Out of Bounds: Harbaugh brothers meet again

History will be made in Super Bowl XLVII before the players even take the field at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La. on Sunday, Feb. 3. 

This year’s Super Bowl boasts a number of intriguing storylines. The San Francisco 49ers seek their NFL record-tying sixth Lombardi trophy while the Baltimore Ravens enter the annual competition inspired and motivated by their emotional leader, Ray Lewis, who announced his retirement this January. 

Nothing, however, matches the story of John and Jim Harbaugh, brothers coaching against each other on football’s biggest stage for the first time in NFL history. 

“I guess it’s pretty neat,” John Harbaugh said at a press conference on Jan. 21. “But is it really going to be written about? It’s not exactly like Churchill and Roosevelt or anything. It’s pretty cool, but that’s as far as it goes.”

The rest of the sports reporting world begs to differ.

Both John and Jim Harbaugh are widely regarded as two of the elite coaching talents in the NFL following their successes in turning around their disappointing respective teams in their first years. John Harbaugh took a Ravens team that finished 5-11 in 2007 to the playoffs in 2008, posting an 11-5 mark with rookie quarterback Joe Flacco at the helm. 

Similarly, the younger Jim Harbaugh led the 49ers to a 13-3 record last season and NFC championship game appearance in his first year as head coach following an underachieving 6-10 season a year before. 

Each coach has his own style of demanding success from his team. Jim Harbaugh is known for his fiery, impassioned attitude and headset throwing antics, while John Harbaugh is recognized for his outwardly friendly persona and laid-back approach to coaching. Nevertheless, both coaches have already seen great success in their brief NFL coaching careers.  

The Harbaugh brothers’ ascendancies to the top of the NFL coaching scene, however, could not have taken more different paths.

Jim Harbaugh began his collegiate football career as a highly regarded quarterback at the University of Michigan. He finished as the Big Ten Player of the Year and a Heisman trophy finalist. John meanwhile was a defensive back at Miami University in Ohio.

Jim Harbaugh then took his talents to the NFL where the Chicago Bears selected him in the first round of the 1987 NFL Draft. Jim played 14 years as a quarterback in the NFL. In 1995 he led the Colts to the AFC Championship, was selected to the Pro Bowl and finished as runner-up in the NFL MVP. 

John Harbaugh, however, never graced the level of professional football and instead grinded through the collegiate and NFL coaching ranks as a longtime assistant until finally landing the Ravens’ head coach job in 2008. 

Jim Harbaugh became the 49ers coach prior to the 2011 season after four years as the Stanford University head coach. Upon signing his five-year agreement, the Harbaugh brothers became the first brotherly coaching duo in NFL history. 

Now just two years later, the Harbaughs will be set apart in Super Bowl XLVII. One Harbaugh will win and join the elite fraternity of Super Bowl winning coaches, while the other will suffer the all-too-familiar agonizing pain of being bested by one’s brother.