In January, when Jim Harbaugh bolted The Farm for Candlestick Point, I was skeptical.
I was skeptical that a college coach could succeed in the NFL. Over the last decade, some of the best college coaches have failed miserably in the NFL. I was scared the 49ers were taking a chance on Harbaugh because he was the sexy name.
If coaches with National Championships on their resume like Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier couldn’t find success, why should we expect Harbaugh’s results to be any better?
But so far, Harbaugh has proved all the critics wrong. This 49ers team that has seen too many coaches over the last five years has rallied around the energetic Harbaugh. This team has bought into what he’s selling.
But I hope owners and general managers around the league don’t think this is the new norm. Harbaugh is the first college-to-pro coach that has had success in over 10 years. That was Steve Mariucci, who took over a very good 49ers team in 1997. Jimmy Johnson was the last coach that took over a hopeless team and turned them into a winning team.
In addition to Saban and Spurrier, recent notable college coaches that have flamed out in the pros includes Bobby Petrino (Atlanta 2007), Dennis Erickson (Seattle 1995-98, San Francisco 2003-04), Butch Davis (Cleveland 2001-04) and Lane Kiffin (Oakland 2007-08).
Lots of college football coaches enjoy sustained success. But as Jim Harbaugh is showing, it takes the right type of attitude to make the big jump successfully.