Jim Harbaugh On The Super Bowl And His Brother
Were you able to watch live television during the flight?
“Oh yeah, yeah. Yeah, there were TV’s on the plane. Got to see a little bit of the AFC Championship, things like that.”
How do you balance your joy as a brother with your determination as a coach?
“Well, I think it’s a blessing and a curse. A blessing because that is my brother’s team. And also personally I played for the Ravens. Great respect for their organization. Worked with [Ravens general manager] Ozzie Newsome and [former Ravens owner] Art Modell, his love and passion for the National Football League. Know many of the Baltimore Ravens players. And have a great respect for them and their team and I’m happy for them. Happy for us that we’ve made it to this point. The curse part would be that the talk of two brothers playing in the Super Bowl and what that takes away from the players that are in the game. And every moment that you’re talking about myself or [Ravens head coach] John [Harbaugh] that’s less time that the players are going to be talked about. And I just feel like the saying that ‘victory knows no orphans,’ or ‘victory has a thousand fathers’ I think is true. And I just feel like the fighters are first. The ones that are playing in the game, the players, they’re the ones that have the most to do with it. And they’re the ones we should be talking about.”
Obviously, it’s a very unusual situation and you’ve been around. You can see that it’s going to be huge when you get there next week. That’s what everybody’s going to talk about. Not the only thing, but so much of it because it is so unusual.
“Yes. That’s definitely a possibility. I can take a pass personally from that. Because I can choose to take the approach that this is our football team and we have to do what’s best for our football team to win the next game. And our focus is always that. So, it’s easy to do that. The next game is the biggest game. The opponent we’re playing is the opponent. We have to prepare. It doesn’t matter who the coach is, or what relationship you have with somebody on the opposite side. You’re trying to beat them. So, that’d be my approach.”
Are you saying you’re going to try to not answer questions about you and your brother next week?
“As few as possible. As few as possible. And make it about the game and the players playing in the game.”
Does a part of it help that you guys played last year on Thanksgiving already?
“We’re really getting to know the Ravens and who they are now, I think will be the big thing. We’ve already seen in teams that we’ve played this year early in the season and then played them later in the season that the dynamic on their team changes, personnel, scheme, changes pretty drastically. So, as we get through this we’ll have a better idea. But, that would be my guess, that this is completely new business. And different personnel, different scheme on both teams.”
Did you talk to your brother after you won? And is there a cut off time when you guys just won’t talk anymore?
“I don’t know if there’s any rule, or cutoff. But, no we haven’t spoken. A couple texts and I imagine that won’t be much more. Pretty busy getting ready.”
What did you learn about QB Colin Kaepernick given the adversity he had to deal with in both playoff games now, and performing in different styles? What do you take away, what do you know more about him now than you did before the playoffs started?
“That’s a list I don’t have all the bullet points on. He’s done great. He’s acquitted himself really in every test he’s been given. A lot of people have talked about Colin. See how he does in this situation. See how the next game will prove something. We’ll see how he does in the playoffs now. And see how he does in a road playoff. But, at every phase he’s acquitted himself very well. And he played great in this last ball game. Very pleased.”
Can you talk about the emergence of TE Vernon Davis? His first big game since against the Chicago Bears. Can you talk about him really just getting over that hump of having a big game?
“No humps that Vernon needed to get over in our opinion.”
Are your parents planning to go to this game? They’ve so far from what I understand enjoyed their couch for their position to watch you guys. But, is this different this week? Or do you know yet what their plans are?
“I think they’ll be there.”
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman said that that week off, the BYE, was really important as far as putting together a game plan. You can take kind of an altering the approach a little bit, or adjusting the approach for the Packers. Do you expect this week that they’re will be similar type of developments as far as working together on a Ravens-specific game plan?
“Very possible. And both teams will have that advantage and you like your opponent to think about all the possibilities. So, we’ll leave all those open as possibilities.”
What’s your itinerary for this week? What do you plan to do as far as the players out on the field?
“We’ll get that, I know you need access. We’ll get that schedule to you.”
I think you’re going to be asked, too, about your kicker. You brought another guy in, he’s gone. You can’t bring him back as I understand. And are you going to make any decisions? Are you just going to let it go for a while, or what? Obviously, it was a huge miss. And that brought up the question, can he still make field goals?
“Yeah, the decision’s already been made. [K] David Akers is our kicker.”
I noticed you before the game. You were studying him quite a bit, quite closely. What did you see from him just in warm ups?
“That’s pretty much every game. This was no different. I enjoy watching both kickers pregame. And he had an outstanding pregame. Missed one 60-yarder. But, was hitting the ball really well.”
When you guys fell behind yesterday, RB Frank Gore looked like he was in your ear quite a bit there on the sidelines. What was he talking about and how would you assess the way Frank played yesterday?
“Outstanding performance by Frank Gore. One of the all-time great competitors in the National Football League and nobody does it better than Frank Gore. Sometimes we do have conversations on the sideline and what he sees, what he thinks will work. We bat it around, sometimes during the game, sometimes on the practice field, sometimes in meetings, but it’s always beneficial to our team to get his input.”
I know you’re not ready necessarily to announce your schedule, but are you of the belief that spending the week here, get your whole gameplan set here in town before you travel? Or do you have a philosophy on that?
“Yeah, we have a philosophy, we have a schedule. We’re going to keep that to ourselves, keep that close to the vest.”
What impressed you most about LB Ahmad Brooks and that last stand, the third down play and the pressure that he was able to get on Falcons QB Matt Ryan?
“He’s got a penchant for doing that. I can think back to several situations where the team is driving at the end of the game and Ahmad Brooks, two out of the three downs makes the big play. In this case, getting to the quarterback, rushing the quarterback. The play where he jumped up and batted the ball down, Matt Ryan had a receiver and it looked like that was going to be completed if he doesn’t get that done. Think back to the Green Bay game earlier in the season, the first one, the opener. And there’s been times where it’s been three out of three on the downs to stop a drive in a critical situation. So what do I think about it? I was elated. And he was working through some things. He had a bit of an injury in the first half and just overcame it, and made the big stop for us.”
So I was with fans yesterday who were really excited. It’s been 18 years, they’re hoping that this is the start of a dynasty again. Talk about the fan stuff and the excitement that they’re going to be channeling through this team.
“I don’t know if we’ve really talked about it enough or expressed just how I feel about our fans and the way they supported our team all year long. We really feel like we have a homefield advantage when we play in Candlestick. It’s a great relationship that the Bay Area, the state of California, the city of Santa Clara, San Francisco and the whole peninsula has with the 49ers. I just appreciate it and am thankful for our fan base and our fan support.”
Growing up I’m sure you dream or talked about, envisioned throwing a pass in the Super Bowl. Did you, given your dad’s background, envision or dream much about coaching in the Super Bowl?
“No, don’t think I had that dream. But I will share this with you, just the way Colin Kaepernick runs, the gracefulness of his stride, the ground that he covers, it reminds me of me when I run. And then I wake up.”
Can you understand why the Chicago Cubs, with Colin’s arm, why they took a shot that they might be able to convince him to play baseball several years ago? At least why not? Why not try to get that guy on a pitcher’s mound, try to talk him out of football? You can probably appreciate their efforts.
“Yes I can. He’s a man for all seasons. Tremendous football player, basketball player, baseball player, a tremendous athlete with a lot of gifts of God. And a tremendous competitive fire, readiness and willingness to compete, to be able to make cool-headed decisions under fire. Who wouldn’t want a player like that in baseball or football?”
There was so much focus on his running after the Green Bay game. Do you think he opened some eyes at least around the country, in terms of how accurate a passer he is and smart passer?
“Yeah he threw the ball exceptionally well. Again, the word we used a couple of weeks ago was piercing with his throws. I know we used that after the New England game and Green Bay game. He’s accurate and has the ability to drive the ball through the defense. And once again, that was displayed yesterday and maybe there were people around the country that saw that for the first time.”
How much have you enjoyed LB Michael Wilhoite’s rise to the team, being represented as the special teams captain? A guy like that working his way onto the 53-man roster.
“Definitely earned. You talk about the concept of a meritocracy on a football team and that’s your shining star, that’s your shining light, one of them, Michael Wilhoite. Players knew that, evidenced by the way he plays and produces in practice and in games. That was a popular announcement, announcing Michael Wilhoite as the special teams captain. You asked me how I felt about it?”
Just the way, to see a player like that work his way onto the roster really means something to the team. To just enjoy the fact that your guys like that work their way up through the ranks.
“Everybody sees it, everybody appreciates it. Elevates a player on a team in the eyes of everyone on that team, so a great example of it.”
Can you point to anything at the University of San Diego and at Stanford, maybe one major thing you learned in each step that you’re still applying right here today as you head to the Super Bowl?
“No, I can’t really think of one thing at each of those steps that we’re still applying. Have to probably give that quite a bit of thought.”
Too much on—no onion peeling today?
“No, I’d just would need more time to really think about those things and come up with a—.”
OK. I’ll check back with you.
“OK. It may be a few weeks before we delve into that one, but.”
You’ve been pretty effusive in your praise obviously of your brother in the past. I think once you said you’re not half the coach he is. What makes him such a good coach do you think?
“That’s pretty well documented. Talked about that quite a bit. He’s a great football coach. Like I said earlier, a real grasp of all phases, offensively, defensively, special teams. I think he could coordinate at least two of those phases and be as good as anybody in the league, or better. And it is half. I probably have half the coaching experience he does, half the amount of wins, half the amount of playoff appearances, all those things. But, again it’s not about us. I’ve got to keep coming back to that. But, I’m very proud of my brother. I love him and that’s the blessing part that that’s happening to him. This is happening to him.”
Why did you have WR Chad Hall step over WR A.J. Jenkins on the depth chart yesterday?
“I can’t make that statement.”
Why did you elevate him?
“Elevate him to the 53?”
Yeah, and then he played?
“Yeah, he was activated on the 53. And we had a specific play that we felt Chad would be very good at. And that play got called in the game.”
Is that when you look at you have your two guys, your two wideouts who are playing a lot. The other three guys are kind of mix and match a little bit. Is that how you do that? Kind of have a specific set of plays for each of them?
“Well, that does occur. And also they have to be ready to go in in case somebody goes down. with the whole game plan in mind. But, A.J. was ahead of Chad on the depth chart had something happened to [WR] Michael [Crabtree], or [WR] Randy [Moss].”
When you finally saw the replay of the play you challenged late in the game yesterday, did you agree more with the decision they explained to you? Or do you still feel it was a challenge-worthy of challenge?
“Definitely think it was a worthy challenge.”
The ball hit the ground didn’t it?
It simply looked like it on T.V.
“Yeah, it probably merits a really good football conversation. It definitely seemed like the ground was helping make the catch. And it seemed like the ball moved, even when the ball came up, lost contact with the ground and it immediately was loose. So, that’ll, I think encourage some interesting debate. But, that was interesting.”
Fortunately it had no effect on the final score?
“Had we won that challenge we would have won the game, right? But, I do before leaving just also want to talk about what a tremendous game it was. Thought the play of the Atlanta Falcons was outstanding. Very physical on their defense. Flying around, making plays in the secondary, at the linebacker position, defensive line. Oustanding football game from that standpoint. Thought the two special teams units battled it out the entire day. Offensively, [Ravens QB] Matt Ryan made some incredible throws. Near perfection the way he was throwing the ball. And the receivers, the game they had was outstanding. It was a great football game and both teams played great in that game. And we’re happy that we won the game. It was a great competitive football game.”
Aside from the blown coverage, was it mostly them doing good things instead of the defense not doing good things?
“Yeah, I really felt that way. We had good calls, we felt. And our players were in their right position to make plays. And Matt Ryan made some great throws to receivers who have a wide bull’s eye of a catch radius. And he knew right where he was putting it. And made tremendous plays. [TE] Tony Gonzalez’s touchdown, we had a good call there. We had him doubled and he did an outstanding job, as he had done earlier in the game running his routes and catching the football. So, it was that kind of day. It was a real battle. And we made some plays of our own. And fortunately, that was enough to turn the tide and get us the win.”
After a game like that, there are games where it comes down right to the wire, and that certainly did and it’s so important because as everybody knows, if you don’t win, you’re finished. Do you sort of take a deep breath and say, what a great game, or God, I’m glad we won and we’re going on? What’s your reaction as a coach?
“Well, definitely finality. And my reaction was what it was yesterday. Very, just appreciative, gratitude to our players, to our coaches, to our organization, to everybody that has their fingerprints on this. And we set out to win three Super Bowls this season. And two of those we won. And our third Super Bowl is coming up in less than two weeks. And also the feeling of how you felt is, ‘let’s go to work.’ Let’s make damn sure we go to work and get back to work and get ready for this game. But, yeah forever proud. Forever proud of the fighters on our team and what they’ve accomplished thus far and happy to be still playing and working.”
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