Oh, those Harboys. Good Lord, they must have been a handful.
You may have read something about this, but the Harbaugh brothers, John and Jim, have managed to coach their respective teams to Super Bowl XLVII. Separated by only 15 months, their dad, Jack, says they were more like twins than brothers. When they’d fight, Jack would draw a line down their room and tell them not to cross it. Which, of course, they did immediately.
And now they get to cross the line on the biggest sports stage in the country.
John, the Baltimore Ravens’ coach, is the older, more even-tempered brother, the one with the twinkle in his eye rather than the 100-yard stare. He worked his way up to the Ravens’ job after a career as a Philadelphia Eagles’ assistant.
“I don’t know if we had a dream this big,” Harbaugh said. “We had a few dreams, we had a few fights. We had a few arguments, just like all brothers. … We will try to stay out of that business. We’ll let the two teams duke it out as much as possible.
“I couldn’t be more proud of Jim. Watching that team play, they do reflect his personality.”
That team would be the San Francisco 49ers. Jim Harbaugh came to them after a successful career as the Stanford coach, which came after a long career as an NFL quarterback. Jim is the fiery one, the one who freaked out over a rejected challenge in the NFC championship game, the one who got into a postgame fracas with Detroit Lions Coach Jim Schwartz over the gentlemanly postgame handshake.
Because Jim’s team played first Sunday, all he could say was “I want to thank my parents, Jack and Jackie Harbaugh, and go Ravens.”
With his brother on a plane back to San Francisco after the Ravens’ win, It fell to John to be the spokesman for the Har Bowl. Or the Bro Bowl. Whatever. Neither would probably be headed to New Orleans without having made a bold late-season decision. John Harbaugh fired Cam Cameron and named Jim Caldwell offensive coordinator; Jim Harbaugh benched Alex Smith and named Colin Kaepernick the starting quarterback. In that regard, they are alike.
“I’d like to think that our teams are similar,” John Harbaugh said. “I’d like to think that when you look at those two teams you’re looking at mirror images of two football teams. I’d like to think that. It’s going to be a great game and he’s a great football coach.”
The Harbaughs have accomplished a sibling matchup, one that has eluded the Mannings. A former coach, Jack Harbaugh advised the boys before last week’s games: Get ahead. Stay ahead. On Sunday, he and his wife followed the same routine they did last year, when both boys lost in the championship games. They watched, just the two of them, on their basement TV in Mequon, Wis.
“We share our misery with no one but ourselves,” Jack Harbaugh told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Starting Sunday night, though, he and Jackie became Switzerland as the Harboys prepare to duke it out and their storyline swallows Super Bowl XLVII. The Harbaugh hype may get to be a bit much, even though the brothers faced each other on Thanksgiving Day 2011. (The Ravens won, 16-6, in Baltimore.)
“You know what? I agree with you,” Harbaugh laughed when asked if he could stomach the hype. “Let’s just cut that right now, you know what I mean? Can we all agree? Let’s just forget about that. We did that last year. It was fine. It got old last year, right? Did it not?”
Maybe. But on Sunday night, as John’s team took the field and Jim’s boarded a plane for the flight back to San Francisco, it was pretty cool to watch it unfold. Tom Crean, the Indiana basketball coach who is married to the coaches’ sister Joani, tweeted about it:
“We can’t put into words what it means to see John and Jim achieve this incredible milestone. We talked to Jim before his team plane left. All he wanted to know was how was John doing. How were they playing? One incredible family who puts the care, well-being and love for each other at the forefront like most families do. Again, we are very proud of them. Going to be exciting to watch it unfold.”
AFC championship: Ravens head for New Orleans
NFC championship: 49ers smack Falcons