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Jim Harbaugh: 49ers 'can do whatever we want'

It was just a throwaway quote about keeping preseason sensation Cam Johnson as a fifth outside linebacker, but it perfectly captured the state of the San Francisco 49ers under coach Jim Harbaugh.

"Five total? Yeah, you could," Harbaugh said Thursday night, via CSN Bay Area. "After tonight and the way Cam Johnson played, can you? Heck, yeah, you can. We're the San Francisco 49ers. We can do whatever we want."

Harbaugh has reached the "I'm Keith Hernandez" stage of his career. And why not?

Now at the vanguard of the NFL, the sophisticated 49ers brass has proven to be among the league's most confident and innovative. How many coaching staffs would've had the audacity to pull the plug on an established starter leading the NFL in passer rating to take a calculated risk on a uniquely talented but raw quarterback in the heat of a Super Bowl chase?

More importantly, how would such an unorthodox move go over in the locker room?

Former players will tell you they will follow a coach anywhere as long as they believe his intellect is superior to his opponent's. Nobody wants to back a loser. Harbaugh, brilliant offensive coordinator Greg Roman and defensive boss Vic Fangio now are approaching Bill Belichick territory, unafraid to take bold chances and just as willing to change directions in a hurry if they don't work out.

This is the organization advancing the evolution of the NFL.

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