American Football: Sibling rivalry will spice up Super Bowl XLVII

Explosive tempers of history-making Harbaugh brothers could bring clashes as John's Baltimore Ravens meet Jim's San Francisco 49ers

Super Bowls are supposed to be about the players. But not edition XLVII of America's gaudiest sporting pageant – or at least not until the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens actually kick off in the New Orleans Superdome, a few moments after 11.30pm British time tomorrow. This time it's been a tale of two coaches.

In American football, perhaps more than any other sport, coaching is a family business. Maybe it's a matter of genes; maybe, in so fiendishly complicated a sport, growing up amid the game from early childhood gives you a special head for strategy. Whatever the reason, down through the ages of the National Football League, coaches have begotten coaches.

But even the NFL has never seen any- thing quite like the Harbaughs. Jim Harbaugh and John Harbaugh are brothers, sired by Jack Harbaugh, in his time one of the top coaches in US college football. Jim, born in December 1963 and the younger of the pair by 15 months, is in charge of the San Francisco 49ers.

John is his opposite number at the Baltimore Ravens. As children they used to share a bedroom. Now not only are they the first pair of brothers to become NFL head coaches. They now find themselves on opposite sides in the league's marquee game. And one of two ferociously competitive siblings will finish the night a loser.

In their playing days Jim, who spent 14 seasons as a quarterback in the NFL, was indubitably the better athlete. John never made it beyond college level as a player, honing his trade instead as a coordinator and defensive coach for the Philadelphia Eagles, before moving to Baltimore. There he made the play-offs in each of his five seasons in charge. In the one head-to-head match-up, on Thanksgiving Day 2011, John Harbaugh's Ravens prevailed in a dour defensive match-up, 16-6.

The brothers both own explosive tempers – but give John the narrow edge here (though no NFL coach is a sweet-tongued angel as he prowls the touchline during the game.) One former NFL official responsible for referees drew the distinction this way: "he [Jim] goes quickly off the deep end, while John seems to be more constantly off the deep end."

And both of them are ready to gamble, as they proved in 2012. In Baltimore, John changed the team's offensive co-ordinator three-quarters of the way through the season, sparking a resurgence that resulted in the Ravens averaging more than 427 yards and 30 points over their three play-off games to reach the Super Bowl.

In San Francisco, Jim Harbaugh switched quarterbacks, with no less wondrous results. Colin Kaepernick started 2012 as the back-up to Alex Smith. In early November Smith was injured and Kaepernick, in just his second season, took over as starter. In his first game in the play-offs, he led the 49ers to a 45-31 victory over the Green Bay Packers – who had been tipped by many to go all the way – in the process breaking an NFL single game record for a quarterback, with 181 rushing yards.

And tomorrow evening, Kaepernick, in just his 10th game as starter, and his opposite number Joe Flacco of the Ravens, will definitely take centre stage. The "HarBowl" will finally become the Super Bowl, in which the outcome will ultimately be decided not by the coaches and the plays they call, but by the ability of the teams on the field to execute those plays.

Even without the saga of the touchline frères ennemis, this would have been a Super Bowl to remember, what with 30-second TV spots costing a record $3.8m (£2.4m) apiece – complete now with ads to trail the ads – as well as rumours, happily unfounded, of a national shortage of chicken wings, the couch potato's traditional snack.

A small pall was cast over proceedings by a warning from President Obama in a magazine interview that the NFL might have to change its rules to reduce the violence in the game and the risk of serious head injuries, even at the risk of making the sport less exciting. But quite possibly, this will be the most watched programme ever on US television.

Recent Super Bowls have been nail-biting affairs, with four of the last five won and lost on the final drive. But this one could be a whole game to remember, between two teams once best known for their defensive prowess, but which have suddenly broken loose on offense as well.

The Las Vegas oddsmakers have installed San Francisco as marginal favourites. But being given that edge merely underlines that after two impressive underdog victories in the play-offs – first against the Denver Broncos, many experts' pick to win it all, and then over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots – only a fool would write off the Ravens.

As always, the focus will be on the quarterbacks. Will nerves get the better of Kaepernick, forcing a crucial mistake late on? Or, in the perverse way of these things, will inexperience breed fearlessness? Having featured in the play-offs for five straight years, Flacco is battle-hardened. On the other hand he has rarely distinguished himself in this setting. The pressure to do so now could be crushing. Or again, maybe Baltimore, with legendary middle linebacker Ray Lewis playing in his last game, truly are the Team of Destiny. On Super Bowl Eve, just one thing is certain. Come Monday, there will be one elated Harbaugh brother. But which?

Family face-offs: Brothers at play

Eli and Peyton Manning

If people were told a couple of years ago that two brothers would meet in a Super Bowl, most would have guessed it would be the Mannings. In 2006, the pair became the first brothers to start against each other as quarterbacks and both have won Super Bowl rings, Eli twice.

Michael and Ralf Schumacher

The Germans are the only brothers to have both won F1 races and were also the first pair to finish first and second in the same race.

Dean and David Holdsworth

In 2010, David and Dean became the first twins to face each other as football managers. Dean's Newport County beat David's Mansfield Town 1-0.

Ronan Groome

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Recruitment Genius: PA

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A PA is required to join a leading provider of...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert