This is a story about two Harbaughs, their journeys through the football world, and the quest to bring toughness back in a league with rising puffcake-penalties and fines. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the success speaks for itself.
The Harbaughs were both born in Toledo, Ohio and grew up in the Ann Arbor area of Michigan. Their father Jack, was an assistant coach for the Wolverines under legendary head coach, Bo Schembechler.
Weeks before his twenty-second birthday, he was hired as a linebackers coach at Western Michigan in 1984. John later added other universities like Morehead State, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati to his collegiate coaching resume. Then, he made the jump to the pros and became the special teams/defensive backs coach for the Philadelphia Eagles for ten years that included three conference championship appearances, and one conference title. In his three and a half years thus far as the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens, John has an impressive record of 38-18.
Jim, two years younger than his brother, attended Pioneer H.S. initially, but graduated from Palo Alto High School in California. He went on to play quarterback for Bo Schembechler at Michigan, and led the Wolverines to a #2 national ranking after dramatic wins in 1986 against Nebraska and Ohio State, in Columbus. He earned Big Ten Conference POY honors and finished third in the Heisman ballots.
Jim was drafted by Mike Ditka’s Bears in 1987 and played in Chicago through ’93, then played for the Colts, Ravens, and Chargers from ’94-’00.
He parlayed his professional success in to a coaching career by starting out at Western Kentucky as an assistant in 1994, while he was still and active NFL player. He was of course unpaid, but enjoyed the opportunity to coach alongside his father.
He then returned to the Bay Area in 2002 and was hired as QB coach for the Oakland Raiders. After five years between QB coaching for the Raiders (QB Rich Gannon was Pro-Bowl MVP in ’02) and making football matter for three years at the University of San Diego, he returned to the Palo Alto area.
Jim Harbaugh revived football at Stanford. Toby Gerhart was a Heisman finalist in 2009. Yes, I said ultra-slow Toby Gerhart. in 2010, the Stanford Cardinal went 12-1 and won their first BCS bowl game (Orange Bowl) by thumping Virginia Tech, 40-12. Jim won the Woody Hayes Coach of the Year Award as a result.
The man is responsible for recruiting and grooming a young stud quarterback you may have heard of who is likely to be the first pick of the 2012 NFL Draft. Yeah, you get the point, Jim knows the QB position.
But in Jim Harbaugh’s first season as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, not only has his formerly estranged QB Alex Smith vastly improved, but his 49ers sport a top-ranked rush defense and a 7-1 record.
In a division where no other team has more than two victories, the Niners look poised towards creating their first playoff berth since 2002. So aggressive hand shakes and near fist fights with Mike Ditka aside, “captain comeback” as he’s known from his playing days, is rebuilding another dynasty in the Bay as we speak.
There has never before in the history of the NFL been a pair of head coaching brothers. The way things are looking right now, they could become the first pair of brothers to both win their divisions, and possibly more?
Last night in Pittsburgh, the Ravens came away with a 23-20 victory to complete their regular season sweep of the Steelers. Everyone knows about the Ravens “three levels of dominance” defensively as described by Ray Lewis. We also know that last year the Steelers came away with the victory that counted most, and that was in the playoffs.
That game proved that the offensive playmakers for Baltimore still had something to learn about closing out games in the second half. Well, for what it’s worth, Joe Flacco appears to have learned a few things about performing under pressure. So it looks like Jim isn’t the only Harbaugh who knows how to get production from the QB position.
These Harbaugh brothers have produced positive impacts virtually everywhere they have been. There is absolutely no reason not to believe that they will both continue to excel in the NFL for a long time to come. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the success is speaking for itself.