Jim Harbaugh is the newest 49er head coach
Posted on January 7, 2011
New head coach Steve Mariucci of the San Francisco 49ers is introduced to the media with former head coach George Seifert (right) and former head coach Bill Walsh (left) at the 49ers facility in Santa Clara, California in 1997. (Photo by Brad Mangin)
The San Francisco 49ers will be introducing new head coach Jim Harbaugh to the media this afternoon after a crazy week of Tweets and rumors surrounding the future of the successful Stanford football coach. The 49ers went after him hard this week, but many thought their efforts were not enough to fight off more lucrative offers around the league. By last night it appeared that he might stay at Stanford for one more year. However things changed here in the Bay Area by around lunchtime and now it appears that 49er owner Jed York has his man.
49er fans all over are celebrating this big hire and hope that the 49ers might finally be able to get back to the championship form that spoiled the Bay Area for 20 straight years in the 80’s and 90’s. With the truly awful Mike Singletary era ending last week fans are hoping that things will turn the corner and that history will repeat itself. In 1979 Bill Walsh was plucked from Stanford to lead the revitalization of the dismal 49er franchise and here in 2011 fans are hoping Harbaugh can do the same.
In gathering photographs from my extensive archive looking for images of past 49ers coaches I was struck that my earliest image was from 1986. Yikes! That was when I shot my first game, in black and white, while I was a student at San Jose State. During my day on the sidelines shooting the Joe Montana-led 49ers beating the St. Louis Cardinals I am glad I squeezed off a few frames of The Genius doing his thing (see below). Remembering this golden era of 49er football reminds me of how far the organization has fallen.
I was fortunate to be able to document the end of the Walsh era, followed up by the very successful George Seifert era. Seifert was such an easy-going guy who continued to win with Walsh’s players, and then won it all with his guys in January of 1995 when they won Super Bowl XXIX over the Chargers. During this time Bay-TV started televising the 49ers press conferences live every Monday at noon, and I loved tuning in to see and writers lined up at the taco buffet line before things got started. Seifert would wear his lucky sweater as he casually answered questions from the writers and often joked with Examiner beat writer John Crumpacker. The writers loved dealing with Seifert and he seemed to really enjoy working with them, both on and off the record (see below).
Seifert had such a great record with the 49ers it came as a shock when Santa Rosa Press Democrat beat writer Brian Murphy broke the biggest story of the year in January of 1997 announcing that the 49ers were letting Seifert go and replacing him with Cal coach Steve Mariucci. This HUGE story shocked the Bay Area and put Murphy on the map. It also brought about the most bizarre press conference I have ever attended the day the story broke in the Grand Ballroom of the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. In a grand setting under gold chandeliers the club said goodbye to Seifert and set the stage for the official hiring of Mariucci the next day.
Thanks to a talent-laden roster Mariucci had a nice honeymoon period and led the team to many winning seasons before ownership crumbled with the departure of Eddie DeBartolo. Once the York family took over the organization things started to go very bad, and when management cut Marriuci loose after taking his team to the playoffs in 2002 things went downhill very quickly for the team. After covering this team for so many years at Candlestick Park I became so spoiled to shooting great players and great teams. Boy did things sure go to Hell quickly after Dennis Erickson took over in 2003. This was the beginning of the darkest period 49er football this generation of fans had ever experienced.
The next few years are all a blur of poor management, bad draft picks, awful coaching, and questions about who Paraag Marathe was and what did he really do for the team in Santa Clara. Things got so bad they could not get anyone with a good track record to coach the team. They were desperate in 2005 when they drastically over paid and gambled by giving Mike Nolan complete control of the club, hoping the fans would cut the team some slack for hiring the warm and fuzzy candidate. Nolan had once been a ball boy for the team while his dad Dick coached them in the 1970’s, and this homecoming made for a nice story. Until they started playing, and losing.
It was only a matter of time before the self-important Mike Singletary was relieved of his duties in 2010. The team was awful, hard to watch, and poorly coached. I heard rumblings of the 49ers going after Harbaugh several months ago. It was no secret that Jed York was enamored with Harbaugh and spent several Saturday’s watching his team play in the Farm during the Fall. The fans wanted Harbaugh. York wanted Harbaugh. The media chased this story 24/7 all week as this story became the most dramatically covered breaking sports story in Bay Area history thanks to Twitter and the Internet. Maybe now @MaioccoCSN can get some sleep.