In his first season as an NFL head coach, Jim Harbaugh has won the Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year award. Before Harbaugh took over in 2011 and guided the San Fransisco 49ers to an NFC West title, a first round bye and an NFC Championship Game appearance, the franchise went eight years without appearing in the playoffs. The Niners had not been to the NFC Championship Game since 1997 before this season.
Harbaugh spent four years as the Stanford Cardinal head coach before he was hired and handed a five-year, $25 million contract by the Niners. He turned the team around instantly, molding Alex Smith into a serviceable starting quarterback while turning the 49ers defense into one of the best in the NFL. They finished with a 13-3 record on the back of that defense, which was fourth in total defense and second in average points against.