The sibling narrative of Jim and John Harbaugh coaching against each other will be the main headline of Super Bowl 47. Jim Harbaugh and his 49ers punched his ticket to the game Sunday afternoon with a gritty victory over the Falcons, and older brother John Harbaugh followed a few hours after with a win over the Patriots. The writing was on the wall midway through the fourth quarter, after the Ravens went up for good.
The two took very different routes to becoming NFL coaches. Jim Harbaugh was more well known, and perhaps more obvious of the two. He played for 6 different teams in a 14 year span, forever immortalized as “Captain Comeback” for a stretch of games in 1995 that fell one pass away from leading the Colts to a Super Bowl. He started his coaching career at Western Kentucky under his father Jack Harbaugh. He then popped up years later as the head coach of Stanford, leading all world talent Andrew Luck to a #4 ranking and Orange Bowl victory. The short move from Palo Alto to San Francisco seemed written in the stars.
John Harbaugh coaching career began quietly at Western Kentucky in 1984 (Jack Harbaugh is the overall winner in all of this). He bounced around various colleges for 13 years before cracking the NFL as special teams coordinator and later defensive back coach for the Eagles. He lept from a position coach to head coach of the Ravens in 2007, a rare achievement.
The two Harbaughs employ very similar styles, emphasizing toughness and defense. But within that framework, each recognizes the importance of a dynamic offense – we covered the 49ers side of this last week. There’s a few sibling duos that could have reached this level – the Van Gundy brothers in basketball immediately come to mind. It is almost impossible enough for one person to fill the 30 or so head coaching positions in a professional sports league. Even more unlikely is two brothers achieving this. And even more impossible is two brothers meeting each other for the championship. In this era of branding, this story writes itself.