NFL NOTEBOOK: Harbaugh leaves Stanford for NFL; Fisher returns as Titans coach; Falcons want Seahawks, not Saints

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

SAN FRANCISCO -- Declaring it a "perfect competitive opportunity," Jim Harbaugh accepted the job as coach of the 49ers and said his goal is to win a Lombardi Trophy for "one of the legendary franchises in all of football."

The successful Stanford coach gets to remain in the Bay Area, moving to the NFL after four years with the Cardinal. A longtime NFL quarterback, he replaces fired coach Mike Singletary. ESPN reported Harbaugh's deal is for $25 million over five years.

Harbaugh decided to make the jump to the pros even though San Francisco has missed the playoffs for eight straight seasons and Orange Bowl MVP quarterback Andrew Luck decided to remain at Stanford for another season.

"I can feel the enthusiasm coursing through my veins right now," Harbaugh said. "I accept this competitive challenge willingly."

The Cardinal (12-1) finished with a school-record 12 wins following a 40-12 victory over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.

Harbaugh, though, has long admired the late Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh, one of his mentors, and how Walsh made the successful leap from Stanford to the 49ers.

Now, he must turn around a once-proud franchise that is desperate to become a contender again right away. The 49ers were expected to win the NFC West this season, then began 0-5 for their worst start since losing seven straight to begin a 2-14 season in 1979 -- Walsh's first year as coach.

The 49ers finished 6-10 this year -- in the chase for a playoff berth in the NFL's worst division until the second-to-last week -- and haven't had a winning season since their last trip to the playoffs in 2002.

Harbaugh likely will be grooming a new quarterback in the coming months. Alex Smith, the 2005 No. 1 overall draft pick out of Utah, becomes a free agent. So, finding a QB is high on the team's to-do list heading into what should be a busy offseason.

Once the season begins, Harbaugh will face a familiar foe -- big brother John Harbaugh, coach of the Baltimore Ravens.


FISHER TO RETURN WITH TITANS: Bud Adams has thought it over, and the Tennessee Titans' owner has decided he isn't ready just yet to part with Jeff Fisher.

"Jeff has meant a great deal to this franchise and we have reached some incredible heights under his leadership," Adams said in a statement Friday.

Adams also thanked fans for their patience over the past week while he decided on the team's future.

"Obviously, I have very high expectations for our football team and want to deliver a championship to our fans," the 88-year-old owner said. "Jeff understands this and shares my expectations. The results of his leadership have been some very good football teams and I believe he will get us back to an elite level."

The decision comes two days after Adams agreed the Titans needed to part with Vince Young five seasons after he ordered the quarterback drafted. Young was 30-17, not counting his lone playoff loss, but he told off Fisher in front of the team after suffering a season-ending injury Nov. 21.

Adams' decision means Fisher, the NFL's longest-tenured coach, will be back for a 17th season.


FALCONS WANT SEATTLE: Most of he Atlanta Falcons insist they don't care who they play in the next round of the playoffs.

Leave it to Roddy White to say what most of them are probably thinking.

The outspoken Pro Bowl receiver made it clear he'd like to get the Seahawks next weekend -- not surprising, given Seattle (7-9) is the first losing team to win its division.

"You really don't want to play a really consistent quarterback or anything like that," White told reporters. "Does that answer your question?"

Indeed it does. Rule out Green Bay, which has Aaron Rodgers, and defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans, led by Pro Bowler Drew Brees. The Seahawks' QB is Matt Hasselbeck, who has thrown 17 interceptions, just 12 touchdowns and might be on the way out in Seattle.

The top-seeded Falcons (13-3) have a bye this weekend and will face the Packers if they win their opening-round game at Philadelphia. If the Eagles win, Atlanta gets the winner of New Orleans at Seattle.

At least one other Falcons player is pulling for the Seahawks, but that's because of family ties. Defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux's brother, Jordan, plays for the Seahawks.