The other postseason awards from the AP were in doubt, but not Coach of the Year. Jim Harbaugh led the San Francisco 49ers to a 13-3 record and the NFC Championship Game. He did so with a quarterback who couldn’t wait to leave San Francisco at the end of the 2010 season, after the Niners finished 6-10.
Harbaugh became the second 49ers coach in franchise history to win the award, joining a certain silver-haired coach who led the 49ers to a 13-3 record after finishing 6-10 the year before.
That year was 1981, and Bill Walsh followed that season with several other great ones. Harbaugh has about a decade of elite coaching to go before we can speak of him in Walshian tones, but since he earned 45 of the 50 votes (Mike McCarthy got 3, John Fox 2) he’s got one such year in the books.
Jim Schwartz must have been busy, so Alex Smith accepted the award on behalf of Harbaugh. I heard Smith’s speech was pretty good — I missed it because I was watching the Warriors lose in overtime to the Kings.
Niners players and former owner: shut out
– Terrell Suggs won AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year with 21 of the 50 votes. Next was Jared Allen with 14, and Justin Smith came in third with 6. Good showing for Smith, for whom I made the case for winning the award a few weeks ago. I went over all the candidates for the award and mentioned why they wouldn’t or shouldn’t win over Smith (including Charles Woodson, who got a single vote in this year’s voting based completely on reputation).
Here’s what I wrote when I got to Suggs:
Why he could win: Outshined teammates and perennial NFL DPOY candidates Ed Reed and Ray Lewis this year; Ravens’ defense was a top-4 group along with the Steelers, 49ers and Texans; led all candidates in forced fumbles and posted outstanding sack numbers to go along with a couple interceptions; outstanding career resume.
Why he won’t win: Hmmm … good question.
Smith had a great season. Finishing third to Suggs and the guy who almost broke Michael Strahan’s sack record is quite an achievement, and it’s tough for a guy to shine when he has two other teammates like Patrick Willis (who eceived 2 votes) and NaVorro Bowman (1 vote). I still think he should’ve won, but personal bias admittedly carries quite a bit of weight here.
– Niners fans were pleasantly surprised when Aldon Smith won Defensive Rookie of the Year from the Pro Football Weekly-Pro Football Writers Association, but he only received 11 votes compared to 39 for Von Miller in the AP voting. It was only the fifth time PFW-PFWA and the AP awarded DROY to two different players since 1969.
– Alex Smith came in third in the Comeback Player of the Year voting. Matthew Stafford won and D’Qwell Jackson came in second. Here was my reaction to the news:
Good showing for Alex, who’ll almost certainly be back with the Niners next season.
– Eddie Debartolo and Charles Haley didn’t get into the NFL Hall of Fame. If we’re really digging we can say a former 49er made it in Chris Doleman, since he played three years with San Francisco and had 38 sacks … but Doleman’s a Minnesota Viking.
The guys who will be inducted on the same day as Doleman: Curtis Martin, Cortez Kennedy, Dermontti Dawson and Willie Roaf. Get ready, because those acceptance speeches should create a ratings bonanza…
We talk about east coast bias a lot (probably too much), but I can’t think of a Hall of Fame RB that people on the west coast have ever cared less about than Martin. 4.0 yards per carry, huh? Yippee. At least Chris Berman will be happy.
As for the 49ers who didn’t make it — first, I’m not sure Haley’s a Hall of Famer. He had six great years and dominated his fair share of games, but he had some mediocre years mixed in during his prime. That Haley has five Super Bowl rings is probably his biggest selling point. Eddie D., on the other hand, deserves to make it because he’s on the list of the 10 most infuential AND successful NFL owners of all time. However, he left the game in a disgraceful manner and it’s exceedingly difficult for non-players to get in — Bill Parcells didn’t make the jump from finalist to inductee, either.