January 7, 2011 / 11:26 PM / in 7 years

San Francisco 49ers name Harbaugh as new head coach

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The San Francisco 49ers named Jim Harbaugh as their new head coach on Friday, hoping that he can replicate his success in college football to the NFL.

A former quarterback who spent 15 seasons in the NFL, Harbaugh replaced Mike Singletary, who was fired last month after the 49ers missed the playoffs for an eighth straight year.

The 47-year-old Harbaugh, whose older brother John is the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens, is “widely regarded as one of the finest up-and-coming coaches in football”, the 49ers said in a statement.

Harbaugh was an assistant coach for the NFL’s Oakland Raiders from 2002 to 2003, played for the Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore Ravens, San Diego Chargers and Carolina Panthers but made his name in the coaching ranks through the collegiate system.

He spent the four seasons in charge of Stanford University and led the team to an emphatic win in the Orange Bowl earlier this week, triggering speculation that he would lured to the NFL. Local media reported several teams, including the Miami Dolphins, had made approaches to him.

Harbaugh’s decision to join the NFL came a day after Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, who was expected to be the top pick in the 2011 NFL draft, opted to return to university for another year.

The 49ers were tipped to win the NFC West Division this season but stumbled out of the gate, losing their five games, despite playing in the league’s weakest division.

They won six of their last 11 regular season games only to see the Seattle Seahawks (7-9) became the first team in the NFL to win a division title with a losing record.

Reporting by Julian Linden in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue

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