blue in dc

February 10th, 2017 at 5:12 PM ^

1. Who do you think the greatest coach is?
2. Do you think that coach would have done better with the 49ers than Harbaugh did?
3. Do you think Harbaugh could have done as well as that coach did with his team

as the author points out it is difficult to tease out the impact that the coach had on a team's record vs the impact the team's players had, but the difference between the 49ers between Harbaugh's tenure and the record before and after he was there is pretty striking.

blue in dc

February 10th, 2017 at 6:04 PM ^

It's all speculative. I don't think that anyone in their right mind would argue that Harbaugh has enough of a record to be considered the best coach, but, here is another question for you:

If you were given a new NFL team for the 2017 season and you had the ability to pick anyone to coach that team, who would you pick? I don't think Harbugh would be a crazy answer to that question.

uncle leo

February 10th, 2017 at 6:14 PM ^


Caldwell went 14-2 in his first season with the Colts. If you asked me that question in 2009, I would say he's on my list.

Let's not completely romanticize his time with SF. He had three fantastic years. But his team became worn down with his style in Year 4 and who knows how that would have trended? Can you guarentee he would have completely had them back in championship form? Those guys are a totally different animal than college kids who he can say churn through in 2-4 years and move on to a new set. It was pretty well discussed that his style could not persist over a long stretch with one team. 

The OP is asking if JH is the best NFL coach in the SC era. The answer is no. I don't need to speculate on that.

uncle leo

February 10th, 2017 at 7:22 PM ^

“He does a great job of giving you that spark, that initial boom,” 49ers guard Alex Boone tells Kremer.  “But after a while, you just want to kick his ass. . . .  He just keeps pushing you, and you’re like, ‘Dude, we got over the mountain.  Stop.  Let go.’  He kind of wore out his welcome.”

Harbaugh- "They just don't want to be around you after a while," he said.

Sanders' comments echo a report from NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport from Sunday morning. Rapoport said that the veteran voices grumbling about Harbaugh are getting "louder and louder" in part because Harbaugh treats his players like "children."

Quotes from various places.


February 10th, 2017 at 7:39 PM ^

Is that the same Ian Rapoport who repeated said Harbaugh wouldn't be leaving the NFL and come to Michigan?

Also, it is odd that someone who wore out his welcome in the NFL has been at the top of the list as a potential replacement for fired NFL head coaches the past two years. Why would any NFL team want Harbaugh?

blue in dc

February 10th, 2017 at 7:37 PM ^

Anquan Boldin
Was it weird, bitter-sweet emotionally knowing that head coach Jim Harbaugh won't be here?

"Definitely weird. He had a lot to do with me re-signing back to the team. So, it's definitely weird. For me, it's something that you didn't see coming especially with what he had done in previous years. I mean, unprecedented, first three years that you go to at least the NFC Championship. So, definitely didn't see that coming."

You said you re-signed because of him. What was it about his coaching style that made you re-sign?

"Me and him had a connection. I just liked the way that he goes about his business. The same way that I do. No nonsense type guy. Loves to win. Loves to compete. You see it in the way that he comes to work every day. The guy loves the game of football. I believe if he still could play he would probably be out there. You can see that. So, that had a lot to do with, like I said, me signing back here."

* * *

Bruce Miller
Any message from Head Coach Jim Harbaugh or a message to Jim Harbaugh from you?

"So appreciative of everything he has done for me, my teammates, the organization. He's top-notch, class act. We appreciate everything he has done and we love him to death"

Do you think that sentiment is shared by the majority in here?

"Of course. Every single man is appreciative of the things that he has done for our team."

* * *

Everybody in the locker room got along with Harbaugh,” Smith said, via CSN Bay Area. "He was a good guy. He was quirky, this and that, but everybody loved him. And we loved what we were doing. How could you not have fun with that?

Quotes from various places

The Oracle

February 10th, 2017 at 6:46 PM ^

You bought was Jed York was selling. I'm sure some players didn't like being pushed like he pushed them, but he pushed them to a level of success none of them had achieved before, or have since. Once York's leaks made it clear to everyone that Harbaugh was a lame duck heading into his fourth season, his authority was undermined and severely diminished. Those prone to be slackers were encouraged. But even under those circumstances, and with some very significant injuries, they still went 8-8. If York had any idea what he was doing, Harbaugh would still be the 49ers' coach. Be glad that York is an idiot.


February 10th, 2017 at 10:48 PM ^

Absolutely absurd to bring Caldwell into this.

Caldwell inherited an elite team that at worst went 12-4 for the SIX straight years before Caldwell got the job.  Additionally, he had Peyton Manning in his prime who would win his 4th NFL MVP award.

Caldwell took one of the elite teams in the NFL and turned them into a dumpster fire (2-14) by his 3rd year.

Harbaugh took over a pile of steaming horse crap and turned it into a powerhouse.  The second he left it turned back into road apples.


February 10th, 2017 at 4:36 PM ^

Arty, I'm on my phone out and about, but I really don't have to, to disagree. 4 other coaches won Superbowl while he was coaching, so no he can't be the greatest.


February 10th, 2017 at 4:42 PM ^

One thing to consider (I didn't read the article, so I don't know what their approach was), the 49ers were trash before Harbaugh. He shows up and they literally become Super Bowl contenders immediately. He leaves and they immediately become one of the worst teams in the league.

There's something to be said for the deviation from their performance immediately before and after to suggest that Harbaugh potentially had a bigger impact on that team than any other coach, even if it didn't translate to a Super Bowl victory in a 4 year window. 


February 10th, 2017 at 4:42 PM ^

The article is not about JH, so it is as objective as it can be.  

But its analysis, showed that JH has the highest impact on the winning among all coaches in the salary cap era, after adjusted for the QB he had. 



February 10th, 2017 at 5:22 PM ^

But the truth of the matter is that according to his chart, Harbaugh alone, as a coach, has the biggest impact on winning percentage during the salary cap era. What difference does it make if he was trying to show that Belichick was more important? It actually shows that one James Harbaugh has made the most difference.


OC Alum91

February 10th, 2017 at 4:43 PM ^

The model looks, in addition to the competition played, but also how the QB and team did before and after the coach.

Alex Smith/49ers were not good before before, and Kapernick/49ers were bad after.

He's a damn good coach, as SD and Stanford and we can attest!

When JH was there they did awesome.


February 10th, 2017 at 6:43 PM ^

With a 49ers team that had not even reached the playoffs in nearly a decade, Harbaugh took his team to the NFC title game in 3 consecutive years.  (As an assistant also, he coached Rich Gannon to an NFL MVP and SB appearance).   Granted, he did not win the SB he reached—because his brother did---but he only coached 4 years.

 By contrast, Belichick was an NFL HC for his first 6 seasons without any more than one playoff appearance (which his team lost in the first round).  He did not win a SB until Brady became starting QB.

To be sure, Belichick is a brilliant coach---maybe the best NFL coach of all time. But to win a record 5 SBs, you also need the greatest QB of all time. And that is Brady.




February 10th, 2017 at 6:48 PM ^

Jim has proven he is a turnaround artist almost no peer.  He has shown he takes team from bad to great.  But has yet to get the final step done.  I'd say "bestest" coaches would have championships.  You could argue he has never been in 1 place long enough to do so but right now it's a theoretical.



February 10th, 2017 at 8:23 PM ^

But not "the best" as this article claims.  Bear Bryant, Osborne - those are the guys you'd argue were "the best" of that era.  I did a post on this a few yrs back.

Just like JH is not the best in college right now.  Urban's win% is absurd at OSU (91%).  Saban is Saban - 86% including year 1, excluding year 1 90% win rate over 9 years - which is just ridiculous on a historical basis.

Switzer, Osborne, Devaney, Bear likewise were in another class although Devaney did it over a shorter period.


  School Yrs W L %
Saban Bama 7 84 10 89.4%
Switzer OK 16 157 29 84.4%
Osborne NE 25 255 49 83.9%
Devaney NE 11 101 20 83.5%
Bear Bama 25 232 46 83.5%
Spurrier  UF 12 122 27 81.9%
Tressel OSU 9* 94 21 81.7%
Stallings Bama 7 70 16 81.4%
Carroll USC 8* 83 19 81.4%
Bo UM 21 194 48 80.2%



February 10th, 2017 at 9:33 PM ^

that the ""bestest coaches would have championships."  I did not agree with that.

Now you seem to make a very different argument---ie, that the best coaches have the highest win pct.  Fair enough.  Of course, there are coaches on this list who "bought" their wins by sacrificing principles---turning a blind eye to booster payments, drug use, crime....some of their players even graduated to murder.  

Bo did not do that.  So, I think he ranks above some of the coaches on your list.  He developed young men---in fact, men like Jim Harbaugh,  

Incidentally, if we want to consider just win pct, as depicted in your chart, Harbaugh was one of the four winningest coaches in modern NFL history: only Lombardi, Allen, and Madden were better.  On your chart, Saban is at the top in your list but at the highest level of competition, he did not even have a winning record.  

Saban, I think, is still one of the best coaches.  My only point is that we need to consider in a lot more in judging what coach is best.



February 10th, 2017 at 6:58 PM ^

I would love to see a broader analysis done to compare college head coaches.  How much did they contribute to their team's success, after accounting for the talent they had coming in--as well as what they started with?*   Harbaugh would probably also rate very highly in this college ranking.  He was unbelievably successful with minimally rated recruits at San Diego and Stanford--teams that, like the 49ers, had not won anything in ages.


*It might be trickier to also account for a coach's impact on player development, but that might be done with a time series model that looks at successive stages of players' records from freshman to senior years.


February 10th, 2017 at 7:38 PM ^

but that's a lot to get from that one stint in SF. In which he did not win a Super Bowl.

I think this is just contrarian clickbait to be honest. I don't Belichick is really debatable at this point.


February 10th, 2017 at 8:39 PM ^

As I recall, their previous analysis gave Super Bowls about 100x the weight of a regular season game.  Ironically, that is how some people view success.  

Their present analysis gives us another perspective.  I agree that it short changes coaches like Belichick.  But it does avoid the mistake of valuing a championship above all else.

For example, it would have been unreasonable to expect that from JH's 49ers, when they had not even reached the playoffs in nearly a decade.  (The same would be true for JH's college stints.  It would have been unreasonable to expect a national title from any coach at San Diego or Stanford --which never won an AP national title---and whose last arguable claim to a title was more than thee quarters of a century ago).  


February 10th, 2017 at 8:58 PM ^

The article is not about Jim Harbaugh. It doesn't even talk about who is the best. It tries to figure out whether Brady or Belichik or both responsible for the Patriots run over the past 16 years. 

In one of the tables, it ranks the winningest coaches in the Salary Cap era. JH is second with a +/- 5.5 games variance. Less data. Makes sense. Other short tenured coaches (Arians, Martz, Pagano) also shows similar variance. Exactly as one would expect. 

Then in the final table, the article shows the contribution of the QB or the Coach in the success of the duo. Then JH and Arians float to the top of the list, showing very little difference between ranked alone vis-a-vis ranked with a QB. That no way signifies or claims that JH is the best. 


February 10th, 2017 at 9:57 PM ^

it ranks the coaches/QBs based on each game they played against other coaches/QBs, and JH comes at
the top. It is just one statistic but nonetheless a very objective one. I wouldn't claim JH as the best NFL because he only coached 4 years and has not proved that he can deliver successes consistently. I posted the article only because I was surprised to see JH on top of a chart in an article that does not mention his name even once.


February 11th, 2017 at 3:55 AM ^

I believe your headline threw a lot of people off, if not all of them. There should be a time/number of game limitation to find the "-est" coaches. More people are likely to shine in a shorter time span compared to a more stretched out interval. JH seems to be in the upper echelon of the coaching fraternity, but far from staking his claim as the best. Only time can tell.


February 11th, 2017 at 9:32 AM ^

I think that, better than an arbitrary "time/number of games limitations" cutoff for "-est" coaches, results should just include that data.  Thus, if you think four seasons is too few, you could ignore the results for coaches that have four or fewer seasons.  Others, with different criteria, could include more, or fewer, coaches than your standards would include.  Everybody wins.


February 11th, 2017 at 11:15 AM ^

Some perspective here.  All debate about who is the greatest coach in the NFL during the salary cap era ended Sunday night around 10:30.  That discussion is closed and locked in the vault. BB is closing in on the greatest coach ever.  

Nobody is happier that JH is coaching Michigan than me.  Can't compare him over a highly successful 4 year period to what BB has done in the NFL.  Don't forget he coached in Cleveland!!!!! Cleveland.  Can't wait to see both teams at the White House in the same season.