It’s been billed as the Harbaugh Bowl.
John vs. Jim.
Older brother vs. younger brother.
Thursday night’s Thanksgiving battle between the Ravens and 49ers has already gotten plenty of media attention, but much of it isn’t because it pits a 9-1 San Francisco team against a 7-3 Baltimore squad, both of whom lead their respective divisions.
Instead, the bulk of the buildup to this game centers on the Harbaughs, who will be the first pair of brothers to square off as head coaches.
Both John and Jim, however, would prefer for the spotlight to be directed elsewhere.
“I don’t think about that much,” Jim Harbaugh said on a conference call. “The entire week, until the game is over, (I’m) really thinking about the players who are competing in this game. They’ll be the ones who will be on the field. Trying to put them in a position to be successful from our end is really what I’m thinking about.
“As far as the nostalgia of it, I think it’s very considerate of the NFL to fly us out there and I can see my brother on a Thanksgiving. I haven’t seen him on a Thanksgiving in I don’t know how many years.”
Asked if there will be anything difficult about the matchup emotionally, John Harbaugh’s answer was very much along the same lines as his brother’s.
“These are two really good teams that are going to play one another,” said the Ravens’ coach. “It’s going to be about those players that take the field. It’s a fun storyline, but really what it’s going to be about is a bunch of football warriors going out there and getting after it - two teams that play a very similar style of football, two teams that are going to want to win that football game on Thursday night.”
Can you tell these two are brothers from a family of coaches, or what?
As much as Harbaughs are the type to not talk themselves up or detract from the significance of the upcoming game, they’re still able to acknowledge the significance of the coaching battle we’ll see Thursday.
In recent years, we’ve seen two brothers with some type of role on coaching staffs oppose each other (Rex and Rob Ryan) and two brothers that have squared as starting quarterbacks for their respective teams (Peyton and Eli Manning). But never have there been two siblings competing against each other from head coaching roles.
The Harbaughs took completely different paths to get to this point. Jim went from NFL quarterback to collegiate assistant before working his way up the coaching ranks, while John started as a graduate assistant under his father at Western Michigan before moving on to bigger things. But the fact that both guys have both earned their way to the rank of NFL head coaches and will get to face off on Thanksgiving night is pretty darned impressive.
“Underneath everything, it’s an amazing thing,” John Harbaugh admitted. “To say that it’s not there, that you’re not thinking about it, wouldn’t be real. It’s an amazing thing. It’s a historic thing. It’s very special. I couldn’t be more proud for our parents or for Jim. I just think it’s really neat.
“I’m really hopeful that if there’s a message out there that people can kind of connect with somehow some way, it’s basically some kind of a family message, some kind of thought that really anything is possible.”