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Ravens Won, 49ers Lost Super Bowl XLVII Because They Followed Harbaugh's Lead

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Ravens Won, 49ers Lost Super Bowl XLVII Because They Followed Harbaugh's Lead
Harry How/Getty Images

At some point, San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh must get himself under control. Considering his team just lost the franchise's first Super Bowl in six trips, now would be a terrific time.

And if the first blemish on San Francisco's heretofore perfect record while occupying the NFL's biggest stage isn't persuasive enough, he need only pick up a phone, call up big brother John and ask to see his shiny new ring.

The Niners' play reflected their head coach and they lost Super Bowl XLVII while the Baltimore Ravens' play reflected their head coach and they won Super Bowl XLVII.

I'm a Stanford alum and a Niners fan, so I'll be the first to praise the younger Harbaugh's coaching genius, but it's as simple as that.

Some 49ers faithful will point to the refs and cry foul. There's some merit to their otherwise sour grapes.

It seems strange to throw flags all year at the slightest hint of contact with downfield receivers and then allow a borderline mugging on a pivotal play in the closing minutes of the championship game. Likewise, we all understand that the hold in the end zone on the intentional safety wouldn't have changed anything, but you still have to call it.

Nope, nothing to see here, move along.

Holding is illegal in football for a reason—I don't know what that reason is, but it sure makes pass protection easier—and time was precious there.

The problem, of course, is that (A) the final pass Colin Kaepernick threw didn't look entirely catchable (B) Michael Crabtree was doing his fair share of manhandling and (C) the good guys played an incredibly sloppy game until that point considering the stakes.

When you dig yourself that deep of a hole with mistake after mistake after mistake after mistake, it's more than a little disingenuous to point fingers at the zebras. Can't complain when your errors require the perfection of everyone else and they fail to deliver.

Ultimately, it boils down to the Niners and their lack of execution compared to the Ravens and their nearly flawless execution.

Ordinarily, that would heap the blame on the players since they are the ones who actually do the executing, but look at the ways in which the Niners gummed up the works.

On the first play from scrimmage, Vernon Davis lined up in an illegal formation and nullified his own 20-yard reception. On Baltimore's first drive, the SF defense stalled the drive after a 3rd-and-9 pass fell incomplete, but Ahmad Brooks clearly jumped offside.

Instead of a chip-shot field goal, the Ravens scored the game's first touchdown on the replayed down.

With the Niners down 7-3 and driving for the go-ahead touchdown early in the second quarter, rookie running back LaMichael James was caught behind the line of scrimmage and tried to do too much. The Ravens recovered the resulting fumble and eventually turned it into a 14-3 lead.

On the next possession, Kaepernick airmailed Randy Moss...I think. The pass was so bad, it was tough to tell which player was the intended target.

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Unfortunately, Culliver's ugly week in New Orleans came back to haunt his team.

On the Ravens' scoring drive, the 49ers had them pinned deep in their own territory, but Chris Culliver—our bigot du jour—essentially bear-hugged Torrey Smith. The flag gave Baltimore an automatic first down, allowing them to continue a drive that took more time off the clock and tacked on three more points. 

Let's face it, Harbaugh the Young's players were too keyed up. They let their emotions get the better of them and it cost the team dearly. If they avoided just one of those mistakes, the Bay Area would probably have its sixth Lombardi Trophy and perfect Super Bowl record.

Now, look at Jim.

I'm not sure the bodies of work compiled by the likes of Bobby Knight and Billy Martin compare to Harbaugh's lunacy. By volume, sure, they've got him beat, but they also had decades of work from which to pull material.

Jim, on the other hand, has managed to do all his best work (here, here, herehere, here, here, here and below) in less than three years.

Can you imagine that dude telling you to keep your composure and play within yourself? Even if those words passed over Jim Harbaugh's lips by some reality-altering tear in the space-time continuum, can you imagine giving them a second thought?

Not me, I'd be laughing too hard.

By comparison, the Ravens played steady and slick football, so it's no surprise that John was (and is) the calmer of the two Harbaughs. Granted, big bro is still wound pretty tight, which causes him to slip up now and again, but no one is suggesting coaches must be automatons.

Football is an emotional game, so it's understandable and true that a certain degree of raw energy must be tapped into, even by the coaching staff. But it's also true that it must be harnessed lest it become counterproductive, both on the field and off it.

Viewed through that larger prism, Jim Harbaugh needs to start behaving like an adult because he is the leader of young men who have been taught their whole lives to let their emotions run wild. That sort of visceral drive is useful on a football field and becomes a central part of their development. Since these athletes spend so much time on that field or preparing to be on it, the reality that more than a few have a hard time reining those emotions in while navigating their personal lives isn't surprising.

I imagine that's a tough switch to flip especially after years of conditioning to keep it in the "on" position.

And Jim only reinforces the message with his petulant histrionics.

This is a grown man stomping around on national television like an undisciplined two-year-old whom you'd kick in the pants to applause, but we're supposed to be okay with it because he's really competitive? As if that's an excuse? He's almost 50!

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Seems kinda insane to me.

But back to the game.

Despite all their blunders, the 49ers were still in the game until the bitter end. The Ravens played virtually a perfect game and only won by a single score. That's pretty compelling evidence that San Francisco was the more talented team, but Baltimore has the ring because it was the better team when it mattered.

That, in and of itself, is a direct indictment of Jim Harbaugh and a tribute to John Harbaugh.

When you recall that the game unfurled with Jim flipping out on the San Francisco sidelines and his team following suit, and a much calmer John on the Baltimore sidelines watching his team march toward victory, the coach-team connection is even stronger and the contrast between the two starker.

Which means it's a high time for little brother to grow up.

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