Here’s the transcript of the Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh’s Monday conference call.
Q: Do you think that your childhood competition with Jim helped get you where you are today?
JOHN HARBAUGH: I don’t know. I don’t think it was any different than most other childhoods or brothers. It definitely impacts who you are as a person. We both competed with each other and against each other. I know one thing – you couldn’t have anyone tougher to compete against or anyone more challenging to compete against every single day. From that standpoint I guess you go against the best. That had to help a little bit, maybe.
Q: What’s your reaction when you hear the Harbaugh family motto, “Who has it better than us?” being used in the Niners locker room?
JOHN HARBAUGH: I’m sorry that he got to it first. I should have thought of that before him. We should have made some t-shirts, too. I think it’s really cool. I think it’s neat. It’s very meaningful, obviously, to us. I think it’s pretty cool that maybe people out there, Niners fans or football fans, can kind of take something like that and maybe try to apply it a little bit to their family, or whatever. It can be something they have a little fun with and maybe it will make a difference.
Q: How much do you guys borrow from each other?
JOHN HARBAUGH: There’s a lot more than the blue-collared shirts that he’s used. There’s certainly a lot of things that we’ve used, too. We have a saying around our office here that talks about hustle. Our program’s all about hustle. I took that directly from Stanford. There’s always stuff you use, probably more than that, more ideas on how to run a practice or in some cases x’s and o’s or how just how to approach situations that you deal with with players and coaches. We talk a lot about that kind of stuff, too.
Q: He talks about deer skin and armadillo skin. Is that one of your creations, too?
JOHN HARBAUGH: Yeah, that comes from the Ravens, no doubt about it. That’s one of a few things. I’m doubtful that Jim has owned up to the fact of where some of that stuff comes from. I’m glad to hear that maybe that has taken play. That’s good news.
Q: He didn’t admit to that, that’s my own report.
JOHN HARBAUGH: Keep digging, you’ll find some more.
Q: How much have you stolen from your father?
JOHN HARBAUGH: That’s the point, I think all of it comes from him. To me it’s not stealing, anyway. It has nothing to do with stealing, it’s the college conversation. A philosophy was kind of imbued in us early on, an approach, a way of looking at things in terms of football or life or whatever. That comes from our parents. We’re very proud of them.
Q: There are stories that say you two are best friends and that you’ve never gotten into a fight, according to your wife, at least. Is that true?
JOHN HARBAUGH: She’s only known us in our adult years. We’ve never had a fight as an adult, maybe since we were like 25 or something. But we had some knockdown drag-outs when we were younger. I can remember my mom yelling, screaming, wailing and crying: “You’re brothers. You’re not supposed to act like this. You’re supposed to get along better.” There’s probably a lot of mothers out there who can relate to that.
Q: Would you describe each other as best friends?
JOHN HARBAUGH: Absolutely, I absolutely would. I’d throw our dad right into that category. He’s the guy I trust the most. I would trust him with absolutely anything in my life.
Q: Is there anything difficult in this matchup for you emotionally?
JOHN HARBAUGH: I don’t know if I’ve really thought about it. Maybe there is. You think about the fact that I’ve never rooted against him really ever. We played against each other one time in baseball in high school, an American Legion team, my dad was actually coaching Jim’s team. We won 1-0. That’s the last time I remember going against him because we were always on the same team. But we’re not going to be playing. It’s going to be the players playing the game.
Q: Your dad said one of things he was most proud of you about was the fact that you were always his biggest cheerleader. Where did that come from?
JOHN HARBAUGH: I don’t know where it came from, but that was easy. That wasn’t even a consideration. If you can’t root for your brother I don’t know who you can possibly root for in the world. I was always just so proud of what he was doing. I always felt that he was the most underrated quarterback who ever played. I felt like he never got enough credit. I thought he was always such a great leader, lead his team, I don’t think he ever had a great supporting cast, I just feel like he was really a special, special player. I’m even more proud of him now as a coach, and really more proud of him as a father and a husband and what he’s doing with his kids. It’s neat to see.
Q: How have the Niners been able to pull off win after win after win this season?
JOHN HARBAUGH: I think it’s just good football. It’s not surprising at all. First of all, they’re very talented. They’ve got a lot of good players. Jim talks about that all the time. They have a lot of very, very good players, and I think they’re very well coached. I think they stick to their philosophy, which is good, solid football, it’s field-position football, they don’t turn the ball over, they play defense and they play special teams. They run it and they complete passes, so I think it’s a proven formula and I think they’ve been very disciplined in sticking with that.
Q: Did you scout the 49ers even before this week?
JOHN HARBAUGH: Sure, throughout the season I’ve had a chance to throw them on and watch them.
Q: Was that something you did during your Bye week?
JOHN HARBAUGH: No, our Bye week was a little bit earlier so we were getting ready for Houston. I know the Niners game planned us on their Bye week, but it was a little bit later.
Q: Your dad said that you and Jim would invent games in the house to play. Could you share one of those games?
JOHN HARBAUGH: I’ll tell you what, I’d have to dig back in the memory banks. When were really little, we used to have the old sleeveless t-shirts and we’d draw those up as different uniforms in the Big 10. And we’d play tennis ball basketball on a coat hanger rim. We did that every now and then. We’d throw ball between tree branches and hit snowballs against trees.
Q: Can you shed some light on your brother’s personality?
JOHN HARBAUGH: I don’t know if you guys are buying everything there. You’ve probably been around him long enough to know he’s a pretty personable guy, very clever, very funny. You’ve got to figure out where he’s coming from sometimes. He’s got a message for you and for his team and you’ve got to figure out what he’s trying to tell you. He’s got lots of friends.
Q: What are your thoughts about Ray Lewis being able to play on Thursday?
JOHN HARBAUGH: My thoughts about it? I think about it all the time. I have lots of thoughts about it.
Q: Let me ask a different way. Do you think Ray Lewis will play on Thursday?
JOHN HARBAUGH: Is that something I really want to share right now?
Q: We cover your brother so we think the answer is no. I have to ask.
JOHN HARBAUGH: Sure, I understand.
Q: What will Thanksgiving be like for the Harbaugh family?
JOHN HARBAUGH: All the Harbaughs, the extended Harbaughs, will have a great time one way or the other. I think there will be one Harbaugh side that will be really happy and there will be another Harbaugh side that will be really, really disappointed, and then Mom and Dad will be torn. That’s how I think it will go.
Q: Will you all eat together?
JOHN HARBAUGH: We’ve got a lot of extended family coming in to watch the game, so I’m the one who’s had to get the tickets. I haven’t heard from Jim, I haven’t gotten an offer for any tickets. I was surprised about that.
Q: Are you two planning on having any sort of Thanksgiving dinner together?
JOHN HARBAUGH: No, no, no. I haven’t talked to him for a little while. It’s just about football, really. We wouldn’t have Thanksgiving together anyway if we were playing a normal game. I’m sure both of our focuses are going to be on our game and on our team. There’s no time for anything else. He’s going back after the game. He’ll be a on a charter.
Q: Has it sunk it how unique it is that you and your brother are head coaches in the NFL?
JOHN HARBAUGH: It’s funny because on one hand you really are focused on the job, so all your energy and thoughts are immersed in your team and the issues that you’re facing or the team that we’re facing, the game plan, those kinds of things and just the preparation part of it and the challenges you have.
The other side of it, kind of underneath everything, it’s an amazing thing. To say that it’s not there, that you’re not thinking about it probably wouldn’t be real.
I think it’s an amazing thing. It’s an 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 really hope that if there’s a message out there that people can connect with somehow someway, it’s basically some kind of a family message, some kind of a thought that really anything is possible.
Maybe God does work all things for good in some ways. If you try to do the right thing, and we’ve made plenty of mistakes and we’ve screwed plenty of things up, we’ve said the wrong things to each other or other people plenty of time. But if you try to set your heart in the right way and put your family first, things can work out.
I know the NFL is taking a family theme in this whole thing, and that’s what we try to do here, and Jim tries to do the same thing, because we grew up that way. We were always around football. We were always around the office. We were always around the field. We were always in the locker room. We’ve tried to do that with our team. We have our coaches’ kids here all the time, we have players’ kids here all the time. One of our players, (tight end) Kris Wilson, has a 3-year-old and didn’t have a babysitter Saturday night, so he brought her over here for our Saturday night meetings and she was running around. A lot of coaches would look at that as a distraction.
At our places of work, we should make it family friendly. Let the kids come around. Let the kids be a part of it. They’re not as much as a distraction as you would think. We don’t always do a great job maybe with our kids in this society. If we can’t do a great job with the children, you know, that’s what it’s all about. I know I’m rambling a little bit and it’s not very well organized of a thought, but maybe there is a message in there somewhere.
Q: What are your strengths versus Jim’s.
JOHN HARBAUGH: I would never even touch that question because it’s a comparison and what it does is it ends up diminishing one side or the other. I never answer those. I’ll go over his strengths if you want me to tell you what he does well or whatever.
JOHN HARBAUGH: I just think he’s a real competitor. He’s very smart. He knows the game inside and out. He’s very disciplined in the way he approaches it. He’s got a great vision for his team – I think he knows what he wants them to look like. He’s got a great way of communicating it, so he’s a really good teacher. He learned that from our dad.
Q: Mom and Dad will be in the stands on Thursday?
JOHN HARBAUGH: I don’t think so, they’re talking about coming to pregame and being on the field and then sneaking away and watching it on TV. I think they’re kind of torn and conflicted about that. I don’t know where they’ll be.
Q: What things did you learn from your dad to apply to your coaching career?
JOHN HARBAUGH: What didn’t we learn from him? The list would be so long, but the one thing that strikes me about my dad, even to this day, he’s a man without guile. He’s as honest and straight forward a person as I’ve ever met in my life. If there’s one thing Jim and I both have taken and if there’s one thing I’d like to be on my gravestone is that. You know where he’s coming from. He’s very sensitive and he’s very caring. He cares about people and he puts other people first. It’s all about administering to other people. He’s a very emotional and a very passionate guy at the same time.
Q: He retired after he led his team to the national title. Can you talk about that?
JOHN HARBAUGH: Yeah, it’s incredible. He had a few more years left in him. He could have coached for quite a while. I think he was excited about what we were doing and the grand kids. They’ve had a chance to travel around. I’ll tell you one thing. I’ve been around a lot of coaches over the years. I’ve never been around a better coach, a better teacher than Jack Harbaugh. I can tell you that.
Q: How often do you and Jim communicate?
JOHN HARBAUGH: Once a week at least. We go a few weeks sometimes or a month over the years without talking. It’s pretty regular. We talk the most when something’s going on or we need help. When you start getting into some high stakes things in your life that you’re dealing with, we probably talk more.
Q: You said you trust your father with any and everything. I assume you feel the same way about Jim.
JOHN HARBAUGH: I was actually referring to Jim on that, and I would say that about my dad, too.
Q: Are there any football secrets you’ve held back, anything that might surprise your brother on Thursday?
JOHN HARBAUGH: Sure, maybe what I’ll do is I’ll fax them out to you right now (laughs). I’ll tell you what, it’s going to be a hard-fought game. It’s not, I don’t think it’s going to be a trick ‘em game. There will be probably something that we’ll try, they’re try something, but it’s a short week, it’s two very physical teams, two teams with quite a lot at stake. It’s two teams that play a very similar style of football. It’s going to be a great night for football. If you’re a football fan I wouldn’t think you’d want to miss this game.