Harbaugh Family: Jack of Head Coaches

Super Bowl XLVII pits the 49ers' Jim Harbaugh against the Ravens' John Harbaugh. Patch shares the story of the Harbaugh family leading into Super Bowl Sunday.

Jack Harbaugh coached for decades. He was the head coach for 55 games.

He's seen a lot of football.

But only once before has the father of three watched as his two sons coached against one another in the NFL.

And after three-or-so agonizing hours on Thanksgiving Day 2011, Harbaugh visited the bowels of M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, peered into the Ravens locker room to see his jubilant son, John. Then he took an immediate detour to the visiting locker room to find his son, Jim.

That's where he belonged.

"It was quiet and somber, and finally I saw Jim, all by himself, no one around him. He still had his coaching things on, and his hands on his head, and we realized that that is where we were needed," Jack Harbaugh said. "So that feel of victory and agony of defeat … And we know we are going to experience that [at the Super Bowl]."

Because so many emotions are to be expected, the patriarch won't be wearing his coaching hat at the Superdome in New Orleans. 

"I am totally neutral on that. I don’t look for body languages; I am not really a coach anymore. I am a spectator and a parent," he said.

"When I had the chance to watch over the [conference championship] weekend, all of those parents of those players that were competing and the thrill of watching their youngsters compete at that level, all of the coaches involved, their careers, how they all started out in high school and college, and now they are in the NFL and competing for this ultimate prize. I think more as a parent now than I do as a coach, and I don’t really get involved in those other things."

Simply watching and observing is a Harbaugh family trait, too.

Jack points to that perceptiveness as one of the reasons why John and Jim are where they are.

"The thing ... that makes me most proud is, I don’t know if we instilled anything, but I think they watched," he said. "They observed and they saw things that they liked. And this is the profession that they decided to pursue and I say, that makes me most proud."

For a father who made a career of coaching, many might assume Sunday will be the pinnacle.

But, with that Thanksgiving Day experience in his memory, Jack also things Sunday might be one of the tougher days he'll experience in a half decade of fatherhood.

"I had this recollection of the agony of defeat and the thrill of victory. We did it as a coach for all those different years, but you either won or you lost and it was that moment. But to experience that same emotion, walking across the hall, is something that I remember and not looking forward to."


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