Taking stock of Jim Harbaugh

What makes Jim Harbaugh so good? Two things jump out right away – preparation and assistant-coach selection.

Last season, the Niners were arguably the most prepared team in the NFL after the lockout. Harbaugh willed his team into shape in a way no other coach could. It was a remarkable feat and he was certainly worthy of the Coach of the Year award.

Harbaugh also thrived thanks to a good group of assistant coaches he personally picked. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was one of the best defensive coordinators in football last season. Harbaugh gets major credit for Fangio. Mike Singletary did not pick good assistant coaches. Bill Walsh always did. He was not threatened by other good football minds, and neither is Harbaugh. He obviously thrives on the challenge of talking and arguing with great football minds.

Last season, preparation and defense took the Niners a long way. This year, it’s going to be much more difficult for the Niners to out-prepare the league because every team has a full offseason to work and catch up to them.

What does Harbaugh have to do this season to ensure his team improves?

He’s got to create a better offense. He was hired as an offensive guru, but his offense has not matched his defense. Last season the offense gained 317.2 yards per game (24th in the NFL), scored 2.3 touchdowns per game (19th in the NFL) and converted 28.11 percent of third downs (31st in the NFL). Now it’s time to make a potent offense. Harbaugh’s had his quarterback for a full year, he’s got four good wide receivers, four good running backs and a great tight end. He’s got four of his five starting offensive linemen back from last season. Everything’s set for the Niners offense to make a big jump in productivity next season.

Harbaugh’s got to make that happen. If he does, he’ll easily win the Coach of the Year award again.

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