SANTA CLARA — Here’s the transcript of Jim Harbaugh’s Monday press conference. Enjoy.
Q: What’s W.I.N. stand for? (Sign on the wall.)
HARBAUGH: What’s important now.
Q: What is important now?
HARBAUGH: Today? Reviewing the film, learning from that, players getting treatment, day off for the fellas. And preparing for the Redskins.
Q: On running plays, your offensive linemen are often well down the field at the end of the play. Seems like they all can run. Does that allow you to be more creative with the run plays?
HARBAUGH: Yes. It’s hlghlighted by some very athletic offensive linemen. Joe Staley in particular, but also Mike Iupati does a great job of getting up into the second level, Jonathan Goodwin does a great job of getting up into the second level… Anthony (Davis) as well. Chilo, Boone and Snyder all do a great job. They’re all big, big men who are very athletic as well.
Q: Did you have to see those guys before you could build the offense for that?
HARBAUGH: You have to see people in person, understand what they do well, what they can do better and fit that into a gameplan. That’s something you have to see in person.
Q: Have you seen improvement in Iupati and Anthony Davis from the beginning of the year to now and if so, in what areas?
HARBAUGH: That’s a good question. I think definitely we’ve seen improvement in Mike and Anthony and those two highlighted probably have made significant strides. Just pretty much in all facets of their play—pad level, understanding all the intricacies, two younger players, both in their second year, and how to work together. Those things as it relates to the offensive line, probably more so than any position group, on a football team really needs that. They both really take a lot of pride in playing as a unit and also their individual play, both working extremely hard. And the thing the team likes about both those guys, they don’t roam the hallways as prima donna No. 1 picks, you know? They’re both from the get-go, from the start of this thing, they’ve spent a lot of extra time with Mark and Kevin Tolbert, coach Solari… they’re in early, they’re staying late, doing all the things that allows them to have improvement.
Q: This team has been so determined to keep things in the present. At what point do you want them to look at the bigger picture—you’re the No. 2 seed right now. Do you ever want them to embrace what’s possible down the road this year?
HARBAUGH: As a timeline, December. We’ll get to December and see how many wins we have, see how many we need as it relates to the season. But we’re always living in the future in some regard, in terms of planning and making that a better… making that December as good as it can be. Making this Sunday as it good as it can possibly. There’s always a degree of that.
Q: Before the season started, did you project ahead and think, gee, we might be 6-1? Did you think about a record?
HARBAUGH: No. No. We talked about it—you asked me a lot about that when we first started, for projections, for expectations. And those expectations were to have good meetings, a good practice, and they haven’t changed in that regard. The expectations are to put a good gameplan in for this week, have a great week of practice, have great film study, great meetings with our players. So that plan hasn’t changed.
Q: When you look to December, what does that entail—getting the gameplan ready for December, getting players ready?
HARBAUGH: You asked me specifically about when do you start looking at the record. And my specific answer to that was, when we get to December, we’ll look and see how many wins we have and how many we need. That was a response to a direct question.
Q: But you also said you’re always looking into the future as a team… Generally, what facets are you looking at?
HARBAUGH: Just generally, it’s just a philosophy of life, of how we approach things as a team. There’s the one philosophy that’s yesterday’s a mystery, tomorrow’s a mystery, we live for the present, it’s a gift, that kind of thing. That’s not us. We reject that. We live for the future. To make tomorrow better. To make this Sunday better. Everything we can do today so that we can have a better future.
Q: Ricky was saying before you got in there to address them they said it was ugly and took accountability, what does that mean to you?
HARBAUGH: I disagree that it was ugly. I still think it’s a beautiful thing when you win a football game in the National Football League. They are so hard to do. But I think what they were probably feeling, walking out you go into that dugout there and you walk into that tunnel and you get into your locker room, things were going through my head. Like, ‘Gosh, I wish we’d done this better or called a better play in a particular situation.’ And there were a few of those. They probably had that accountability going on knowing it wasn’t always clean and you kind of reflect on that first: ‘What did I do? What could I have done better?’ But, still, a beautiful thing to get a win and it’s also positive guys have broad shoulders and take accountability and ask themeselves those questions: ‘What could I have done better? What can we do this week that’s going to make us a better football team?’ If we can all expect that from each other, demand that from ourselves, keep asking those tough questions, and not be satisfied, to keep getting better. It was a good football team we played. No apologies for the way our team played. I think it was a great win for us and very proud of our guys.
Q: In Mike Ditka’s documentary they had a nice shot of him flipping the bird and you had said you had that framed … is it somewhere prominently displayed?
HARBAUGH: Yeah, it’s at my house. … It was more prominently displayed and then it fell and the glass broke and haven’t gotten the glass replaced yet.
Q: Have you only used about 40-50 percent of your offensive playbook so far?
HARBAUGH: I wouldn’t put a percentage on it. This week as it was last week and how it’s been every week is come up with a game plan that’s going to put our players in a position to have success. We don’t take any credit for that. We don’t take any credit for really any of that. It’s the players. They’re the ones that are out there playing. They’re the tough guys, they’re the workers. We do what we can to put them in a position to have success and take advantage of what they do well.
Q: What have you seen from them that they can handle all that?
HARBAUGH: I mean talent, quick-mindedness, very good study habits, excellent retention, a willingness to learn it and learn more. A willingness to be stimulated by new concepts and principles.
Q: When you were at Stanford people thought you had such smart players, but not all these guys are Stanford smart … surprised at intelligence level to pick all this up?
HARBAUGH: I wouldn’t have been surprised when these are smart, committed men and I think a lot of times youngsters that go to really good schools are very good test takers, which sometimes isn’t a reflection on how quick you are, how smart you are, how well you’re going to pick things up. That’s a willingness, that’s a work ethic, that’s intelligence, all those things are combined in that.
Q: What didn’t you like about that reverse call? Who made the call, you or Greg?
HARBAUGH: I didn’t like that it didn’t work (laughing). I think we could have done a better job detailing that out. I don’t think the timing was where it should have been. I noticed it during the week and really didn’t get it corrected. Secondly, probably didn’t need that call at that point. What we needed was a first down. We didn’t need a big hitter with the risk of being a big loss. We needed a first down and in retrospect, the way it worked out, you go back and say, ‘Wish we had done something differently.’
Q: Your call or Greg’s call?
HARBAUGH: That’s all of our calls. Greg called it. We talked about it and approved it and all wanted to do it.
Q: When did you decide Joe Staley and Isaac Sopoaga were good options to throw passes to?
HARBAUGH: During the last couple months, working with them and seeing them. Isaac’s always playing catch. He’s throwing. He’s catching. He’s running around. You just see it, and I said, “When we start practicing this week we can find a way to implement this.”
Q: Have you been waiting for the right time to give those guys a go?
HARBAUGH: Yeah, you want to make sure it’s been practiced and combed through and feel like you have the right look for it in a game – see evidence on tape that something like that would work.
Q: Why did the offense struggle in the second half? Did anything catch your eye?
HARBAUGH: Yeah, it was quite a few things. It wasn’t as clean as it was in the first half. Different things factored into that. We had Braylon step out of bounds where we would have had a nice completion that would have put us in phase there on the pitch count so to speak, with picking up a first down. Had a good shot but we overthrew Michael (Crabtree) in the fourth quarter. The reverse that we talked about took us out of getting a first down. A combination of things.
Q: Defensively you guys are No. 1 in points allowed. How much is that attributed to the run defense?
HARBAUGH: I think the run defense is huge. Our guys take great pride in it. They do a great job coming off the ball, knocking blockers back. Justin Smith again was outstanding in doing those things. I think a lot of it starts with those guys up front. Ray’s done a tremendous job of it all year, along with Justin and then Ricky Jean comes in and plays very well as well. Isaac at the nose – that’s where it starts with those guys. Getting penetration, knocking blocks back at the point of contact, and we’re getting great play from our outside backers as well. Ahmad Brooks had a outstanding game setting the edge, physical with the tackles, knocking blocks back as well. Parys Haralson has been unheralded, but playing outstanding first and second down defense. Again, setting the edge, playing physical, not allowing balls to bounce and condensing and restricting the holes. And then the two inside backers are playing as good of football as you could hope or want. Another great game by Patrick Willis. That’s huge, to be able to have that front seven playing as well as they are playing together, not always having to commit an eighth defender, an eighth hat into the box when you can stop the run with those seven.
Q: Can you give us an idea what Patrick Willis says to the team before every game?
HARBAUGH: Yeah, it’s very team oriented, first of all. It’s offense, it’s defense, it’s special teams. It’s a mentality of starting fast, those kind of things that he emphasizes. He lets his passion come out. He lets his passion show. It’s not something where Patrick says: “Hey, let me do this. I want to be the guy who gets up here and talks to the team before we go into the locker room.” Guys have gravitated towards him, and they want and expect a shot of adrenaline from him in that situation.
Q: You’ve talked about Frank Gore’s vision. Frank says he knows where he’s going to go before the play happens. Is that natural god-given talent? Is that special for a running back? What’s your take?
HARBAUGH: My take is that that’s something that those men crawl out of the crib understanding and knowing how to do. It’s an instinct that sets him apart from everybody else who’s blessed with strength and speed and running ability. There’s an instinct and a vision that they possess that they’ve been blessed from Mom, Dad and God to have. There’s that attribute that Frank has. There’s the ability to turn his feet over and to stop and to jump and to cut and to get his feet to go where his eyes are telling him to go that is special. Then he has the ability to contort and lower his pads to get through the narrowest of windows. He’s one of the all-time best, and we’re lucky to have him.
Q: You’ve been very efficient in the pass game. Do you also need to be more prolific?
HARBAUGH: We’re striving for that. We’re chasing perfection in every area that we have on our team. We were close to having some really big hitters in this ball game, and we did get a couple big hitters. We’re throwing the ball deep down the left sideline. Crab made a nice play on the stutter-go. Your completion percentage is going to lower the farther you throw the ball downfield. There’s evidence of that, and experience of watching all quarterbacks and receivers. It’s nice to hit them. We’d like to hit a few more.
Q: Crabtree expressed frustration he wasn’t able to get into the end zone in Detroit because officials didn’t see it that way.
HARBAUGH: He’s been in the end zone three times now and he’s got the satisfaction of one touchdown. I would be frustrated, too.
Q: He hugged you after the touchdown play. Had you talked to him about that?
HARBAUGH: We spoke about that after Detroit. I really think Michael’s been playing great football the last three weeks especially, just keeps getting better and more comfortable. His abilities are shining through and he’s a consummate team type of guy the way he’s blocked, the evidence of whatever the team needs him to do he’s willing to go do. He switched from his X position to Z this week on a week’s notice and whatever I can do for the team was his approach and his answer when we asked him to do that. After Detroit I told him you played a heck of a game. Some of the catches he makes that were on boundary, or eight yard gains or 13 yard gains to keep drives alive. That’s extraordinary catching ability that he has. And we watch him here in practice do the same thing. And his comment was I haven’t scored a touchdown. So that meant that was important to him and it was great to see him get the satisfaction of that touchdown pass because he does so much more for the team that doesn’t get talked about outside of our meeting room in terms of the way he blocks, his willingness to do what needs to be done, catch the ball over the middle. Some guys just refuse to do that, not on our team, and Michael sets that example, go in and make the tough catch, dig out the safety to make the tough block and then make the fabulous catch and the long catch and the separation he got where we overthrew him. He’s doing a heck of a job.
Q: Why do touchdowns matter to him?
HARBAUGH: It’s a great feeling to score a touchdown, just to get into the end zone I understand it. I’ve been there a few times and that’s a good thing.
Q: Happy with your postgame handshake?
HARBAUGH: Yes. Improvement.
Q: Status of Ray McDonald.
HARBAUGH: We’ll see. I haven’t talked to Ray yet today or found out where he’s at. We’ll play that as we always do. He’ll be working through it and we’ll find out where he’s at after a couple of days.
Q: You could have division clinched before Thanksgiving – must you guard against complacency?
HARBAUGH: The approach is not even concern ourselves with the standings until we get to Dec. then we’ll see how many we have, see how many we need. Again, I’m not taking credit for this because it’s our players who are doing it, the way they come back with the motivation, with the knowledge of how important every single game is, how important the preparation is, how important the practices are. Our guys are going that. As a coach you can say all you want. You can talk and give speeches and motivate but if the players are not the ones that are hearing it, listening to it and putting it into action motivated by a knowledge and inner drive that this is important it would do no good. I trust our team. I worry less about things like that because I have the evidence to know how they approach each week.
Q: Could you do that as a player?
HARBAUGH: I think I had that from an early early age, just how important and fun games were and how important the preparation was and just the fun of practice. Practice was being outside. That was where the medicine was – didn’t have to think about anything else that was going on in my life except scoring a touchdown. That’s a wonderful feeling. You’ve got a real focus and clarity on what’s important now. I’ve had that from an early age.
HARBAUGH: Just to be outside, see a horizon, not to be inside, the din of being inside but to be outside, the grass under your feet, the air, the clouds, footballs flying in the air, thinking of only one thing. That’s medicine to me.
Q: Talk to brother yesterday? He beat a team in your division.
HARBAUGH: I haven’t talked to him yet. I look forward to talking to him about it. I texted him and he texted me back.
Q: You appreciate he beat a division opponent.
HARBAUGH: Oh yeah. Laughs. Till we play them I root for my brother to do well and especially when they’re playing one of our division teams.