The surprising resurgence of the San Francisco 49ers this season can be summed up in a signature catch phrase from new head coach Jim Harbaugh.
“Who’s got it better than us? NOBODY.”
Despite a loss last Sunday to the Arizona Cardinals, the ‘Niners now sit at 10-3 and have already clinched the NFC West division title, as Dan Brekke of NPR member station KQED reports from San Francisco.
For many fans long-time fans of the ‘Niners, their faith in the team has been restored under Harbaugh after a disappointing 2010 season in which the team ended with a losing 6-10 record.
“Last year the ‘Niners were losing games in the last few minutes…you just knew they were going to lose,” explains one fan. “But this year, it’s the opposite.”
Those who follow the team attribute the comeback to a tough running game, solid defense, and the maturation of quarterback Alex Smith. But fan Jeff Wheeler points to a single factor above the rest: their rookie head coach.
“We’ve got a guy that’s disciplined, and a guy that’s played the game at the professional level and college level so he knows how to work the people he has,” says Wheeler.
With his team on their way to their first playoff gig since 2002, Harbaugh seems to have the right coaching formula.
“The players aren’t that different than they were in the past years,” Albert Kildani says of his favorite team. “There’s clearly something going on in terms of coaching and game planning and preparing the team and preparing them to execute that’s far different than anything we’ve experience the last few years.”
“My friends and I have talked about how Harbaugh is just instilling a lot of confidence in Smith,” says fan Luisa Montes. “I think that goes a long way in kind of holding the team together and getting him to perform where he should be.”