GREEN BAY—Bill Belichick is getting a serious challenge from Jim Harbaugh.
Belichick has long been the worst conference call interview in this reporter's time covering the NFL. How bad is Belichick on a conference call? Well, back in his days as the Browns' head coach, when this reporter got a double dose of Belichick every year, he would often be heard shuffling papers during long pauses between questions and answers.
During one particular call, Belichick became such a nonparticipant in the event that we said thanks and hung up.
In a different sort of way, an edgier way, Harbaugh is a serious challenger to Belichick's status as the worst conference call in the league. Here are some snippets from yesterday's banter between Harbaugh and Packers media.
Q. Does the cold weather forecast for this Sunday make it good to be a team built to run the ball?
A. "Well, I think it'd be a good reason to run the ball at any time of the year."
That's good, but that was just a warm up. Harbaugh's best was yet to come.
Following a rather long and gracious question about Aaron Rodgers' dramatic performance against the Bears, and asked to give his opinion on it, Harbaugh said: "To be obvious, you said it pretty well. I concur with what you said."
Oh, that's beautiful. With that, I had to suppress a laugh. I love this guy. Hey, it's an edge game and "Coach H" has one.
Now it was time for the piece de resistance, a question asked by no less a conference call devotee than moi.
Q. Coach (notice the respectful tone), why do you think you have a 3-0 record against the Packers?
A Belichick-like pause followed, and then …
A. "I don't have that list in front of me."
Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding! We have a winner, ladies and gentlemen. Move over, Belichick, there's a new sheriff in town and his name is Jim Harbaugh.
Here are 10 things the Packers have to do to beat the 49ers.
1. Stop the run—The 49ers have lost four times: Seattle held them to 103 yards rushing, the Colts to 102 yards, the Panthers to 98 yards and the Saints to 73 yards. Do you see a trend there?
2. Win or at least level TOP—The 49ers dominated time of possession in each of their three wins over the Packers since the 2012 season opener: by six minutes, 16:02 and 17:10. That clearly won't work.
3. Run the ball—That's how you win TOP and it's also how you stay out of predictable passing situations that would allow the 49ers to tee off on the quarterback.
4. Pass it, too—The best defense is a good offense. The Packers are struggling on defense. The Packers will likely need to score often to win.
5. Hit!—They'll hit you.
6. Make the cold your 12th man—This isn't the 49ers' weather. This is the Packers' weather.
7. Get the ball to Randall Cobb—Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb can become the hot pass-catch combination of the postseason.
8. Make a play at safety—No interceptions in the whole season. This is a new season.
9. Execute what you practiced—No excuses for not stopping the read option this time. There has been plenty of preparation.
10. Remember 579—It was the battle cry of the offseason. It changed the face of the Packers offense and it needs to inspire the defense to greater heights. Additional coverage - Jan. 2