Jim Harbaugh addressed the media on Wednesday as his team prepares for a Sunday matchup against the New York Giants.How's QB Alex Smith doing?**"Good. Says he's doing good and not something that's a big deal, or to worry about."
Did you see him throw a little bit yesterday?"A little bit, yeah."
Did that sort of relieve your concerns that you might have had?"Yes. Yes."
When you look at this game against the New York Giants, what sort of epitomizes what you've seen from them? You guys pride yourselves on being a physical team. Are they in that similar mold?"Just a real good team. Not putting anybody into any molds, us or the Giants. Outstanding football team in all phases, offense, defense, special teams. Resilient team. Good football team. I think that sums up all the good characteristics about them, and hard to pay a higher compliment to them than that. Just good football team, encompasses a lot of characteristics."
Do you view it as the biggest challenge you've had so far this season?"It always is. The next game, we always look at as the most important game on the schedule. And no doubt that this is a huge challenge. So, however you want to frame it."
Your defense in the Championship Game, did a great job of pressuring Giants QB Eli Manning and they did it countless times. And he kept getting up, throwing downfield, he didn't give up. Were you impressed by that and his toughness in that game?"He's a magician. That's what he is. And he's a football player."
Why do you say 'magician'?"The things he can get in and out of and plays that he makes. That's the picture, the word I had in my head there."
Your own quarterback, for people like us on the outside, we've kind of seen Alex grow in the last few years. I don't want you to rehash his years when you weren't here. But, what's different about him now? Why is he playing well? Why is this offense clicking with him when it wasn't happening years ago?"I can't put that in the category of - we just don't have any answers for you. More of our view on it is questions. Are we good enough to come out today and get the preparation that we need against a good Giants team? That discipline, our study habits. Focus on those preparation items rather than provide the list, or answers. We just don't have the answers. We've just got continual questions right now."
But things like his passer rating, is that a function of the kind of system you've built around him? Is he a different guy than he was before?"Again, we don't spend too much time with the answers."
What's he doing well?"He's a football player. That's the highest compliment you can give a guy. Encompasses a lot of things."
You talked about what Eli can get in and out, the magician point. From a respect standpoint, the pounding that he took, still getting up and that kind of stuff, what does that say to you?"From a respect standpoint, I have the highest respect for him. Ten out of 10 in terms of respect."
In last year's meeting against the Giants, DT Justin Smith batted down that fourth-down pass. Obviously everybody knew Justin's impact. What's been Justin's impact this season where we're not seeing it on the sack totals or anything like that? What are you seeing out of Justin this year?"The thing that we're probably seeing with all of our guys on defense, really they're all playing good. Everybody's playing well, playing well together. It's probably the second week in a row that we can say that nobody had a bad game. And they're all playing well. So, that's a real positive thing. Nothing's wrong. Nothing's wrong, except nothing's wrong. That's why we've got to keep asking those questions of ourselves."
How many times have you watched the NFC Championship Game, again and again since that time? Did it fuel you all offseason to be a better coach?"Not that in particular. I think there's just a deep desire to be a better coach, that fuels coaches. And me included."
Did you watch it 40 times?"I don't know how many times."
You took a couple players off their team, RB Brandon Jacobs, WR Mario Manningham. Has that changed the dynamics on both teams dramatically offensively?"I don't know how much. Couldn't put a percentage on it. But, you could stand to reason that it changed the dynamic, yes."
How has it changed your dynamic on offense? Especially Manningham. We haven't seen Jacobs yet, but how has Manningham's inclusion to your offense changed what you guys do?"Well, he's been a contributor right from the get-go and consistently good contribution in multiple ways. As a blocker, as a runner, as a route runner, as a pass catcher. And not just consistent, but consistently good."
You said that Brandon wasn't quite ready, where is he now as far as readiness?"Well, that was based on last week. Now we're starting a new week. So, we'll determine that this week."
A guess for it?"No. No guess. Wouldn't want to offer a guess."
You said 'nothing's wrong except for the fact that nothing's wrong'. Can it be unsettling when your team is playing so well, in a way?"Yes. That can be unsettling. It's scary good. But, scary good. The law of averages say that you're not going to keep getting the breaks. You're not going to stay at that spot. But, I think if you understand the concept of scary good then you have a chance. Stay on your toes. Keep your guard up. Stay paranoid. And come out here every day and do what you believe in, which is the preparation. Make this meeting the best possible meeting it could be. Make this practice the best one of the season. Each down, each series, each game. The brilliance is in the basics. If you believe in that then I think you've got a chance of understanding scary good."
Paranoid, is that a good trait?"The Intel folks wrote that book. I thought that was real insightful. That was a team that was on top for 40 years. Won 40 straight Super Bowls, and that's what they had to say about it. I think there's something that can be learned there."
Has your offense opened your eyes to the capabilities last Sunday? Or had you seen something like that coming?"I think that, my personal opinion, is that our players outperformed what we thought was coming. Their skill, their talent, was the greatest share. And they probably did better than what we thought."
You're kind of an amateur historian. And looking back at these two franchises, they date back to some of the oldest franchises in the league. I think they didn't have any great meetings in the postseason until the 80s. But, looking at last season's November game, as well as the NFC Championship Game, they'll go down in NFL glory as some of the great games played. Will you bring that to your players' attention? And if so, how?"I don't know how important or relevant that information would be. They have a great tradition. Our team has great tradition. And is that relevant or isn't it? I think the players playing in this game determine this game."
Are the Giants still a cruel team?"A what?"
Cruel. Cruel team."Are the Giants a cruel team?"
Are they a cruel team? You described them as cruel last year."I did? Are you sure?"
Yeah, I wouldn't forget that. That was great. You said that they don't give you what you want. They're cruel. I really liked that."Yeah. They do. They're a good football team."
Some of your players have said this game is unfinished business for them. Is that something that that mindset you need to address to them?"I don't think so."
It doesn't bother you?"No."
Is it unfinished business to you?"No. New business. Got to take care of business and its new business to me."
Can it be a good thing for them to have that mentality?"Could be. I haven't heard much of that being said at all."