Brother bragging rights on line in Super Bowl
The most hyped coaching matchup in Super Bowl history will pit two siblings in their first Super Bowls going against each other.
Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh will be facing his younger brother Jim, who coaches the San Francisco 49ers, in a subplot to the National Football League championship game that turned into a media frenzy on Friday.
The opposing coaches held a joint news conference at the end of the week for the first time ever in a Super Bowl where John downplayed the brothers' roles in Sunday's landmark contest, saying the focus should really be on the players.
"It is going to be the guys out there on the field whose faces are marred in blood, sweat and dust," said John, who is 15 months older. "Those will be the guys who will determine the outcome of this game."
Friday's news conference was a spectacle in itself.
About 400 media squeezed into the Conference room B at the New Orleans Convention Center, along with members of the Harbaugh extended family, including their parents, uncle and 97-year-old grandfather, Joe Cipiti.
Jim, who sat down first on the podium, wore a 49ers sweatshirt and a cap while John wore a dark suit and tie and gave the opening statement. In between them was the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
"We are fiercely loyal," John said on Friday. "There is no doubt. We always have been. That's definitely not ever going to change. We will continue to be loyal and protective of one another but also of our teams.
"The band of brothers will be the brothers on the sideline. It will be Ravens sideline and it will be the 49ers sideline. That will be the band of brothers in this competition."
John did most of the talking Friday while Jim took a while to warm up. That is until it was time to speak about their mother, Jackie.
While their father, Jack, a former football coach, helped instill in them their leadership skills and was the motivator, Jim said it was their mother that really gave them their competitive edge.
"Nobody in the family has more competitive fire than my mother," Jim said. "She competes like a maniac.
"She was with us every day. Dad worked a lot. She played catch with us and shot baskets with us. She always believed in us."
Said John, "She was not happy when we built a hockey goal with chicken wire when we were 13-years-old and we shot all the windows out on the garage door. She called dad in on that one."
John is more measured on the field and in the locker room with the players while Jim is the emotional one. Jim tends to be tight-lipped in front of the microphone while John, who once considered going into law, seems at ease in front of the cameras.
Their family understands better than most the conflicting emotions that comes with the first brother versus brother coaching matchup in Super Bowl history.
"They are both very respectful of each other," said their uncle Bob Cipiti Friday. "But growing up it didn't matter whether they were playing hockey, football or baseball. Anything they did they were very competitive.
"Jim is the more competitive of the two. John is very competitive too. He's a little more quiet about it."
Bob Cipiti said he's looking forward to Sunday's game but not looking forward to seeing the face of the loser.
"One will console the other," Cipiti said. "The loser is going to feel bad just like they said up there."
Asked if they could work together as coaches in the future, John said, "We have had that conversation in the past. It just never really worked out timing-wise.
"I would love to work for Jim. It would be the greatest thing in the world. There is no better coach in the National Football League than this guy right here."
To which Jim said jokingly, "Well, Jack Harbaugh."
"True," replied John.