Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers may not be handed the hardware they really wanted this weekend, but it’s very likely they will walk away with at least one award during the NFL honors show on Saturday.
“I’ve said so often how proud I was of this team. I thought they played their hearts out,” Harbaugh said after the season. “I thought we were a well-coached team. Be very proud of our guys.”
Harbaugh is a clear favorite to win Coach of the Year after helping the 49ers win seven more games than in 2010 and taking them to the NFC Championship Game in his first season as head coach.
“It’s hard to get there. Hard to get to that game,” Harbaugh said. “It doesn’t just happen. It’s a credit to everybody. It’ll be hard again next year.”
Harbaugh was the third coach in 49ers history to win 13 games in his first season, following Steve Mariucci and George Seifert.
Alex, Aldon and Justin Smith are also in consideration for awards.
The often-criticized Alex Smith is in the conversation for Comeback Player of the Year after a resurrection season.
Smith tallied his first 3,000-yard season while throwing 17 touchdowns and a career-low five interceptions.
Justin Smith has been talked about as a serious candidate for the Defensive Player of the Year after being the anchor for arguably the best defense in the NFL. Smith had 7½ sacks and three forced fumbles on the season. He was also on a defensive line that set an NFL record by not allowing a rushing touchdown in its first 14 games of the season.
“I was just pleased with Justin Smith and many others,” Harbaugh said. “It’s like I said at the beginning, really wholeheartedly really pleased with this whole football team.”
Another crucial part of that defense was the performance of Aldon Smith, who is up for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
The youngest Smith had 14 sacks, setting the team’s rookie sack record and coming just short of setting the league’s rookie record.