NEW ORLEANS Harbowl? How about Harbawl?
Every coach at every level gets a little exercised. But the Brothers Harbaugh squaring off Sunday in Super Bowl XLVII both get more than a little inflamed on the sidelines.
Jims animation bubbled over during the NFC Championship Game with a tremendous nutty after a replay challenge went against the Niners.
John is a well-known sideline jockey, to the point where he once drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty in a game at New England back in 2009. That doesnt happen often.
Are they talented coaches? As good as any in the league. Guts? Both men made stone-cold personnel calls this year Jim going to Colin Kaepernick and John letting go of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron that were catalysts for their teams.
But it doesnt escape notice that their sideline edge-seeking is very much a part of who they are. And woe to the official who crosses them.
Were pretty competitive guys, John Harbaugh admits. Its football. Its a game. If you cant express yourself on the sideline of a football game and be yourself and let your competitiveness out, where can you? Jim has a lot of fun, hes a competitor and he will always be himself.
To me, theyre different, says Mike Pereira, former NFL VP of Officiating and currently a rules analyst for FOXSports. Jim really is not constant. When he goes, he goes. (Like) the reaction that he had in the (NFC) Championship Game when they didnt reverse the pass that was ruled incomplete on that last drive. He goes quickly off the deep end while John seems to be more constantly off the deep end.
They just get so wrapped up in the game that its really incredible when you see that, marvels Pereira. Its always on TV, people see the way that they act. But, I dont know
NFL history is rife with examples of coaches who lose their marbles with regularity. From Madden to Gruden, from Cowher to Coughlin. When a head coach thinks hes getting jobbed, hes going to make his feelings known. Audibly. Demonstrably.
I guess its just the intensity of the profession, says Pereira. Some internalize it and some dont. And its the ones that dont that you see and hear about. You sit there and try to understand it. Why would they go off and act like that when certainly no official would go off and act like that to them? Its a one-sided thing.
Then Ive always felt that football coaches have control over everything, he theorized. They control every decision thats made whether its what offense theyll run or what player theyre gonna cut. Theyre in charge of everything except officiating. They have no control. I think thats what bothers them the most. They cant control it. So when something happens that goes against them, they may not even know if its right or wrong, they just know it went against them.
Niners special teams coach Brad Seely a guy who can boil over himself was asked about Jim Harbaughs wild side.
He wants to win, said Seely. And hes one of those guys who will do whatever he can to win the game. And if that means getting on the official, that means yelling at somebody, hes gonna do that because hes in the moment. But as soon as the games over, its all forgotten. Hey, hes moving on. I know why he does it. Hes so into the games that hes just trying to compete.
Jims default setting is intense. John, on the other hand, is one of the most personable coaches in the league. Approachable. Open. Candid.
John is really a fun guy, Pereira points out. Off the field with John, hes great to be around. I was on the sidelines with him at the Pro Bowl (in February of 2009) as an officiating representative to go over the Pro Bowl rules and go over violations if need be and we had the best time on the sidelines for about three-and-a-half quarters.
Then he got mad at the line judge and the line judge got mad at him and I thought the flags were gonna be thrown, Pereira recalls. I went to my good friend John Harbaugh and said, John, you gotta settle down and I put my hands on him and he knocked my hands off him and he said, Dont you touch me! I said, Wait a minute, you were just telling me how great it was to have me on the sidelines.
Every coach goes off. Bill Belichicks stoic veneer crumbles when he perceives official malfeasance unfolding and any viewer with the ability to lip read the letter F knows Belichicks protestations are not G-rated.
Given the hypersensitivity of NBA referees and Major League Baseball umpires, its amazing the patience NFL officials show relative to their peers.
Pereira says its an accepted part of the job and NFL coaches are usually just blowing off steam.
I remember the one time when Bill Parcells (coaching the Jets in a game at Miami) went off on me and he didnt only go off on me but he went off on the official on the other side of the field, says Pereira. The next day, he called and left me a message in Sacramento saying that he was ashamed of the way he acted. He asked me to forgive him, although saying, You have no right to even think about forgiving me but I apologize. But thats a rarity.
Given the historic nature of the coaching matchup and whats at stake, there will be no shortage of sideline closeups and reaction shots. And lids will undoubtedly flip.
Weve never really faced something that were facing with the Harbaughs now, says Pereira. Not only do you have the brothers whove been competing against each other. Theyve competed against each other going back to games in their front yards. I think theyve added a little bit of their fathers personality which is somewhat the same.
John Harbaugh was asked if hes ever been asked by a family member to tone it down a bit.
No. Thats never happened, he says. Not one time.
Their parents, Jack and Jackie Harbaugh, confirmed that.
The one thing that we watch and take great pride in is that both of them are themselves. We were around (University of Michigan head coach) Bo Schembechler for a long time and there were a lot of coaches that tried to emulate him. The first time you werent yourself, you were exposed and somewhat of a fraud. So, always be who you are and not follow anyone else.
Thats what Pereira sees as well.
I dont think theyre babies. I dont think theyre bullies. I think theyre real, he says. I think they reflect how theyve been competing their whole lives and I dont think theyre phony about it a bit. But they are excitable.