“Football is a game of inches,” is one of the oldest sayings in Football. This embodies what the NFL is about. Little to no separation. A team, player or coach may be at the top of their game but the difference between themselves and others is small.
So minute that over the years, timing and luck at times have more to do with success than preparation and execution. Because at this level, to be good is expected. To be consistent though, will always be the key to success.
To become any part of any NFL organization is a worthy accomplishment within itself. Having one person in your family make it in any aspect of the game on the professional level is something worth bragging about. Having multiple people from the same family to make it to this level is almost an unheard of accomplishment. Over the past 5 years the Mannning’s have been the “Royal Family of Football."
Two Super Bowl winning sibling quarterbacks. As well as a father that played in the NFL for over 10 seasons. Remarkable when you see how many players actually make it to the professional ranks. Some simple math will tell us that 32 teams, each with 53 man rosters gives a total of 1,696 players on NFL regular season rosters. According to nflplayers.com roughly 100,000 high school seniors play football each year, only 215 make it to the NFL. Kind of makes you want to become a dentist eh? Well think about your job only having 32 positions available total. If we use this season as an example, eight positions will open each year for 1 of those jobs. Now imagine not one but two people from the same household getting two of those jobs. Now, you can see how special the Harbaughs really are.
John and Jim are separated by 1 year and 2 months in terms of age. Born to a father that worked directly under legendary coach Bo Schembechler at Michigan for 7 years, the siblings were engulfed in football success from an early age. John, the older of the 2, graduated from Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor in his fathers last season as a Michigan assistant. He would go on to play defensive back at Miami University in his birth state of Ohio. He would later become a graduate assistant. Jim, transferred from Pioneer High to Palo Alto High, after his father took a job as a Stanford assistant.
Jim would earn a scholarship to the University of Michigan to play quarterback that year. In his first two seasons he was used mainly as a back-up, and sidelined with injury for ago good part of the year. His final two seasons at Michigan are what made his legend. He led the wolverines to a 21-4-1 record his final 2 seasons, including a final #2 ranking in 1986, the best finish ever by a Schembechler led team. Not only did he win football games, but Jim also finished 3rd in the heisman voting his senior year. He had thetools and the IQ to be a very good quarterback. That same IQ is apart of John too. Knowing the game and it’s nuances is second nature to them. These guys didn't come from nowhere to be successful in the sport they love. It could be said they were unknowingly bred for the success that they are enjoying.
In sports, the path you take is less important than your final destination. What fans and owners yearn for is wins. The super bowl being the ultimate last stop on a long winding path disguised as the regular season and playoffs. Jim, in his second year with the San Francisco 49ers, is making his 2nd straight trip to the NFC championship. He is the more eccentric of the 2 brothers. He was a head coach for 2 college football programs that he turned around and had major success with. San Diego State and Stanford were 8-2 and 1-11 respectively in years before he arrived. 58 wins to 27 losses is the combined record he produced during his time in both places. He possesses what is essential to coaching, he is a winner.
Jim Harbaugh brings the untainted enthusiasm of college football to the Pros. He's excited and yet somehow, still excitable. Jim Schwartz, 5'11 and 180 lbs. according to the lions website, had a bit of a problem last year after a rather aggressive handshake from the 6'3 215 pound former quarterback. This is undeniably a direct reflections of Harbaugh's highly flammable nature. He leads a youthful team with an electric 2nd year player at quarterback in Colin Kapernick. His defense has 2 all pros at linebacker that are under 26, and countless other better than good players on defense. His team is young, hungry, and talented. San Francisco may be taking the perfect first step to winning a Super Bowl.
John Harbaugh is opportunistic, with an eye for the big moment. A sense of when it's time to play...and when it's time to win. He had his team within a missed 32 yard field goal of the Super Bowl last year. A team, that is aging quickly. His best defenders are fighting, injury or age, and sometimes both. His offense is led by a quarterback yet to be anointed to the class of consistent leaders at his position. The tools are present, the mental edge for a super bowl run is still in question.
This team is seen as being on their last leg. They have leapt into the AFC championship game with luck, borrowed time, and veteran instinct. The next 3 weeks will let us know if that last leg, has the strength, to leap and reach their final destination. A destination that could lead them to cross paths with a team on their first of many leaps into NFL lore and glory. Such an immense accomplishment, possibly contested for, by 2 men raised in the same house. Immense is not an applicable description of the mark the harbaughs may conceivably eclipse this weekend. In this world of no secrets, this generation that is always in the know, these brothers may well go into never before seen territory.