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Harbaugh leaves Stanford to coach 49ers

Associated Press / January 8, 2011

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All week, Jim Harbaugh had a good feeling about making the jump to the NFL and joining the San Francisco 49ers — just the way mentor and late Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh did more than 30 years ago.

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

The successful Stanford coach receives a five-year deal and gets to remain right at home in the Bay Area 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.

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

While Harbaugh, 47, said he had all but made up his mind to accept the 49ers’ offer following a meeting of more than six hours that went into Wednesday evening, he took a couple of days to hear out his other suitors and do his “homework.’’

“I knew in my heart and my gut the right decision was with the San Francisco 49ers,’’ he said.

Harbaugh’s big brother, John, is coach of the Baltimore Ravens.

Sparano may stay put The day after their cross-country courtship of Harbaugh ended, Miami scheduled a late-afternoon news conference to announce the retention of coach Tony Sparano, but the session was postponed 20 minutes before the scheduled start. Nearly two hours later, the Dolphins rescheduled the session for today. A spokesman gave no reason for the postponement.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported Sparano was given a two-year extension. He has one year left on his current contract.

Fisher still with Titans The Titans released a statement saying Jeff Fisher will return for a 17th season as coach. The decision comes two days after owner Bud Adams agreed the Titans needed to part with Vince Young five seasons after he ordered the quarterback drafted. Fisher is the NFL’s longest-tenured coach . . . With Harbaugh off the market, the Broncos and new football czar John Elway will turn their attention elsewhere. First up for interviews tomorrow are Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, who was an interim coach in Buffalo in 2009, and Eric Studesville, who went 1-3 as interim Broncos coach this season. Also expected to interview are Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, and former Giants coach Jim Fassel . . . Browns president Mike Holmgren formally interviewed his first head coach candidate, Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. Today, the Browns will interview Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey in Atlanta.

Paying the price The NFL fined Colts linebacker Gary Brackett $35,000 for his hit on Titans long snapper Ken Amato in last Sunday’s game. Brackett has been fined three times this season for illegal hits. Other players fined by the league for physical misdeeds were Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs ($15,000) and Raiders defensive lineman John Henderson ($7,500) . . . Panthers center Ryan Kalil and Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams were named as injury replacements on the NFC’s Pro Bowl roster . . . Two former Patriots, long snapper Jake Ingram and quarterback Brett Ratliff, signed future contracts with the Titans . . . Bill “Tiger’’ Johnson, former coach of the Bengals, died at his home in Fort Myers, Fla., after a long illness. He was 84.

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