Paul Wulff is in New Orleans.
He is in meetings, he is in hotel rooms, he is nose-to-the-gameplan as the San Francisco 49ers prepare for their Super Bowl XLVII matchup against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
Not only is the former Washington State head coach still in the game, he’s in the biggest game.
“Each day’s gotten busier,” Wulff said via telephone from New Orleans after a team meeting on Wednesday. “You can just feel more and more people moving into the area.”
In a perfect world, Wulff would be on the recruiting trail, gearing up for national letter of intent signing day next week. He would still be WSU’s coach.
But if there existed an ideal scenario for Wulff after he was fired by WSU following the 2011 season, this is probably it.
Hired in May by the 49ers as an offensive assistant, Wulff says he’s been more than pleased with his NFL experience. He watches games from upstairs, the first time he’s coached from the booth since his first season as a coach 21 years ago.
That alone has given him new perspective.
“The ability to think and process and make adjustments as the game goes along has been a great asset for me, personally, being up there,” Wulff said. “In the NFL, you get instant photos of the plays. You don’t make adjustments at halftime. You make them throughout the game. That has been really good to be able to adjust to that and do those types of things.”
And while 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh has become something of an arch-nemesis to many Seahawks fans in this area, Wulff said working for him has been an entirely positive experience.
“He’s very supportive of his players and coaches,” Wulff said. “By no means is he a dictator. He’s the opposite. He’s a big believer in more minds the better and it’s been a great environment to learn to coach, to have input.”
Wulff didn’t have much time to watch WSU this season, but he said he’d catch them on television from time to time, usually in a hotel room the day before a 49ers game.
It pained him to watch the Cougars fail. Their 3-9 record was a step back from the 4-8 record they posted in Wulff’s final season, and he admits it was hard not to wonder what they could have done if he’d been allowed to coach the final year of his contract.
“I clearly thought that was a very bowl-capable type of a football team,” Wulff said. “Again, that’s my opinion, but it was disappointing when things like that happened. Young men come there and have a belief in how we were building the program and what we were doing, and bought into Washington State and the notion they were going to be part of the program we were building, and then it gets changed on them.”
The negative attention garnered by the defection of receiver Marquess Wilson only made matters worse.
“There was no joy in that. It was just more disappointment in my stomach and those things are tough to take,” Wulff said. “You get emotionally attached as a coach. You recruit those young guys and you coach them, you’re traveling all over the country and you’re talking to the parents and the kids. You do get emotionally attached to these guys, because you invest time in them and then they trust you and that’s a hard pill to swallow when things go sideways.”
He’d like to be a head coach again, though it’s not an immediate priority. For now, he’s simply thankful for the knowledge he’s gained from his time in San Francisco, hoping to help win one more game and be a part of a Super Bowl championship.
“Learning from the very best and being around the very best, not many people can pass that along somewhere down the road as a coach,” Wulff said. “And I’m able to be a part of it and have input. It’s a very good educational piece for me, as well.”