John Harbaugh and his younger brother Jim shared a bedroom growing up, but they can’t split the Lombardi Trophy. One will experience the elation of winning Super Bowl XLVII, the other deflated by defeat.
“In any game, that’s always something you think about. Jim has pointed this out before, it’s not really about how we’re going to feel,” John said. “For everyone in the organization, it’s bitter disappointment when you lose and jubilation when you win. ... For the side that comes up short, it’s going to be a bitter disappointment. That’s just the way football is, that’s the way life is.”
John, in his fifth season as head coach of the Baltimore Ravens, and second-year 49ers coach Jim held a joint press conference Friday that featured the contrasting personalities of the Harbaugh brothers, the first ever in major sports to coach against each other for a championship.
John wore a black suit and purple Ravens necktie, looking well-groomed and professional. The more rigid Jim, in an homage to casual Friday, was outfitted in his usual khaki pants, tennis shoes, a black hat with a 49ers logo.
The brothers collectively traced what Jim said were signature years of their upbringing. As professionals, Jim is better known perhaps because of his 14-year playing career in the league, most prominently with the Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts.
“I can remember just living and dying with every single snap – when you watch a family member play, I think you’re more nervous than they are,” John said.
There’s a third Harbaugh coaching Sunday. Jim’s son, Jay, is a coaching intern for uncle John’s Ravens. Jay, who also has worked for his dad, hasn’t talked to his father this week. Jim said he didn’t want to open the door to speculation about any unfair advantage gained by either side. John says Jay could be the key to the game.
“The way we look at it, maybe that will tip the scale,” John said, smiling and throwing a glance at Jim, seated to his left. “Maybe it will be Jay.”
Parents Jack and Jackie attended the press conference – as did Jim and John’s 97-year-old grandfather and an uncle – and have held two press conferences since the Super Bowl matchup was set. Jack, 73, employed both sons as coaches and also worked for Jim at San Diego State and for three weeks at Stanford, when the Cardinal needed a running backs coach.
In a week when coaches were the involuntary storyline, John and Jim gave in and shared a ballroom stage for Friday’s press conference.
“We learned growing up, if you’re going to be a teacher, great teachers make it about their students,” John said.
Jackie Harbaugh handled most everything in the home life of her boys. Of course, there were occassions when Jack had to be called in for muscle. Like the time John and Jim made a hockey goal out of chicken wire and knocked all the windows out of the garage.
“There’s nobody in the family that has more competitive fire than our mother,” Jim Harbaugh said. “She competes like a maniac. More than anything, she believed in us.”
The trouble with family competition is there’s only room for one winner.
“It goes back to the players on the field – those are the guys that are going to determine the outcome, not us,” John Harbaugh said. But not everything will change for both men Sunday night. “We will continue to be fiercely protective of each other and our teams.”