Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh will pit best friends

There will be plenty of stories written detailing the relationship between Jim Harbaugh and John Harbaugh before the 49ers visit Baltimore in the Harbaugh Bowl next season.

But a brilliant Sports Illustrated story from October (click here) has set the standard. In fact, the opus by Michael Rosenberg should be required reading for 49ers fans hoping to earn their PH.D in Harbaugh.

Among the highlights:

• A coaching family? Jack Harbaugh coached nearly a half-century and won the Division I-AA national title in 2002 at Western Kentucky. Jim and John’s sister, Joani, learned to cut up game film by age 10. Joani is married to Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean.

• Jim earned $50,000 as an offensive assistant with the Raiders in 2002. When he started, he didn’t know how to turn on his laptop computer.

• When Jim left the Raiders after the 2003 season to become the head coach at the University of San Diego, a non-scholarship, Division I-AA program, Oakland owner Al Davis was among those who didn’t approve. “It’s USD, Jim, not USC,” he said.

• Here’s what Jim said at his introductory press conference last week when asked about college coaches who have flopped in the NFL, “I hope to be very underestimated. I’ve always found that to be a wonderful competitive advantage and try to cling to that advantage as long as we can.”

Here’s what Jim says in the SI story, “We’d rather be underestimated by people. It’s a strength, almost a strategy. Underestimate (John), he will eventually find a way to beat you.”

• Jim had this sign in his office at Stanford: STANFORD FOOTBALL IS HUSTLE. CONSTANT HUSTLE. HUSTLING ALL THE TIME. John liked it. He now has this sign up in his office: RAVENS FOOTBALL IS HUSTLE. CONSTANT HUSTLE. HUSTLING ALL THE TIME.

• The Harbaugh brothers are described as best friends who grew up competing against each other. But they never became rivals. Some of that came through when John Harbaugh spoke to the media on a conference call last week after Jim’s press conference. Here are some excerpts:

What do you think he will be like as an NFL coach? (Note: Harbaugh is currently one of eight NFL head coaches to play in the league)

John Harbaugh: I think one of the big advantages that Jim has is that he played in the NFL for 15 years. You know, some guys coach at this level and you get a feel for how it works. Jim played in this league, he played for great coaches, he’s been with different organizations. He understands pro players., He was one. He was in the locker room with the guys every single day. He’s just got as great sense of what motivates those guys and how those guys think and how to win at that level because he’s done it as a player and he’s done it as a coach. He did it at as a coach at the lowest level. He was willing to humble himself and get down in there and do the dirty work that sometimes the ex-players aren’t willing to do.

You are now both coaching at the highest level. What does that feel like for you?

JH: It’s really exciting. I am very happy that he’s not in the AFC. We’ll see him once every four (years), plus Super Bowls … My mom is very relieved that’s the case. They’re going to have a tough time next year whenever they schedule that game. I don’t know if they’ll be able to make it for the game or not. My dad said he’s just going to take a walk during the game and not watch any of it. But I tell you, I’ve got a feeling they’ll watch it … It’s not going to be new for us to go against each other. We’ve been doing it for quite a long time. We shared the same bedroom for 18 years so we’ve been wrestling around for quite a long time. It’s been a while now so it will be fun to get back at it in this way whenever that comes up.

How are you two most competitive with each other?

JH: We’re not really competitive against each professionally right now because we’re rooting for each other so much. We want to see each other do well. We’re probably competitive (for) each other. We help each other out a lot. I think we share a lot of ideas. I heard his press conference and it sounds like the things I talk to my team about. We kind of share those things back and forth. We have the same basic foundation. We’ll compete in golf every now and then and things like that, but we haven’t seen enough of each other lately. I mean, the last few years it seems like we’ haven’t gotten together enough to have too many games of H-O-R-S-E or anything. But maybe we’ll find a way to do that this summer.

What did you two talk about when you talking about Jim’s decision over the past couple days?

JH: I guess all the things you’d imagine. He’s pretty thorough and he’d gone through the list and kind of laid everything out in his mind of the different options that he had. He wanted to do the right thing professionally, but more than that he wanted to do the right thing for his family. And by his family. I think that was the top priority. And we just talked about those things back and forth and my dad was involved. My mom. Tom Crean. All the people he knows and he knows and really trusts. I mean, specifics of the NFL. What was important as far as being successful at this level. I think those were big conversations. How would he be perceived leaving Stanford. He was really worried about that. He wanted his players to understand what he was doing and why he was doing it. Everything I guess you could think of from A to Z, he’s pretty much gone through in his mind very thoroughly.

• Are you still there? Great. Here’s the newspaper story for today looking ahead — way ahead — to the Harbaugh Bowl. No surprise, but it sure sounds like the game will be in prime time.

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