Leading up to the Super Bowl, all anyone has wanted to talk about is the Harbaugh brothers — Jim and John coach the 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens, respectively. Much has been made of what they have in common and what makes them different.
Asking them about it reveals one thing in common, though that’s not what they might have intended with their answers: They both want to make sure this game is about the players on the field.
“Every moment that you’re talking about myself or John,” Jim said, “that’s less time that the players are going to be talked about. ... 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.”
John said the meeting between the two on Thanksgiving in 2011 should have been enough for the media to get their fill.
“I just want everyone to know that was a four-day deal and every story has been told,” he said. “We aren’t that interesting. There is nothing more to learn.”
To the players it is, then.
On the field, the teams would seem as evenly matched as their coaches’ personalities. Both have been solid in all three phases of the game, and both underwent midseason makeovers on offense. The Ravens elevated Jim Caldwell from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator after dismissing Cam Cameron on Dec. 10, and the Niners swapped quarterbacks in November.
The offensive changes have worked well for both teams. Colin Kaepernick’s rise to stardom for San Francisco has been well-documented, and Caldwell led the offensive outburst in the team’s 38-35 double-overtime playoff win over the Denver Broncos, who boasted the fourth-best defense in the league in terms of points allowed this season.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco’s chemistry with receiver Anquan Boldin has been key. Flacco is among the best in the league at throwing deep passes accurately, and Boldin has piled up 276 yards on 16 catches and three touchdowns in the team’s three playoff games.
Contrast that with Kaepernick’s ability to rifle passes to either Michael Crabtree or Vernon Davis at will, and it’s clear both defenses will have their work cut out for them.
Each defense is led by stalwart linebackers wearing No. 52 — Patrick Willis for the Niners and Ray Lewis for the Ravens.
Lewis will get much of the attention as he goes for his second Super Bowl victory in what will be the final year of his 17-year career.
Lewis has been the face of the Ravens since the team relocated from Cleveland for the 1996 season, the linebacker’s first in the league. He was named MVP of Super Bowl XXXV, and his pregame dance and fiery speeches have become part of NFL legend.
“He’s a guy who is the Raven,’” safety Bernard Pollard said of Lewis. “We respect him. When he speaks, everybody stops, everybody hears him. He’s kept this team together. He’s kept this organization together in so many ways, and we are all in this together.”
Willis has been more of a lead-by-example type of presence, and making the Pro Bowl in each of his first six seasons has been a pretty good example to follow.
So make this about Kaepernick’s arrival or Lewis’ departure, just don’t make it all about the Harbowl.
QB: Colin Kaepernick
RB: Frank Gore
WR: Michael Crabtree
DL: Justin Smith
LB: Patrick Willis
Ravens’ key players
QB: Joe Flacco
RB: Ray Rice
WR: Anquan Boldin
LB: Ray Lewis
S: Ed Reed