More than any other teams in the National Football League, the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers personify the mentalities of their head coaches.
From the "who's got it better than us" mantra for the Jim Harbaugh-led 49ers to the close-knit fabric and makeup of the John Harbaugh-led Ravens, it is hard to imagine two teams that fight for their head coaches more than Baltimore and San Francisco.
Jim took over a franchise that had won 39 games in its previous seven seasons (via Pro Football Reference). He did so with a chip on his shoulder. That chip was caused by an older brother, who had not played in the NFL, getting a head-coaching gig before him.
That chip represented years of frustration between his NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award to his days as head man at the University of San Diego, an FCS school. For Jim, a chance to coach one of the most heralded franchises in the history of the league would not be taken lightly.
It represented a changing of the guard for the franchise and himself.
Players who had been through the lean years in San Francisco took to his passionate mentality, and their play on the field gave us a front-row view of how things had changed in Northern California.
For these players, it was all about following Jim to the depths of the universe to prove their skeptics wrong.
The first-year head coach had to contend with a roster that included veterans without any previous success in San Francisco and a lengthy lockout that was supposed to put the 49ers behind the proverbial eight-ball.
Despite this, following a 1-1 start in 2011, San Francisco went on an eight-game winning streak, and in the process proved to the players and skeptics that it had the talent to succeed. After all, how many high first-round picks had San Francisco accumulated in the previous eight or nine years?
It was now about putting everything together and building a winner.
This is exactly what San Francisco did in Jim's rookie campaign last year. Once this talented team began to believe it could compete with the big boys, the mentality in the locker room changed forever.
San Francisco went on to win 13 regular-season games and a divisional-round playoff game before falling in overtime in the NFC Championship Game last January.
No one on San Francisco's roster was happy to only make it that far. In fact, the unit as a whole felt it had much more to accomplish in 2012. That being said, many 49ers players pointed to a pivotal game during the 2011 season as a turning point for the franchise.
Pro Bowl defensive end Justin Smith, among many other 49ers players, looked at their Week 4 comeback win over the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011 as the "turning point" (via SB Nation):
We go to Philadelphia, they are up 20-0 (actually 20-3) at halftime, and we are able to come back. I think it just kind of cemented this group, like ‘OK, we've got something here, let's keep rolling. We are not feeling our way through the season anymore. We are starting to believe.' That winning attitude starts coming out.
Jim's overwhelming aura of confidence, coupled with the talent and drive of his players, created a perfect storm that has led the 49ers to a 27-8-1 record (playoffs included) since he took over as head coach in January 2011.
John leads a more veteran Ravens roster into New Orleans. The heart of their defense, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, might be playing their final game for the franchise. Meanwhile, Adam Schefter said on ESPN's NFL Live that Anquan Boldin could be a salary-cap casualty this offseason (h/t Rotoworld).
For Baltimore, the trip to New Orleans is more about business than enjoyment. The Ravens have been to the playoffs in each of John's first five seasons as head coach, making it to the conference championship three times.
By no means does this indicate that John doesn't want his team to enjoy Super Bowl week. He is, by all accounts, more laid back than his younger brother. This has created a trickle-down effect within the locker room.
In reality, players see John as a friend as much as a head coach.
John has gone on record saying that Baltimore "should pay the man" when answering questions about Joe Flacco's contract situation (via BaltimoreRavens.com).
John and Flacco have also gotten into a wrestling match of sorts this season. You can read all you want into that, but it shows a level of comfortableness that other coaches don't have with their players.
The inspired return of Lewis from injury and his over-the-top passion have brought the Ravens much closer than ever before. For his part, John isn't putting a brake on this. Rather, the head coach seems to feel Lewis' attitude brings a lot to the table.
As most coaches would, John has stood by his future Hall of Fame linebacker when it comes to questions about PED usage (via NFL.com):
My understanding is that Ray has passed every random substance test that he's taken throughout the course of his whole career. So there's never been a test that's shown up anything along those lines.
You can just feel that the Ravens players will go to bat for John and vice versa. While this can be said for nearly every organization in the NFL, the sense of kinship, respect and purpose is all too evident with the Ravens as they prepare for Super Bowl XLVII.
Why is this?
Both Harbaughs grew up in a football family. They were born only 15 months apart, with John being the elder. Baltimore's head man wore the protective hat when it came to his younger brother, much like many have experienced with their siblings.
He seems to have brought that mentality to the locker room in Maryland. It has extended to the players, who are as close as any other unit in the NFL.
Taking on the mold of their head coach, the Ravens appear devoid of turmoil and outside distractions. They are casual in manner, understanding of the task ahead and fully prepared to go into Sunday's game with a united purpose.
Bring the second Lombardi Trophy to Baltimore, give John his first taste of the summit and allow Lewis to go out on top—that's the collective goal.
In the spirit of this kinship, no group has been as battle-tested as the Ravens, and that promises to serve them well come Sunday evening.
While the differences between these teams are vast, they do have a lot in common.
Jim and John rely on player-personnel executives who are among the best in the business. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has had a ton of success in that position over the course of the last decade, while 49ers general manager Trent Baalke, an up-and-comer of sorts, has followed suit.
The teams' front-office philosophies are similar to those in Green Bay, New England and Pittsburgh. For these franchises, it is all about building through the draft and supplementing in free agency. Seventy-six of the 106 players active in Super Bowl XLVII (72 percent) are original members of their teams.
Success in the NFL, it seems, is usually gained by building from the inside out. This is what Baltimore and San Francisco are all about.
Outside of the logistical advantages of building through the draft, a philosophy like this creates a sense of camaraderie among the players. It is the idea that we are all in this together, as a family, and have been since we entered the league.
You can't put into words how much that mentality means for a roster of 53.
A recent report by Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area suggests that four players on the 49ers' practice squad turned down active roster spots on other teams and 300-percent pay increases.
That is a rarity in the NFL.
Both teams are going to be ready to play football, in large part due to their coaches having prepared them for all the distractions the media circus brings. Both teams will line up with a sole purpose, but also a respect for their opponents that we don't normally see on Sundays.
Both organizations will remain viable in the NFL because of the environments the coaches have built and the stability the front offices have brought.
While Baltimore might be ending its run with a veteran-laden roster, it won't be riding off into the sunset on the hump of a purple camel. On the other hand, everyone knows this is just the beginning for Jim Harbaugh, Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers.
I wouldn't be surprised if we get another taste of this matchup in the Super Bowl within the next few years. After all, the Harbaugh brothers have been among the most successful head coaches in modern NFL history.
These brothers have kept their teams together through the turmoil that a season can bring, even with more hiccups than most units have to go through. From Jim replacing Alex Smith with Colin Kaepernick to John firing offensive coordinator Cam Cameron late in the regular season, the players never stopped believing.
This is a true testament to the Harbaugh brothers and their philosophies, leading, as Jim puts it, "mighty men."
However apt it may be, the author of "The Raven," Edgar Allen Poe, once said, "There is an eloquence in true enthusiasm."
In the end, those seven words, on a broad level, have best come to define the mentalities of these two teams, led by these two brothers. Each shows a level of enthusiasm we rarely see among head coaches in the NFL, but each goes about it in a different way.
Each is eloquent, maybe even to a fault.
Let's just hope no blood is spilled between these two ultra-competitive brothers. The last thing we need is Jim or John feeling the other's heartbeat, representing a quote from another Poe story I would rather not get into here.
As it is, one of the biggest storylines in the history of the Super Bowl has made it a great week of writing for us scribes.
I for one hope that the actual game between San Francisco and Baltimore lives up to the hype.
Stay with Bleacher Report for more coverage of Super Bowl XLVII as it nears.
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