It was a bit of a surprise, even to their players, when Harbaugh was named the Ravens' head coach.

"I always thought Spags would be the first, to be honest," said Quintin Mikell, a former Eagles safety who now plays for the Rams. "You just didn't see many special teams coaches become head coaches. But as soon as coach Harbaugh got the job, I knew he'd be a very good coach."

When Spagnuolo was named the Rams' head coach after spending two seasons as the New York Giants' defensive coordinator, one of his first calls came from Harbaugh.

"The basic thing I told him is: 'Don't have any doubts you can do this,' " Harbaugh said. "We talk all the time during the offseason. It's nice, because when you get into this position, you understand each other and what you're going through. You can vent a little bit sometimes too, or just ask for advice. And that's a good thing."

It's not easy to face a close friend in a game where it feels like so much is already at stake. Spagnuolo, according to a report by the New York Post, had to meet with Rams owner Stan Kroenke for nearly 15 minutes immediately after St. Louis (0-2) lost to the Giants on Monday night. And Harbaugh, who was the toast of the town after a Week 1 victory over Pittsburgh, is once again getting heat from fans because the Ravens (1-1) looked lifeless in a Week 2 loss to theTennesseeTitans.

But regardless of what happens Sunday, the two men will walk to midfield and embrace when it's over.

Spagnuolo still has a pocket Bible from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes that Harbaugh gave him when he first joined the Eagles' staff, more than a decade ago.

"I made him sign it, so I have his autograph," Spagnuolo said. "I don't know if he has mine, but I have his. I'll never forget that day."

Spagnuolo carries that Bible in his briefcase, as a symbol of faith and friendship. Football games are won and lost, and the pressure of next week always looms.

But some things endure.

kvanvalkenburg@baltsun.com

twitter.com/kvanvalkenburg