49ers Rapidly Across
After the last soccer tennis ball had been broke, and the last conquer had been quit, the 49ers' go instructor strode rapidly across the area to move palms with his version.
There was no occurrence this time around. No modern again putting, or absurd scuffling. Jim Harbaugh and Leaders go instructor Tom Coughlin shook palms temporarily, talked for a moment and Harbaugh strolled off the area at Candlepower unit Playground on Saturday as quickly as he could.
Just like that, a wonderful season for a fresh go instructor had come to an end in in the long run of the NFC Title Game. Just like that, Harbaugh's secret carpeting trip came sailing again to soil.
In typical fashion, Harbaugh stood up in front of the gathered hoard afterward and took it like an adult.
He told us how proud he was of his team. How they had fought to the end and could very well have won the game.
"It wasn't there for us today," said Harbaugh, all jutting jaw and internalized seethe. In a lot of ways, we played good enough to win ..."
The words trailed off and you could see the coach was in a good amount of pain.
And then he looked up and gave us the last in a long line of Harbaugh-isms that helped define the season, the coach and the team. "A man can be defeated," Harbaugh said. "But he can't be destroyed."
There you have it. Mere minutes after a crushing defeat, in which his mistake-free team had betrayed its own nature at the worst possible moment, Harbaugh stood defiant and promised the world that he would not be defeated.
It was a surreal moment because Harbaugh has built something like a cloak of invincibility around himself. It was still kind of hard to believe he'd been defeated in the NFC Championship. Isn't this the guy who makes it happen somehow, some way?
From his stunning success at Stanford, to the amazing turnaround he orchestrated this season with the 49ers, Harbaugh has established one thing: He's not your average football coach.
For one, he doesn't lose very much.
He went 29-21 over four seasons with bookish Stanford kids. And he posted 14 wins against four losses his first year with San Francisco, inheriting a team that went 6-10 the season before.
That makes him only the fourth rookie head coach in NFL history to win 13 games or more, ranking second in 49ers history to a guy named George Seifert, who won 14 in his inaugural campaign in 1989. Perhaps most impressively, he's the only man in NFL history to win that many as a rookie having inherited a losing team.
It was ironic that both Jim Harbaugh, and his brother John, came so close to winning their respective championships Sunday, with John's Ravens falling to the Patriots 23-20 and the Jim's 49ers falling to the Giants 20-17.
There was much similarity in how both teams were coached and how hard they fought to force a rematch of November's much-hyped Har-bowl, won by the elder Harbaugh.
That game was just one of many memorable moments for Jim Harbaugh this season, from the comeback in Philadelphia to the infamous handshake in Detroit to the Monday Night blackout victory over Pittsburgh.
Harbaugh built the 2011-2012 Niners in his own image, asking the players to dedicate themselves wholly to the team.
He molded the plan to the talent, unlike so many of his recent predecessors. Let Alex Smith do what he's good at. Let Vernon Davis stretch the field. Let Patrick Willis and Justin Smith loose.
Let the players take responsibility, and more than anything, never criticize them in public.
But in the end, it will be Harbaugh's intensity - along with his quirky, driven personality - that we'll remember from his rookie campaign.
One can be assured that Coach Harbaugh will not let his players be destroyed by Sunday's loss. Anybody can tell you that.
Just ask Carl Banks. Outside the crowded corridors of Candlestick, in the chaos after the game, the Giants legendary linebacker leaned against the wall, waiting to get by.
Banks had played a few big games in this stadium against some of the finest 49ers teams ever assembled. He said the place looked a lot like it did back in the day. In fact, he said, "I don't think they've changed a damn thing."
But he also said the 49ers looked familiar to him, on this rainy Sunday.
"The 49ers played great today. A lot like they used to," Banks said. "I'm a huge fan of Jim Harbaugh. He's fundamentally sound. I competed against him as a college player and a pro.