Don’t buy into this sibling rivalry bullsh*t. Sure, Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, 50, and San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, 49, are brothers, and they’re facing each other for the ultimate prize in Super Bowl XLVII. But what they have isn’t your typical sibling competition.
In the coming days, pre-game story lines and sidebars will focus on how they’re so different, how they’re so alike, how they run similar game plans and strategies for their teams, how each has a preternatural competitive fire, who Mom and Pop Harbaugh will root for, each angle a prescriptive for bonafide familial drama within the NFL’s biggest game of the year.
And it’ll all be interesting — hella interesting, in fact — because it’s not often that brother goes against brother for the whole shebang. But what it boils down to, and there's really no way around it, is this: Who needs this win the most?
Many might say that each man needs it, equally, but that's an incomplete pass. Unnecessary politically correctness... All one has to do is check each brother's resume and it's clear. John needs this title more than breathing. One could rattle off myriad reasons why big bro needs this W like a Gatling gun from Rambo: First Blood Part II, but there's no need for overkill.
So here are five reasons why John needs Jim to take an L in front of the parents, and millions of other SB aficionados, in the Big Easy:
Part Turtle vs. Hare:
Off the rip, Jim is the more accomplished son of Jackie and Jack Harbaugh in the HarBowl. Jim played quarterback in the Rose Bowl for Michigan and was a Heisman Trophy finalist. He played in the NFL for 14 seasons. In Indy, he came to be known as “Captain Comeback,” and led the Colts to within one play of the big dance. In 1998, he played QB against Baltimore, where a rookie named Ray Lewis took him down to net his first NFL sack.
Before landing in the Bay, Jimmy took Stanford to college football respectability and to the Orange Bowl. He took San Fran to the NFC title game during his inaugural season in the big job and all the way to the SB in his second. That’s a rapid turnaround for your ass.
John, on the other hand, never made it to the pros. John played at Miami of Ohio and, before landing in B-More, had never been a head coach on any level. Sure, he’s taken the Ravens to the playoffs and won at least one playoff game in each of his five seasons he’s been there, but winning the ring will finally allow him to catch up, accomplishment-wise, to the man 15 months his junior.
Part Big Harb Take Little Harb:
Most people forget that Blake Griffin has an older brother, Taylor, who was in and out of the NBA faster than Charles Barkley at Taco Bell. Venus is one helluva tennis player, world-class, with seven Grand Slams titles under her belt and three No. 1 rankings. But younger sister Serena has her beat. So this is about John, the older brother, finally outshining Jim, his younger brother. This will put back the natural order of things. It’s supposed to be that the eldest of the siblings are better at asskickage than the youngest.
Part Kane and Abel:
John and Jim both have a symbiotic relationship with their father, Jack. Both want to be like their patriarch, who coached the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers to the NCAA I-AA National Championship in 2002. No matter how Poppa Harbaugh spins it, whenever he speaks about his two sons, away from the media, with his buddies, he has to be more proud of Jim than John if for no reason other than Jim has done more that deserves talking about. Jim has done it all. Play. Coach. Win. John’s made strides. Ran a good race. But Jim’s been like Usain Bolt in this piece. If John wants to be the favorite son, and get that “atta boy” from Dad, he’s needs to leave NOLA with the hardware. That “atta boy” from pops is everything.
Part Ying vs. Yang:
Let’s be real, of the two brothers, Jim is the offensive genius. He’s a coach’s coach, cookin’ up salacious plays on the chalkboard like Raekwon the Chef. Also, he’s a badass on the motivation tip.
Here’s Jim’s motto when he was coaching Stanford: “Stanford football is hustle. Constant hustle. Hustling all the time.”
Here’s John’s: “Ravens football is hustle. Constant hustle. Hustling all the time.”
Nuff said. This gridiron battle comes down to brothers who share ideas, but lead in totally different ways. It comes down to a man who’d run through a wall versus a man who’d figure a way around that wall. It comes down to offensive wunderkind versus defensive classicist. Apex predator versus predator.
Part Win One For the Gipper:
Everybody knows that this is Ray Lewis’ swan song. Arguably the great linebacker to ever play the game, Lewis, a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer, is hanging up his cleats after 17 seasons. He’s already won a ring, but the pressure is on to go out with a bang. And no one’s feeling that pressure more than John.
Pressure makes diamonds or pressure busts pipes. Perhaps John’s oft-asserted riposte is good enough for the W: “No. 1 is the team, the second-most important thing is the team, and the third-most important thing is the team.” Perhaps he’s prepared his team to go out and deliver, to live up to and exceed expectations. There’s a big difference between diamonds and pipes. On Sunday, the world will see which life John Harbaugh is all about.