff this offseason. The team lost director of player personnel Tom Gamble to the Eagles.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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