NEW ORLEANS - Although John and Jim Harbaugh didn’t want to talk much about their relationship or really at all about themselves at Friday’s joint press conference, they wore it.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh, once a political science student who his parents believed might end up a politician, came in looking the part, wearing a suit and no team garb.
49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, an NFL quarterback for 14 seasons, took the stage looking like a football lifer - khakis, sneakers, his black coaching turtleneck and a 49ers hat.
John more easily smiled while facing questions similar to the ones he has repeatedly taken over the last two weeks. Jim wore his typical intense look, not letting his guard down much leading up to the most important game of the year.
Both brothers deflected attention away from themselves, as they have been, crediting the players for getting their teams to the Super Bowl and not their genes or their own work as coaches.
“The way our players have played, that is why we’re here, not because of any coaching decisions or any way that we were when we were kids,” Jim said. “It’s really a credit to those guys and I’m looking forward to the game.”
Said John: “I concur.”
Later on, John did respond to a question about the similarities between the brothers as coaches.
“I would hope that you see it in the way our teams play,” he said. “To me that would be the biggest compliment and the biggest return. Just watch the two teams play. Watch the way the players conduct themselves, the things they say. Watch the way they practice.
“Jim talked about their practices, ours have been the same. Meetings have been phenomenal. They’ve been that way all year, nothing has changed. We’ve come out here and had the same week we had every single week, hopefully just a little bit better.”
The two discussed a range of topics, including the possibility of working together on the same coaching staff at some point, their mother’s influence on them as coaches, and what it’s like to watch your brother play in the NFL.
As for working together, both were all for it if they ever lost their jobs.
“Yeah, definitely. I would work for him, sure,” Jim said.
John went into greater depth.
“We’ve had that conversation in the past. It just never really worked out, timing-wise,” he said. “But I would love to work for Jim. I would love it. I think it would be the greatest thing in the world. We almost made it happen at Stanford at one time and it would be an honor to have him on the staff.
“He’s a great coach. You’re always looking for great coaches and there’s none better than Jim Harbaugh, and I mean that seriously. There’s no better coach in the National Football League than this guy sitting right here.”
Probably the best answer either gave at the half-hour press conference was about how Jackie Harbaugh has impacted them.
Their father, Jack, had both sons on his coaching staffs in college, and his influence has been well-documented over the course of their careers. So it was interesting to hear what both said about their mother.
“There’s nobody in the family that has more competitive fire than my mother. She competes like a maniac,” Jim said. “She’s always believed in us and I think that’s the most important thing to me - that she believed in me, and John and Joanie. She took us to games and she looked after us and shot baskets with us and just believed in us.”
John started with a story about brotherly shenanigans when the two were teenagers.
“She was not happy when we built a hockey goal out of chicken wire when we were about 13 years old and we shot all the windows out of the garage door. Remember that? They were glass. She called dad in on that one,” John recalled. “But my mom, all the things Jim said are absolutely true.
“No one would fight more for us than our mom, no matter what the situation was, or teach us truly how to have each other’s back, how to be there for one another - whether it was a little scrape in the neighborhood or something like that. She basically made it very clear that we were going to have each others’ back no matter what. That was our mom, and she was with us every single day. Dad worked a lot. He was around, mom took us to practices and all that. But mom was with us all the time.
“She is just a really smart, very highly intelligent, very thoughtful lady and we grew up with those kinds of conversations. We would always be talking football with dad in the basement, but mom would talk about other things. She’d be talking about world affairs and history, and things that were going on in the ’70s in our world, and mom was always tuned in to all those kinds of things. And I think those conversations, I think that helped us become more well-rounded people.”
John’s love and affinity for his younger brother was never more apparent than in response to a question about Mike Ditka’s influence on Jim.
John started by relaying a story about Ravens long snapper Morgan Cox’s brother taking a video of the double-overtime winning field goal against Denver in the divisional round.
“His brother was just taking video and was just a nervous wreck, contorting himself in every kind of direction you can imagine until that ball was through the uprights, and celebrating like crazy. It brought back memories for me,” John said. “I can remember just living and dying with all of our parents and Joanie, with every single snap that Jim ever took as an NFL football player, whether it was Chicago or Indianapolis or all the other places he was at.
“That’s how you root for your family. When you watch a family member play, man, I think you’re more nervous than they are by far. That’s how I always felt. I was just always completely and enormously proud of what he was doing as a player and how he was competing.”