By Edward Lee
January 22, 2008
After a few minutes, Jim Harbaugh, who is 15 months younger than his brother, emerged victorious with the object of his search: a pair of Ravens shorts.
"I threw them on [Saturday] night when I was at home," he said proudly. "I dug them out of the closet. I just think it's tremendous for John, I think it's tremendous for the Baltimore organization. The players are going to love playing for John."
Getting to know John Harbaugh will be one of the earliest tasks of players, team officials and fans alike. On Friday, Harbaugh became the franchise's third coach in its 12-year history despite never being an offensive or defensive coordinator in the NFL.
But if there's one person who can vouch for John Harbaugh, it's his brother, the former NFL quarterback who spent 15 seasons in the league with five teams, including the Ravens in 1998.
Roommates for the younger Harbaugh's first 16 years, the brothers competed academically, athletically and socially. The duo graduated from wrestling with their father, Jack, to tangling with each other before Jim said that John "got too strong" during their high school years.
John's physical strength, however, was trumped by his willpower, according to his younger brother. Jim said his brother exerted himself to the point of exhaustion in athletics despite having his knee sliced during a game in youth ice hockey and injuring the same knee playing football while in high school.
"The persistence he always had stood out to me," Jim said, noting that his brother earned one football letter at Miami (Ohio) University. "He had setbacks, whether it was injury or disappointment, but the way he went about it - staying positive and enthusiastic at every turn - was awesome to watch."
While Jim played in the NFL and guided the 1995 Indianapolis Colts to the AFC championship game, John toiled in the collegiate coaching ranks before becoming the Philadelphia Eagles' special teams coordinator for nine years and then coaching the team's defensive backs this season.
When Jim became the quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders in 2002 and 2003, he was struck by the parade of players who sought him out during pre-game warm-ups to talk about his brother.
"When I was coaching in Oakland, if there was anybody who came from Philly to Oakland, the volume of players who played in Philadelphia and crossed paths with John would always make it a point to come up to me and just tell me how great my brother was," Jim said. "How destined he was to be a head coach and how much John did for them and how they saw the potential in him."
Though he understands his brother's promotion might seem strange to those accustomed to the traditional model of assistant coach-to-coordinator-to-head coach, Jim said his brother has received the necessary training required to be an NFL head coach.
"The special teams coach is the guy - next to the head coach - who speaks to the entire team the most, coaches the most guys on the team," he said. "Anytime I'm around him and he's talking football, I'm like, 'Wow, this is special.' ... I haven't met anybody like him just in terms of the way he can keep the important stuff and make it understandable. He's able to break it down into, 'Here's what's important and here's how we're doing it.'"
Though Jim has the longer NFL resume, he said he is not surprised John got the first crack at becoming a head coach in the league.
"He's my role model," Jim said. "He's a better coach than I am. But I'm trying. It makes perfect sense to me. His rising success, I'm just thrilled."
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