John Harbaugh

This photo is from 2009 just before the coaches made trip to Kuwait. From left to right, Bill Cowher (formerly Pittsburgh Steelers), Jon Gruden (formerly Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders), Tom Coughlin (New York Giants), Harbaugh and Jeff Fisher (formerly Tennessee Titans). (MIKE THEILER, Baltimore Sun / July 2, 2009)

With both sharing an affinity for military service and history, Ravens coach John Harbaugh and New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin quickly formed a strong bond during the inaugural NFL-USO coaches tour.

Along with Bill Cowher, Tom Coughlin, Jeff Fisher and John Gruden, Harbaugh and Coughlin traveled overseas to Iraq to visit U.S. troops three years ago.

"I got to know him really well on the trip out there," said Harbaugh, whose team hosts the defending Super Bowl champion Giants on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. "He was the father figure out there. He may or may not appreciate hearing that, but he kind of had an eye out for all of us.

"I had a chance to spend a lot of time with him again this summer in Washington [D.C.], with he and his wife. He's a tremendous coach. He's a Hall of Fame coach, and I've got a lot of respect for him."

Coughlin, who has won two Super Bowl titles, expressed a similar sentiment about Harbaugh, who has qualified for the playoffs in each of his first five seasons as a head coach with the Ravens.

"I think very highly of John," Coughlin said. "He's an outstanding young coach with great energy, great enthusiasm and he is very sharp, very smart. He's paid his dues coming up through the ranks as a special teams coach and a secondary coach.

"Very pleasant guy to be with, very enjoyable our time in Iraq together with the other coaches, Fisher, Cowher and Gruden. An exceptional experience for all of us. I had an excellent opportunity to get close to some of my colleagues in a profession when that usually doesn't happen."

awilson@baltsun.com

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