Comparing and Contrasting Harbowl Brothers John and Jim Harbaugh
This is the first time in NFL history that two brothers have coached against one another for the championship, and it brings up some interesting storylines for us media types.
With that in mind, we wanted to take a look at how these two brothers stack up by comparing and contrasting them in a number of categories.
The Harbaugh brothers are sons of Jack and Jackie Harbaugh.
Jack Harbaugh played and coached at the collegiate level from 1957 to 2009 (Bowling Green, Iowa, Michigan, Stanford, Pittsburgh and San Diego as an assistant; Western Michigan and Western Kentucky as a head coach), and his love of the game of football has inexorably soaked into both of his sons.
John Harbaugh (50) is the elder of the two, born about 15 months before Jim (49).
John is married to Ingrid Harbaugh, and the two of them have one daughter.
Jim has six children—three from his first marriage, and three from his current marriage to Sarah Harbaugh.
The younger Harbaugh is also a co-owner of Panther Racing in the IndyCar Series.
As if those weren't enough sports connections for one family, John and Jim's sister Joani is married to Indiana Hoosiers men's basketball coach, Tom Crean.
The younger Harbaugh played at both the collegiate and professional levels.
He spent his college years (1983-86) at the University of Michigan before being drafted by the Chicago Bears with the No. 26 overall pick of the 1987 NFL draft.
He threw for 5,449 yards and 31 touchdowns during his career with the Wolverines. He ranks fifth on Michigan's all-time passing yards list. He led the team to the Fiesta and Rose bowls in '85 and '86 under Bo Schembechler and the team went 21-3-1 in those two seasons.
He was dubbed "Captain Comeback" for leading 15 fourth-quarter comebacks and 19-game winnings drives in his regular season career. His role in leading the Indianapolis Colts to a few unexpected come-from-behind victories in the playoffs against the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers in the 1995 playoffs solidified that nickname.
Harbaugh played for the Bears, Colts, Ravens and Chargers during his 14-year playing career. He finished with 26,288 yards and 129 touchdowns, while completing 58.8 percent of his passes.
He was named the AP Comeback Player of the Year in 1995 after he was taken out of the starting lineup in 1994 in favor of Don Majkowski. He was named to his only Pro Bowl that same season.
The elder of the two played collegiate football for Miami University (Ohio), where he was a defensive back from 1980-83. He never attempted a professional career, instead opting to get into coaching in 1984.
The paths the Harbaugh brothers took to get to where they are now couldn't be more different.
Since Jim was a former player, his road to Super Bowl XLVII was a bit smoother than that of his elder sibling.
He assisted his father, Jack, at Western Kentucky University for eight years while he was still playing in the NFL. He was a scout and offensive consultant for the Hilltoppers and helped recruit across the country.
After he retired from playing, Harbaugh became the quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders in 2002 and 2003, where he helped Rich Gannon win the 2002 NFL MVP Award.
He then took on the head coaching gig at the University of San Diego in 2004, turning the Toreros into a team that won 11 games in each of his final two years. He developed Josh Johnson into an All-American quarterback, and his legend as a quarterback guru was born. Johnson threw for over 3,000 yards and more than 30 touchdowns and each of Harbaugh's last two seasons with the team.
Harbaugh moved up the ladder in 2007 to become the head coach of Stanford University, where he rebuilt a dead program, winning more games each year and finding and developing Andrew Luck—one of the best pro prospects to come into the NFL in decades. The Cardinal won four games his first season and finished seventh in the Pac-12. In 2010, they went 12-1, won the Orange Bowl, and finished fourth in the country.
Finally, Harbaugh took over for Jim Tomsula, interim for Mike Singletary, to become the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers in 2011. He's taken them to two consecutive NFC Championship Games and now Super Bowl XLVII. Additionally, he turned Alex Smith's career around and developed Colin Kaepernick into one of the NFL's most dangerous quarterbacks.
The elder Harbaugh's career is entrenched in special teams.
After his college playing days, John took a job with Western Michigan University (1984-87) as the team's running backs coach and outside linebackers coach.
He stayed on for four seasons before moving on to the University of Pittsburgh, where he was the tight ends coach for one season.
Then, in 1988, Harbaugh started on the path that would ultimately lead him to become the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens. He became the special teams coach for Morehead State, where he also coached the team's defensive backs.
In 1989, Harbaugh took a position as the special teams coordinator for the University of Cincinnati, and he stayed on with the Bearcats for eight years in this capacity.
The 1997 season saw Harbaugh move on to become the special teams coach for Indiana University before he got his big break in 1998 as the special teams coach for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Harbaugh coached under Andy Reid until 2008, serving as defensive backs coach his last season in Philadelphia, and finally made his way to the top of the coaching mountain to become the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens.
During his tenure in Baltimore, the Ravens have gone 54-26 in the regular season, won three division titles, and have won at least one playoff game every year.
Never one to be swayed by public opinion, Jim Harbaugh marches to the beat of his own djembe.
He's overwhelmingly demonstrative on the sidelines, and his infamous handshake with Jim Schwartz will go down as one of the most controversial postgame interactions in NFL history.
Fans either love him or hate him for wearing his emotions on his sleeve.
This Harbaugh seems to be a bit more phlegmatic in his approach than his younger brother, and the way he has handled his veteran team is admirable.
He rarely emotes on the sidelines, and even when things seem to get out of control, John keeps his cool.
He was thrust into a position where the Baltimore Ravens already had veteran leadership in place, with Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Matt Birk, and he has allowed them to continue leading their team by words and by example.
Relationship with Players
Players love him, and it's not hard to see why.
Matthew Barrows of The Sacramento Bee chronicled Harbaugh's positive approach with his players before the 2012 season began. Harbaugh believes in his players, and he isn't afraid to let them know about it.
He is also not afraid to take risks that defy logic—his decision to start Colin Kaepernick over a red-hot Alex Smith being a perfect example.
Harbaugh has won wherever he's coached, and it'll be interesting to see how long his fire can burn as an NFL coach.
Yahoo! Sports' Michael Silver enlightened us on an interesting exchange John Harbaugh had with his players in October of 2012, where Harbaugh apparently almost lost his team to a mutiny. Harbaugh called for a practice in full pads after a difficult loss to the Houston Texans, and veterans like Ed Reed protested.
As one Ravens player recalled in Silver's article:
It was practically a mutiny. It came very close to getting out of control. But the way Coach Harbaugh handled it was amazing. He let people have their say, and he listened, and he explained himself, and pretty soon it was like a big group-therapy session. In the end, a lot of positive things were said. We didn't practice in pads, but we came out of there stronger as a group.
That's the sign of an excellent leader, and as we see now, Harbaugh's approach has led to a Super Bowl berth.
Relationship with Media
Fans of the San Francisco 49ers who like to spend their weekday afternoons glued to their computers to hear what Harbaugh has to say in his weekly press conference know that he's a cool customer as it pertains to media questions.
Basically, Harbaugh says as little as possible, no matter how much he's pressed to divulge information by members of the press.
Harbaugh isn't necessarily rude—like Bill Belichick—but he's frosty enough when asked questions he doesn't deem appropriate or necessary.
The elder Harbaugh doesn't seem to have the same cold approach to the media.
He answers questions with respect and rarely gets indignant like his younger sibling. John has never given the media a sound bite like the ones Jim gives on a regular basis, and it's clear the two have different approaches to media relations.
Relationship with Referees
Just as he does in every other aspect of his life, Jim Harbaugh doesn't hold back anything when dealing with NFL referees.
He's a walking GIF machine.
Just this past week, Harbaugh melted down on the 49ers sideline when the refs ruled that Harry Douglas caught a pass that hit the ground. If you missed this classic meltdown, here's a GIF, courtesy of NBC Bay Area.
When Harbaugh isn't happy, everybody knows about it, including the refs responsible.
While no NFL head coach has a perfect relationship with refs, John Harbaugh usually takes a more diplomatic approach than his younger brother.
That doesn't mean he isn't prone to a meltdown here and there, though.
Just this year, back in September, Harbaugh was under investigation for bumping an official. He was not fined for his actions (h/t Baltimore Sun), but this incident proved that even the most mild-mannered coaches are liable to lose their minds on the sideline every now and then.
Lowest Moment of the Year
The lowest moment of the year for Jim Harbaugh and his 49ers came near the end of the regular season.
Fresh off an impressive 41-34 victory on the road against the mighty New England Patriots, the 49ers laid an egg in Seattle against the hated Seahawks.
Colin Kaepernick was visibly rattled in that contest, as the "12th Man" thundered throughout the night, Vernon Davis was lost to a concussion after a brutal hit by safety Kam Chancellor and the team lost Mario Manningham to the IR after he tore his ACL and PCL.
With one week remaining in the regular season and a must-win game at home against the Arizona Cardinals to secure the NFC West over the surging Seahawks, the 49ers looked to be limping into the playoffs.
Harbaugh had two lowest moments in 2012.
First, the Ravens lost Ray Lewis for what they thought might be the rest of the season after he tore his triceps against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 6.
Then, in Week 7, Baltimore was absolutely demolished by the Houston Texans, 43-13, in a game Joe Flacco would love to forget.
After a bye week and the aforementioned group therapy session that saved Harbaugh from a legitimate mutiny, the Ravens went on to win four straight games and looked to have fixed their problems.
That was not to be.
The Ravens lost four of their last five regular-season contests and truly limped into the playoffs with a record of 10-6 after getting off to a 9-2 start.
Riskiest Moment of the Year
Without a doubt, Harbaugh's decision to roll with second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick was one of the ballsiest, riskiest moves any head coach has made in recent history.
After all, it's not like Alex Smith was playing badly before suffering the concussion that prompted the change. In fact, he was on a legendary hot streak that saw him complete 25 of his 27 passes with four touchdowns and over 300 yards passing in four quarters.
Still, even after Smith recovered, Harbaugh believed in the youngster Kaepernick, knew what he was capable of doing and flipped the script on the team's 2012 campaign.
Turns out, the risk paid dividends.
Not to be outdone by his younger brother, John Harbaugh made a risky move of his own towards the end of the 2012 regular season.
With just three games left on the schedule, Harbaugh fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and replaced him with Jim Caldwell—a noted quarterbacks coach who had never before called plays in an NFL game.
Per ESPN News Services, Harbaugh said, "My charge—our responsibility as a coaching staff—is to maximize the opportunities for our team to win, and we can still reach all of our goals for this season."
Cameron was criticized by many fans and experts for failing to utilize Ray Rice, and it's no accident that the team's offense has come to life in the playoffs.
Like his brother's risk, this one turned out to be a savvy move, and it paved the way to the Super Bowl.
Highest Moment of the Year
This one's simple: Both brothers are coaching in the Super Bowl on February 3, 2012.
Both coaches led their teams to epic victories over the NFL's toughest competition to get to Super Bowl XLVII, and now they'll get a chance to go mano-a-mano on the biggest stage of them all.
There are many storylines to focus on while waiting for this momentous game to arrive, but the story of two brothers who took different paths to get to the pinnacle of their profession is near the top of the list.
Who will prevail?
Let us know in the comments section below, and thanks for reading.
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