SANTA CLARA, Calif. — After a decade of frustration, the San Francisco 49ers are now finally on the track to make the playoffs. The atmosphere and swagger around the 49ers has changed and the entire Bay Area has taken notice.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh, who has already deflected praise for his work this year, said that he hasn’t changed the culture within the team since he arrived.
“The truth is, I have not changed it,” Harbaugh said in his Monday press conference. “Just met these guys, been around these players, these are exactly the kind of team guys we want, these are exactly the characters we want.”
Even though he may not acknowledge it, the culture around the team has changed. The 49ers are one win away from having their first winning year since the 2002 season and that has got to mean some kind of change.
But Harbaugh once again said that the players, the pieces, were already set for the team. He called his players “shining stars” in the locker room. It’s an identity the team is now proud to take.
“You become what you are, you become your identity,” Harbaugh said. “From my standpoint being around these guys, this team, these coaches, it’s about the team.”
Harbaugh said that running back Frank Gore was getting his knee checked — suggesting that Gore was getting an MRI, saying the team will “spare no expense checking on Frank.”
Gore was injured in the first half on a block and was only able to play one snap in the second half. But Harbaugh wasn’t worried about Gore’s backups.
“Next guy up; Kendall Hunter next guy up,” Harbaugh said. “Next guy up is Anthony Dixon — real fresh legs. He gave our team a boost, talking about Anthony Dixon. Kendall has been doing that all season long. I thought he was magnificent yesterday.”
Harbaugh said that he wasn’t concerned about Gore’s backups, saying that the strength of the running game is in numbers and he remains confident in Gore, Hunter or Dixon to handle the load.
- Harbaugh praised offensive coordinator Greg Roman, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and special teams coach Brad Seely for their work this year. Harbaugh said he feels that all three have potential to be head coaches in the NFL.
- DE Justin Smith, to Harbaugh, is like a closer in baseball. He said that on Smith’s pass deflection to seal the 49ers’ win, Smith had told Ray McDonald to watch out for the B-Gap pass — which was what Eli Manning threw at. Harbaugh praised Smith for his intelligence and his attitude with the team.
- LB Patrick Willis also received praise from Harbaugh. Harbaugh called Willis the least talked about great player in the NFL.
- After being penalized for simulating a snap on a shift, Harbaugh confirmed that he remembered what the league had told him and properly prepared the team to not get penalized for it. Teams can talk to officials about potential shifts but Harbaugh said that he didn’t make any changes this week to ensure that the team won’t get penalized again.