Even though San Francisco finished 13-3 in Jim Harbaugh’s first season with the 49ers, winning the NFC West, advancing to the NFC championship game and finishing with a winning record for the first time since 2002, the head coach believes his team can make a significant jump from year one to year two.
“I’ve always felt like the most improvement you can make is from year one to year two,” Harbaugh said. “It’s like a college freshman, who the most improvement he can make in an entire career of college football is from his freshman year to his sophomore year. Or like a pro football player, going from his rookie season to his second season.
“There’s a window there that will never come again, that you have a chance to make your biggest strides.”
Similar to Harbaugh, San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke said his team isn’t resting on it laurels.
“Last year’s success doesn’t mean anything moving forward,” Baalke said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. I feel very good about the systems that we have in place, and the coaching staff now having a full offseason to really work with these guys, and to take the systems and the schemes to a new level, and the understanding of those schemes to a new level.
“But there’s a lot of work to do. The locker room isn’t going to be the same. There are going to be new faces. Guys are going to have to come together. Every year you’re trying to bring in that group of guys that can come together the way last year’s group did. And there’s no guarantees. But we’re going to work very hard at it.
“We’re going to the same thing we’ve done in the past, the same thing we ask our players to do – come to work every day with the mindset of getting better.”
The Niners have several soon-to-be free agents to address, including quarterback Alex Smith, cornerback Carlos Rogers, receiver Josh Morgan and safety Dashon Goldson.
Harbaugh left little down he wants Smith back.
“Alex is our guy,” Harbaugh said. “That’s well-documented. He had a tremendous season. Definitely as a coach you worry about a lot of things. And when your quarterback is not signed and is a free agent,that leads to some lost sleep.”