One of the major storylines at Super Bowl XLVII is Jim and John Harbaugh facing off on the NFL’s biggest stage. The only other time two brothers were head coaches and their teams went up against one another, was the first edition of the Har-Bowl when the 49ers and Ravens played on Thanksgiving night.
With two siblings on opposite sidelines, it’s no surprise their parents are part of the narrative at the Super Bowl. On Wednesday, Jack and Jackie Harbaugh had a press conference and talked about what it is like to have two of their children coaching against each other in the Super Bowl. It was a fun press conference to watch and the Harbaugh parents were diplomatic in all of their responses. You get a good insight into the history of the Harbaugh family. My favorite part was when they were asked if Sunday will be the longest three and a half hours they have ever experience. Jack’s response was:
There are no emotions during the game. Last year at Thanksgiving, it was emotionless. There wasn’t any cheering. There wasn’t any emotion. It was just watching the game. Archie Manning, before the game last year at Thanksgiving time on Tuesday, he called and I can’t tell you how thrilled we were to receive the call. He just called out of the clear blue and he said, ‘My wife and I are just sitting here talking and we’re talking about how this going to be for you on Thursday. For us, it’s a little bit different. When Peyton is on offense, we root for the offense. When Eli is on offense, we root for the offense. He said, I can’t imagine how it’s going to be for you and Jackie when the head coaches are in charge of the game on both sides.’ He said, ‘I’m going to give you a piece of advice.’ He said, ‘Listen to me, a piece of advice.’ I’m thinking this is really going to be something profound, right? The advice was this, ‘This will be over on Friday. I promise you it will be over on Friday,’ and sure enough it was great advice and that’s exactly how it happened.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Jack and Jackie use that advice again on Sunday. But this time, after the game is all over, Jim will be the winner.
Here is the full transcript of the interview:
Jack: “Before we open up for questions, I’d like to tell a quick story. Back in 1957, Jackie and I were freshmen at Bowling Green State University. One of the great college coaches, his name was Doyt Perry. He’s a Hall of Famer, he was our college coach there. Our second year there, he held a class. It was Football 101. There were 35 guys in the class, all purporting to be coaches. That’s what they wanted to do, high school coaches and possibly college coaches. On the first day of the class, Doyt stood up and he said ‘How many of you here want to be coaches?’ and of course 35 hands went up. And he said ‘To start the class, I’m going to tell you the three things that are going to be necessary for you to be a coach. Number three, you have to have a love and passion for the game of football. Number two, you needed to outwork the people that you were coaching against.’ He said, ‘The reason I say that, I’ve been around you for about a year and there’s not many of you here that are going to outsmart anybody so you had better be prepared to outwork them.’ And he said ‘Number one on the list, if you want to be a coach someday, marry wisely.’ I guarantee the only advice that I know I listened and followed from the great coach Doyt Perry was the marry wisely part. Jackie Harbaugh is the foundation of this Harbaugh family. She is the rock of our family. She’s the one that moved us 17 times in a 43 year coaching career. She sold houses at every stop and she bought houses at every stop. She took them in to school and out of school. She went to school when things didn’t go well. This is my hero right here, Jackie Harbaugh. You’re going to ask us how we feel on this historic day? Jackie, who has it better than us? Nobody!”
(on when the last time they watched a Super Bowl together was)
Jack: “I would say every sporting event, every big sporting event was a big occasion at our house. I can remember back when we were watching the Boston Bruins play in a hockey game way back where Bobby Orr had that great shot where he flew across the net and knocked it in. John, to this day, still holds us responsible because he was on a refreshment run. He was about halfway up the steps when Orr knocked that puck into the goal and he has never forgiven us for not seeing that. They had no replays in those days, so I don’t know if he ever did see the shot.”
Jackie: “No, not really because I don’t think back in the 70s, it wasn’t as big of as an event as it is today. We kind of took every day as it came. So, no Super Bowl parties.”
(on where Jim and John got their colorful animated demeanors from)
Jack: “I think anyone that knows the family and knows Jackie and myself, and I think John and Jim would be the first to describe the emotion, passion and love comes from Jackie.”
Jackie: “I think we both feel strongly about certain things in life. We’re so excited for John and Jim to be in this situation but we’re also really excited for the players and their families. This is a huge event for them and I just am thrilled that some of them, this is their first time in this situation, so I can imagine how all those mothers and fathers feel about their sons being in this situation.
(on if there was ever a time where they talked to their sons about toning it down)
Jack: “The one thing that we watch and take great pride in is that both of them are themselves. We were around Bo Schembechler for a long time and there were a lot of coaches that tried to emulate him. The first time you weren’t yourself, you were exposed and somewhat of a fraud. So, always be who you are and not follow anyone else.”
(on whether all of the ‘J’ names are on purpose)
Jackie: “No, we aren’t very creative. John for Jack, because his given name is John. So John is after Jack. Jim is actually after my doctor. Dr. Frasier in Perrysburg, Ohio. They came in and said ‘What are you going to name this baby?’ and I said that I liked the name Jim. Joanie Marie is after my mother’s middle name and Jack’s mother’s first name.”
(on when Jim and John understood that Jack was a football coach)
Jack: “Again, I have to point to Jackie. In coaching, a lot of times I left before the sun came up and came home after the sun went down. Jackie has a great philosophy and that is that she wanted her children to know what their father did. She wanted them to understand who he was and what he did. I can remember when they could just barely walk, John and Jim, that she’d bring them out to the practice field. We’d be practicing and they’d be around jumping on the dummies and then they learned they could throw the ball around. Then they learned they could get into the locker room and meet the players and those kinds of things. We would invite our players at Iowa and Michigan when they were growing up to come to the house on Thursday. That was the day we had off. Jackie would cook a great meal for them and then pretty soon they were wrestling on the floor. Jackie always involved our children in the job that we were involved with.”
(on whether Jack sees his own coaching style in his sons)
Jack: “I really believe they’re both who they are. I don’t think you have to watch very long or be a psychologist just to watch and see who they are. The beauty of it, they allow themselves to be who they are. I think Jackie and I are most proud of that.”
(on whether John picked on Jim)
Jackie: “I think that brothers both do this and so do sisters. So everyone out there that has a brother or sister, you all have had your little ins and outs with one another. So that’s not unusual.”
(on if either son has called to ask what the other has said about leading up to the Super Bowl)
Jack: “Bo Schembechler had two great sayings. One was, ‘if you’re going to play in the North Atlantic, you have to practice in the North Atlantic.’ The other was ‘loose lips sink ships.’ They both have subscribed to that philosophy, so no one talks to anyone. Jim is very quiet and guarded and John is very quiet and guarded. That’s exactly the way we want it.”
Jackie: “And so are we.”
(on how much Jim and John consult with Jack regarding football questions)
Jack: “The story that’s been told is on draft day in 2011 after the first day of drafts was over, Jim called on his way home and he asked what I thought about the draft. We didn’t have much to talk about as it relates to the draft, but he had not expressed to me who they were thinking about drafting at the quarterback position so I said ‘Jim, tomorrow in the second round, surely you’re going to draft a quarterback, but which one is it going to be?’ and it was dead silent. He said ‘are you talking to anybody?’ and I said ‘I swear I’m not talking to anyone.’ He said ‘we’re drafting Colin Kaepernick. Do I not only think that he’s the best quarterback in the draft, I think he’s the best football player in the draft and we’re going with Colin Kaepernick.’ And I thought to myself, ‘wise decision.’”
(on where this Super Bowl ranks amongst all Harbaugh moments)
Jackie: “I would honestly have to say that the birth of our own children and then the birth of our grandchildren are the most important to me and this is like frosting on the cake for our whole family, our extended family which includes a lot of relatives. I might take this time, if I may, to thank all those friends and families and all those ex-football players that have called us to congratulate John and Jim. They’re so excited for this because they feel they’re part of this, too. It’s fun hearing from them and sharing this moment with them.”
Jack: “All those millions of people that are parents out there, this is just a fantastic, fantastic experience and really no one has it better than us. But when you’re in the process of going through parenting, the day that they made the junior high school football team, they said we made our high school team. You have that feeling of being thrilled for your children. They go to high school and they make the high school team. Then they are lucky enough to get a college scholarship. Then every one of those stops along the tremendous journey. The thrill that you feel, I know this is on a big stage, but in parenting, those don’t rank any differently.”