Everything about the 49ers 2011 season suggests that in 2012 they should "regress to the mean" in a lot of regards. They were 7-2 in games decided by 8 points or less last year. They had an elite defense that was buoyed by a number of mid-level players having career years (e.g. Carlos Rogers, Dashon Goldson, Ray McDonald, Ahmad Brooks, Donte Whitner, etc.), and their QB was Alex Smith.
Basically meaning, if they don't get quite the bounces they had in 2011, and say are maybe 5-4 in close games, get "normal" performances from some of those defensive stalwarts, and also a "normal" performance from Alex Smith, then it likely means that the 49ers are closer to a 8-8 team than the 13-3 team they were in 2011.
But with their Week 1 win over the Packers, the 49ers will now begin Week 2 alongside the Patriots as everybody's favorite to go all the way.
But the point of this post is to say that if the 49ers don't regress to the mean, and somehow Jim Harbaugh manages to get this team to play at a very high level throughout this season and into the playoffs, then I think we can unequivocably say that Harbaugh is the best coach in the NFL.
I've question whether long-term the path that the 49ers are going down is going to work. Alex Smith/Colin Kaepernick, are either one of them going to be the big-time QB that they will probably need to win a Super Bowl? But maybe they don't in fact need them to be. Maybe their defense IS that good. Maybe their O-line and running game IS that strong. That success coupled with a play-action passing attack helmed by Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, AJ Jenkins, and Vernon Davis will in fact be enough to make the 49ers that outlier in the idea that this is a passing/QB's league.
And if that is the case, then if Harbaugh is able to sustain them winning at the highest levels, then I don't think it's crazy to think that qualifies him automatically to be the front-runner for who is the best coach in NFL. Everybody always concedes Belichick is the best, but we might have another contender in Harbaugh.
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.