Big leap: Jim Harbaugh makes 49ers instant winners

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) -- From Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier to Dennis Erickson, winning college coaches have long failed to translate their success to the next level.

Jim Harbaugh needed just one year to emphatically break that mold -- and he didn't even have to change his unique rah-rah style to transform the San Francisco 49ers (13-3) into a Super Bowl contender this season. They head into Saturday's home playoff game against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints (14-3) as an underdog, just as he likes it.

Harbaugh has become the favorite for Coach of the Year by doing things his way from Day 1. He doesn't care about making friends in the NFL or being popular among his peers. He once said, "If the 49ers success offends you, so be it."