NEW ORLEANS -- Jack and Jackie Harbaugh won't have the luxury, or privacy, of watching Super Bowl XLVII in their cozy Wisconsin living room. After 51 years of marriage, you would think they could do whatever they wanted, as they did Sunday when they stayed home to watch the NFL's two conference championship games.
The couple wouldn't miss "Har-Bowl II" for the world, bittersweet as it will be.
The Harbaughs expect to be in New Orleans Feb. 3 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for one of the jazziest matchups in the game's history: In an unprecedented challenge, two brothers - in this case, John Harbaugh, 50, and younger brother Jim Harbaugh, 49 - will stand on opposite sidelines trying to beat in each others' coaching brains.
With love, of course.
"I hope he (Jack) is on his fourth or fifth beer right now, and that he's giving my mom a big hug," said a smiling John Harbaugh after his Ravens registered a 28-13 upset of the New England Patriots. It was the coach's first win in three AFC title games.
Jim coached the San Francisco 49ers to a rousing come-from-behind 28-24 victory in Atlanta against the top-seeded Falcons in the NFC Championship Game. The 49ers trailed 17-0 early in the first quarter before they rallied.
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Last year, the parents watched on TV as their sons both lost the NFC and AFC Championship games.
Now the Harbaughs suddenly are the NFL's first family.
Football fans will learn more about the coaching siblings than they ever could have imagined over the next two weeks as the Super Bowl hype machine begins to churn. After an NFL season that often brimmed with controversy and angst, a friendly football feud is about to bust loose with "Har-Bowl" II.
But it won't be their first go-around on opposing sidelines.
The brothers squared off during the 2011 season on Thanksgiving Day. Big brother John beat little brother Jim as Baltimore prevailed 16-6.
While the brothers Harbaugh realize the topic is a natural one for news media, they don't particularly care for discussing the issue. Their shared rule is that they don't like to make comparisons because, sooner or later, one of them ends up "devalued," in John Harbaugh's estimation.
Sunday, the two rocketed to the top of their profession by advancing to the ultimate game where oddsmakers have installed the 49ers a 5-point favorite.
The brothers are considered hyper-competitive coaches who are extremely supportive of one another.
"I am so proud of Jim," John said.
As 49ers CEO Jed York said of his coach, a former NFL quarterback: "He puts the guys first. He might not put the media first, he might not put the rest of the league first, and I understand that. He is who he is, and he's comfortable with it, and I respect him.
"I respect the job that he's done, and I give him a ton of credit for getting this team ready for a big game like this and getting us back to the Super Bowl."
Come Super Bowl Sunday in New Orleans, one of them is sure to be singing the blues afterward, even if only to himself.
In any case, in an unprecedented Super Bowl matchup of coaching siblings, the Harbaughs will take every bit of knowledge and wisdom that their father, a retired football coach, taught them and attempt to use it to defeat the other.
Sunday, the parents stayed in their Mequon, Wis., home because, well, how could they choose sides to decide which game to attend? So, they watched and they worried ... until the games were over.
After Jim Harbaugh gave his postgame news conference, he yelled: "Go Ravens!" as they prepared to challenge the Patriots.
Later, during a postgame interview with ESPN, John Harbaugh looked into the camera and said: "Jack and Jackie Harbaugh - love you!"
49ers go for No. 6
The 49ers (13-4-1) seek a Super Bowl-record tying sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy vs. the Ravens (13-6).
If the 49ers are successful, in Pittsburgh - about 25 miles from the Western Pennsylvania hometown of Hall of Fame 49ers quarterback Joe Montana - they will be crying in their Iron City beer.
A sixth Super Bowl triumph by San Francisco would tie the 49ers with the Steelers for most in NFL history. The Ravens are trying for their second with Ray Lewis the only holdover from the XXXV Super Bowl winning team.
In the 1980s and '90s, the storied 49ers franchise captured Super Bowls XVI, XIX, XXIII, XXIV and XXIX. The 49ers are 5-0 in Super Bowls - four victories led by Montana and one by Steve Young. But it will be San Francisco's first appearance in the game since the 1994 season, which was the last time the 49ers won the league championship.
"We've come full circle, and the dynasty will prevail," said Denise DeBartolo York, who endured a contentious split from brother Eddie DeBartolo, the beloved former owner who was responsible for all five of the 49ers' Vince Lombardi Trophies.
DeBartolo, 66, surrendered control of the franchise in 2000 as part of a legal settlement . He presented his sister with the conference trophy.
The 49ers lost the conference title game a year ago to the New York Giants when they fumbled their way to a 20-17 overtime defeat. The Giants went on to win the Super Bowl.
Rallying in Atlanta
Sunday, with San Francisco playing in a record-tying 14th NFC title game since 1970, the 49ers quickly found things stacked higher against them than the Golden Gate Bridge.
Trailing early in the Georgia Dome, second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick led San Francisco on a furious comeback. The 49ers' victory was the biggest comeback in NFC title game history.
"Colin Kaepernick played great," said Jim Harbaugh, in his second season as 49ers' coach. "He just competes like a maniac all the time, in practice and in games."
Kaepernick, starting his ninth NFL game and his second playoff contest, led his team with his strong arm rather than his legs. A week ago, against the Green Bay Packers, he set a league record with 181 rushing yards for a quarterback. With the Falcons fretting about defending Kaepernick on the read-option, the 49ers' rushing attack benefitted with 149 yards. Kaepernick ran for 21 yards on two carries but threw for 233 yards and one touchdown .
The 49ers' renaissance is directly attributable to Jim Harbaugh, who after being hired in 2011 reinvigorated a franchise that had lapsed into mediocrity. San Francisco failed to advance to the playoffs from 2003 to 2010, a span when the 49ers failed to post a winning season.
Two years earlier, the New York Jets had made a fateful decision when Harbaugh interviewed for their vacant head coach position. Jets owner Woody Johnson hired Rex Ryan instead.
John Harbaugh spent 10 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles as a special teams/defensive coach before beating out Ryan as well to be named Ravens coach in 2008.
The Harbaugh clan hasn't been the same since.