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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas