SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Cornerback Tarell Brown didn't become a regular starter for the 49ers until 2011, his fourth year in the NFL. It was the same year Jim Harbaugh became San Francisco's head coach after making the jump from Stanford.
And now that Brown signed a one-year deal with the Oakland Raiders in the spring, he has a unique perspective when it comes to his former head coach, whose future is the subject of rampant speculation.
"I think having a coach like that...as much winning that he’s had and the ability to come in and change the organization around, I wouldn’t think they would get rid of a type of guy like that. But you never know. this business is up and down. You just wait and see what happens," Brown said in a conference call.
Harbaugh is reportedly on thin ice with San Francisco's front office, particularly after his team's 19-3 loss to the rival Seattle Seahawks on Thanksgiving night. Team CEO Jed York took to Twitter following the game, offering fans an apology for the performance.
The 49ers had eight straight losing seasons before Harbaugh took over. Brown was on four of those teams after being drafted in the fifth round in 2007 out of Texas, or "DB-U" as he often called it on national broadcasts.
San Francisco travels to play the Raiders in Oakland Sunday for the first time since 2002, when Jeff Garcia led the 49ers to a an overtime 23-20 win at the Coliseum.
Brown, 29, was a staple in San Francisco's secondary under coordinator Vic Fangio after being promoted to the starting lineup. From 2011 through 2013, Brown made 42 regular season starts and had 41 pass break ups.
Brown signed a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Raiders in the offseason, who also added former 49ers defensive back Carlos Rogers. He's currently on injured reserve with a knee injury.
With Brown and Rogers in Oakland, the 49ers revamped their secondary through May's draft. They added safety/nickel corner Jimmie Ward (first round), corners Dontae Johnson (fourth round), Keith Reaser (fifth round) and Kenneth Acker (sixth round). Reaser and Acker will both spend their first NFL seasons "red shirting" on reserve lists, dealing with knee and foot injuries, respectively.
With Culliver and Perrish Cox starting, San Francisco has the league's fourth-ranked passing defense, allowing 208 yards per game.
In coverage, Brown has allowed 39 catches on 58 targets and one touchdown, good for an opponents' passer rating of 97.5 with his new team, according to Pro Football Focus.
Going from the 49ers, who went 36-11-1 in his last three regular seasons, to the 1-11 Raiders has been a stark contrast for Brown.
"I think it's definitely different, something you have to learn on the fly," Brown said. "Being there for seven years, that's all I knew. Going somewhere else, the culture is different, the locker room is different, the atmosphere is different. Just everything overall is different. But the good thing about it is, you adjust to it, you learn and you take the good and the bad with both. You just try to adjust and make the best out of every situation you're put in to."
Davis, Ellington improving
Harbaugh said right tackle Anthony Davis is improving after suffering a concussion in Nov. 16's win over the New York Giants. He is currently going through the league-mandated concussion protocol.
"He was doing cardio today and will lift today," Harbaugh said Wednesday.
Davis was prevented from working out over the last two weeks since the concussion and remains questionable for Sunday's game against the Raiders. If is not cleared, Jonathan Martin would make his eighth start.
Wide receiver/return man Bruce Ellington practiced in full Wednesday after being limited in recent week injuring his ankle Nov. 9 against the Saints. He hasn't appeared in a game since, forcing Cox to return punts and Carlos Hyde to handle kick offs.
Ellington is averaging 7.0 yards per punt return and while Cox is averaging exactly half that at 3.5. Cox also lost a crucial fumble in the second quarter of last week's loss to Seattle.