Harbaugh brothers to face off in Super Bowl

Mirror images: Ravens coach John Harbaugh and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh (left) lead teams that have similar characteristics.
Mirror images: Ravens coach John Harbaugh and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh (left) lead teams that have similar characteristics. (NICK WASS / AP)
Posted: January 22, 2013

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - John Harbaugh's shirt was still wet from the postgame celebration Sunday when the Baltimore Ravens coach took a step to downplay the topic that will undoubtedly dominate football discussions during the next two weeks: the Harbaugh Super Bowl.

The Ravens will play on Feb. 3 against the San Francisco 49ers, who are coached by Harbaugh's younger brother, Jim. The teams played on Thanksgiving last season, when stories were told about their fraternity and friendship and life as Harbaughs.

There were four days leading to that game. There will be two weeks this time, and it's the biggest game of the year.

"Can we all agree to forget about that stuff?" John Harbaugh said with a laugh after the Ravens' 28-13 win over the Patriots. "We did that last year. It was fine. It got old last year."

It won't be that easy. Nor should it be, because it's an accomplishment for the brothers who have become coaching royalty in the NFL.

John Harbaugh, 50, a longtime Eagles assistant coach, has won 54 regular-season games and eight postseason games since leaving Philadelphia for Baltimore in 2008. Jim Harbaugh, 49, a former NFL quarterback, rebuilt Stanford into a national power before returning the 49ers to the NFL elite in his two seasons. And their father, Jack Harbaugh, a former college coach, can smile from his home in Mequon, Wis.

"I hope he's on his fourth or fifth beer right now," John Harbaugh said Sunday night. "And hope he and Mom have a big hug going."

What's clear from Sunday's events is that Jack Harbaugh instilled a certain attitude about football in his sons, and they are similarly instilling that attitude in their teams. Both the Ravens and the 49ers have a hard-hitting defense, an imaginative offense, and an identifiable toughness that their coaches preach and adore.

"They do reflect [Jim's] personality," John Harbaugh said of the 49ers. "I'd like to think our two teams are very similar. I'd like to think when you look at those two teams, you're looking at mirror images of two football teams. I'd like to think that."

Jim Harbaugh is more demonstrative on the sideline and tight-lipped in front of the microphone than his older brother. John Harbaugh comes off as more measured on the field and to the public. Yet his players praise him for the culture he's created, for his motivational tactics, and for knowing how to operate within the locker room.

Veteran safety Ed Reed was particularly outspoken about John Harbaugh's listening to his players during the bye week and finding a solution for a team issue.

Both Harbaughs displayed a willingness to make controversial decisions during the season. Jim Harbaugh benched veteran quarterback Alex Smith for the untested Colin Kaepernick. John Harbaugh fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron in December and promoted quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell.

The moves helped propel their teams to another level in the postseason, and it's why the Harbaugh Super Bowl is a story that likely will be told and retold during the next two weeks. As much as they want the attention diverted elsewhere, it's the type of matchup that two brothers growing up in a coach's household could only dream about.

"I don't know if we had a dream this big," John Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh

John Harbaugh

Year Team Season Playoffs

2008 Ravens 11-5 2-1

2009 Ravens 9-7    1-1

2010 Ravens 12-4    1-1

2011 Ravens 12-4    1-1

2012 Ravens 10-6    3-0

Totals          54-26    8-4

Jim Harbaugh

Year Team Season Playoffs

2011 49ers 13-3       1-1

2012 49ers     11-5       2-0

Totals        24-8    3-1

Contact Zach Berman at zberman@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @ZBerm.

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