Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
John Harbaugh, the Baltimore Ravens coach, left, could face his brother Jim's San Francisco 49ers at the Super Bowl if they are both triumphant.
John Harbaugh, the Baltimore Ravens coach, left, could face his brother Jim's San Francisco 49ers at the Super Bowl if they are both triumphant.

Harbaugh family duel on target for NFL's grandest stage

Victories for Baltimore and San Francisco would set up the brothers to meet at the Super Bowl.

On Thanksgiving Day 2011, the Harbaughs, much like many families across the United States, posed for a photograph. The setting was far from routine.

The picture was snapped on the field before a game between Baltimore and San Francisco. It included Jack and Jackie Harbaugh, along with sons John and Jim, the coaches of the Ravens and 49ers.

Brothers calling the shots on opposite sidelines in the NFL that day was a big deal. Now, with each Harbaugh one victory away from facing off in the Super Bowl, memories inspired by that cherished portrait might be dwarfed by another one taken in two weeks at the New Orleans Superdome.

Prepare for an onslaught of Harbaugh-versus-Harbaugh stories should the Ravens upend New England and the 49ers oust Atlanta today. But do not expect any trash talk from them, aside from some brotherly sarcasm.

The glib siblings, separated in age by a mere 16 months, are almost close enough to be twins. About four hours after trying to one-up each other last season, the two embraced near the spot of the pre-game portrait and exchanged expressions of love.

Those feelings seem equalled by respect for each other.

"I don't think there's any coach in the game today that really has the full grasp of offence, defence and special teams like my brother has," the 49ers' Jim told CSNBayArea.com this past week.

Said the Ravens' John before the 2011 game: "I couldn't be more proud of our parents or for Jim."

When the coaches were young boys, their father, then a college football coach, would impart the same tip each morning before school: "Attack this day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind."

In addition to boundless energy, the pair are distinguished by a willingness to take bold measures.

Alex Smith, the 49ers quarterback, had lost only five of his past 26 games when a concussion idled him. Once he healed, Jim stayed with Colin Kapernick, Smith's replacement, in violation of unwritten coaching protocol that a player does not lose his starting role solely because of injury.

Even deeper into the season, when shuffling assistant coaches is considered risky, John bounced his offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and subbed in Jim Caldwell.

The moves have been an astounding success, with each offence much improved.

There will be no family smiles for the camera today. Mother an father, both in their 70s, will watch both games from their home. "We share our misery with no one but ourselves," Jack said, half-jokingly.

While the parents are pulling for Harbaugh against Harbaugh for the championship, those who recall the 2011 game might prefer another matchup. The Ravens won 16-6, in a dreary, defence-first game.

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Al Rayyan's Yakubu Ayegbeni, left, tries to escape the attention of Jazira's Khamis Ismail. Karim Jaafar / AFP Photo

Late strike puts Al Jazira on verge of qualifying for the last 16 of Asian Champions League

All to play for across East Asia during final round of group phase.

 Manchester City's Vincent Kompany reacts after being sent off by referee Lee Mason during their English Premier League soccer match against Hull City at the KC stadium in Hull, northern England March 15, 2014. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis

Man City’s Manuel Pellegrini says Vincent Kompany is an important player

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini defends team captain and talks about team's injuries ahead of clash with Sunderland at home on Wednesday night.

 Supporters of China during the Asian Cup Qualifier match between Iraq vs China at Sharjah football stadium in Sharjah. Iraq won the match by 3-1. Pawan Singh / The National

Asian Cup expanding to 24 football teams in 2019

As part of a regional shake-up, the 2019 Asian Cup will climb to 24 teams but next month’s Challenge Cup in the Maldives will be the last, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced.

 Latifa Ali Al Shamsi of UAE fights compatriot Boshra Ghanem Al Zadjali in their 38.5kg match at the Junior World Jiu-Jitsu Championship. Christopher Pike / The National

Competitors at Abu Dhabi Junior World Jiu-Jitsu Championship target world domination

All of Wednesday’s winners at the tournament, being held in the UAE capital, are ambitious enough to target a black belt and reach the pinnacle of the sport, Amith Passela reports.

 Jacques Kallis top-scored with 72 for Kolkata Knight Riders against Mumbai Indians at Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. Pawan Singh / The National

Kallis kicks off IPL 7 with fifty as Kolkata thrash Mumbai

South African legend shows class is permanent as Knight Riders beat defending champions by 41 runs. Osman Samiuddin reports from Abu Dhabi.

 Amir Khan, during a workout at the Gloves Community Centre on March 24, 2014 in Bolton, England, says his fight will be the real main event in Las Vegas on May 3. Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Amir Khan says bout with Luis Collazo ‘will steal the show’ in Las Vegas on May 3

British-Pakistani boxer Amir Khan says his fight with Luis Collazo will be the main attraction on same fight card led by Floyd Mayweather Jr and Marcos Maidana, writes Omar Al Raisi.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National