COHN: 49ers now elite, with room for improvement

My editor asked me to write a wrap-up column on the Niners' season. Wrap-up is a synonym for post mortem.

The 49ers' turnaround was incredible, as in beyond belief. Many people, me included, thought six to eight wins would be commendable, and here was a team that made it to the NFC Championship and almost to the Super Bowl. It shows what good coaching can do, and what bad coaching cannot do.

Mike Singletary had the same players with a few exceptions and couldn't deliver. Jim Harbaugh is an optimistic, fiery, demanding coach who knows the ABCs of football, not to mention the Xs and Os. Without much of a preseason, he made the 49ers an elite team in the NFL, a team that will be elite for many years.

Harbaugh is not afraid to surround himself with good coaches. Singletary was — remember Jimmy Raye? A good coach wants to hear strong, creative voices in coaches' meetings. Sometimes he wants opposing voices. Harbaugh has a flat-out great coaching staff, to his credit.

Under defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, the 49ers had the best defense in football, a fast, mobile, punishing defense.

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