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Cohn: Harbaugh faces deep learning curve in the pros

  • San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, left, greets New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton after their NFL preseason football game at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Friday, Aug. 12, 2011. The Saints won 24-3. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

This is about the 49ers' first exhibition game, that mugging in the Big Easy many witnessed, horrified, on TV.

This is what we learned: As of this writing, the 49ers are nowhere. That's a fair and necessary evaluation.

The coach is nowhere. Jim Harbaugh was supposed to ride into town, the second coming of Bill Walsh. Harbaugh had revolutionized college football — or, at least Stanford football on the back and arm of Andrew Luck — and he would show the NFL, beginning with Saints coach Sean Payton.

Please.

Harbaugh was unprepared for the onslaught, stood there on the sideline grim-faced and stiff-jawed while his offensive line aided and abetted the Saints defense in committing near-murder on Niner quarterbacks. Rarely has a team been so poorly prepared for opening night anywhere. Looking at the Niners' performance, you might have thought this was a Mike Singletary team.

Harbaugh came across as what he is, a college coach hoping to make the big leap to the NFL, a man in his learning phase, a coach as a beginner.

Harbaugh apologists and 49er apologists, like the guy who did color on the TV broadcast, tell us the 49ers had only 12 practices or something like that, so requiring competence of them is unfair and gee whiz just plain un-American.

Please.

The Saints and every other team in the league had 12 practices. Sure, the Saints have continuity with their coaching staff and the Niners don't. You know what? That's just too bad. When Harbaugh took the 49ers job for a whole lot of money and in a ceremony befitting a king, no one said to him, "Jimmy boy, you don't have to do well because you're new at this and you'll have just 12 practices, so no one is holding you to big-league standards."

Please.


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