Super Bowl XLVII marks the first time that brothers have coached against each other on Super Sunday. Jim Harbaugh leads the San Francisco 49ers into New Orleans to take on big brother John Harbaugh and his Baltimore Ravens. Brotherly love will get left at home in the Harbaugh Bowl as both vie for their first Super Bowl title as head coaches. But who needs it more?
Jim and John have the healthy rivalry that any siblings share, only it gets taken to the next level when the siblings are as intense and hyper-competitive as these Harbaugh boys are. Both have been active in football their entire lives, with Jim enjoying a long career in the NFL playing quarterback while John worked his way up the coaching ranks.
Now, little brother Jim has shot up the coaching ladder and has his team on the cusp of a Super Bowl trophy in just his second year as an NFL coach. That fact underscores the very reason that John needs this championship more than Jim. In short, little brother has always outshined big brother and this will be John’s last chance to assert his dominance by virtue of age over Jim.
While Jim was enjoying a 14-year career in the NFL, John was grinding his way up the coaching ladder starting with the Western Michigan Broncos as a running backs coach in 1984. Since then, he’s made stops with the Pittsburgh Panthers, Morehead State Eagles, Indiana Hoosiers and Cincinnati Bengals before spending nine years as the Special Teams Coordinator and Secondary Coach for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Finally, in 2008, John got his first head coaching job with Baltimore. Since becoming the leader of the Ravens, he’s instilled a tough-minded, hard nosed mentality that he picked up from his days as a kid watching Bo Schembechler coach with his father with the Michigan Wolverines. Finally, after five years of creating one of the toughest teams in the NFL, John has gotten past the hurdle of the AFC Championship that tripped him up so often and is on the verge of his first Super Bowl title.
Little brother Jim, meanwhile, didn’t start coaching until 2002, a full 18 years after John. He spent just two years as an assistant when he acted as quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders before landing his first head coaching gig with the San Diego Torenos at the NCAA FCS level. After leading the Torenos for just three season, Jim moved on up to head coach of the Stanford Cardinal where he transformed the “nerds” from Palo Alto into one of the toughest football teams in college football.
Now, in just his second year with San Francisco, he’s reached the NFL’s biggest game and has another chance to upstage his big brother. Coaching has always been John’s thing. He was the one toiling as a position coach for 24 years while Jim was an NFL quarterback. He has been the one putting in his dues and honing his craft in the wings waiting for his opportunity.
Now, the wunderkind, his upstart little brother, is back to try and take a little more of the spotlight. Big brothers need something to hold over little brother’s head in order to maintain the natural hierarchy within a family. John needs this Super Bowl win because it’s the last thing he can achieve before Jim does.
If John’s Ravens fall to Jim’s Niners, the elder Harbaugh brother might as well skip family functions for the next twenty years. As an upstart little brother, I can attest that there’s nothing more annoying or insufferable than a little brother with something to brag about.