Here on the West Coast, we love Jim Harbaugh, and after the second-year coach led the San Francisco 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII with a huge win vs. the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, he officially reached hero status in the Bay Area.
We love him for his faces (hat tip to the great Sean Swaby over at Bleacher Report for that masterpiece) too, but that’s not all.
He’s a tremendous football coach, and even from his days as the lead man at the University of San Diego, he was something special. For those football fans on the West Coast that saw him go from the Torreros, where he groomed Josh Johnson into an NFL prospect, to Stanford, where he was instrumental in helping to develop Andrew Luck, and then to the NFL to have immediate success, it’s no surprise that he’s done what he has. He’s continued his tradition as having a way with signal-callers, taking quarterbacks Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick to new heights in their careers.
His move to go with the second-year, second-round pick in Kaepernick midseason took guts, but that’s just Jim Harbaugh’s way of doing things. He doesn’t worry about convention.
Neither does his older brother John Harbaugh. For the next two weeks leading up the the NFL’s Championship Game, much of the talk will be surrounding the sibling rivalry that incredibly made its way into the world’s marquee event.
The last time they faced one another was on Thanksgiving night in 2011. That was less fate than it was the NFL’s schedule-makers deciding that an all-Harbaugh primetime matchup on a holiday would make for good television. On that night, it was John that would get the better of his little brother, 16-6.
But the tide has now changed, and the 49ers are opening as 5-point favorites in the biggest game of the year. They have talent on both sides of the ball and won’t be the same team as back then. Instead of the serviceable Smith who could make the occasional big play, they have a home-run hitter in Kaepernick under center, a dual-threat matchup nightmare for any opposing defense.
And these aren’t your father’s Ravens, either. Big brother John doesn’t have the same vaunted crew that lined up across from the 49ers’ mediocre offense last season. In 2011, Baltimore was third in the NFL in both yards and points allowed. This season, those numbers have jumped up to 17th and 12th. While they are peaking at the right time and have who could be the most inspiring player in any sport ever in Ray Lewis anchoring their defense, they are slightly older and not as dynamic on that side of the ball.
Before we get too heavy into the preview stage of the big game, let’s just enjoy the fact that there will be not one, but two Harbaughs coaching in the biggest game of each of their coaching careers.
That’s all we could ever ask for, and it’s glorious.
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