The quagmire of dysfunction that existed during the Mike Singletary era has been replaced by a focused, detailed approach that evokes memories of the franchise's championship years.
Harbaugh, who awakened dormant programs at the University of San Diego and then Stanford, has put an emphasis on "team" and stressed a daily focus on improvement. Those values are littered on signage throughout the team facility and reiterated in the sound bites uttered by coaches during press conferences.
While those reminders are certainly impactful, it is Harbaugh's ability to incorporate those principles into the 49ers' daily practice regimen that suggest the team will eventually return to glory.
The team's workouts during training camp have been spirited and lively, with an emphasis on operating at a game-like tempo. From breaking the huddle to snapping the ball on the proper count, the focus has been on replicating the game-day experience to prepare players for the frenetic pace that takes place on Sundays. Harbaugh has even put the team in the game uniforms and conducted three-hour practices to simulate the length of games.
His desire to recreate the game atmosphere has resulted in the team integrating various situations throughout the practice. It is not unusual to see the 49ers jump into a variety of scrimmage scenarios, including third-down, red-zone and two-minute offense. These drills allow Harbaugh to pit the "ones versus ones" in a competitive environment that will prepare them for the speed and intensity of games.
Under Singletary, the 49ers practices were known for their high intensity and aggressiveness, but the tactics failed to pay attention to the details that ultimately decides games. Last season, the team lost six games by eight points or fewer, and the inability to make critical conversions under pressure was often the deciding factor.
With Harbaugh at the helm, however, the 49ers should be better prepared for those scenarios. He takes a hands-on approach at practice, and is constantly providing feedback and instruction to his troops. His constant stream of information alerts players to the possibilities in every situation, and helps cultivate their football acumen.
More importantly, the interaction with his players in these situations allows them to delve into his keen football mind, which builds respect and admiration between player and coach.
The 49ers hired Harbaugh to restore the greatness of the franchise, and his energy, passion and attention to detail has the team headed in the right direction.