Harbaughs making history

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A fierce sibling rivalry has left their parents' backyard and driveway, and will now be on display on a much bigger stage. With Jim Harbaugh leaving Stanford to bolt to the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers, John Harbaugh and his younger brother have made history. They're the only two brothers running NFL teams at the same time in league history.

For Jim Harbaugh, the landmark step mirrors how the late coaching legend Bill Walsh once went from Stanford to the 49ers.

And the 49ers won the Harbaugh sweepstakes after signing him to a five-year, $25 million contract. A proud John Harbaugh downplayed the brothers' competitive nature against each other, putting aside all those roughhouse basketball games to revel in Jim Harbaugh's big moment. "We're not really competitive against each other professionally right now because we're rooting for each other so much," John Harbaugh said during a Friday night conference call. We want to see each other do well. We're probably competitive with each other. We help each other out a lot. I think we've shared a lot of ideas. I "I heard his press conference, and it sounded like a lot of the things I talk to my team about. Things that we share back and forth. I think we have the same basic foundation. We'll compete in golf every now and then. We haven't seen each other lately.

Jim Harbaugh emerged as the hottest commodity in the football industry as Michigan, Stanford, the Miami Dolphins and the San Francisco 49ers all pursued him after he engineered a 40-12 victory in the Orange Bowl over Virginia Tech. A former NFL quarterback with the Ravens, Indianapolis Colts, Chicago Bears, Carolina Panthers and the San Diego Chargers, Jim Harbaugh loves challenges. Now, Captain Comeback is captain of the 49ers' ship.

"I view it as the perfect opportunity, perfect competitive platform, with these pros, with the level playing field, the chance to be part of a team that has a chance to go after the highest award in all of sports, and that's the Lombardi Trophy," Harbaugh said The Harbaughs will face each other next season when the 49ers are scheduled to travel to Baltimore for a regular-season game. "The good news is there will be about 53 1/3 yards between us, so no one will have to watch that debacle at this stage," John Harbaugh said. "We won't be squaring off against each other in any way. The teams will be playing, but that will be fun. I have a feeling you'll see two similarly-built football teams, very competitive. They'll be getting after it pretty good, I've got a feeling."

That game's date hasn't been determined, and the unsettled collective bargaining agreement makes the entire next season uncertain.

As soon as the game is scheduled, rest assured that the calendars in the Harbaugh households will all be circled. "We did talk about it, and John said they'd probably make it the Thursday night kickoff game for the opener," Jim Harbaugh said. "It'll be great. And that's part of the reason about making the jump to the National Football League. I said it's the opportunity and the perfect competitive challenge. I look forward to coaching against John Harbaugh and Bill Belichick and the many great coaches in the National Football League." Jim Harbaugh replaces Mike Singletary, who was fired after failing to translate his passion into wins.

Before deciding to leave Palo Alto to join the 49ers, Jim Harbaugh consulted with Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, John Harbaugh and his father, former college football coach Jack Harbaugh, as well as Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean, their brother-in-law.

"It was all the things you can imagine," John Harbaugh said. "He's pretty thorough; he had gone through his list, laid it out in his mind. He wanted to do the right thing professionally, and he wanted to do the right thing for his family." John Harbaugh expressed confidence that Jim Harbaugh will succeed unlike other former college coaches that bombed in the NFL like Nick Saban, Bobby Petrino and Steve Spurrier.

"Jim played at this level," John Harbaugh said. "He played with great coaches, he's been in different organizations. He understands pro players. He was one. He was in the locker room with the guys every single day. He's just got a great sense of what motivates those guys, how those guys think and how to win. "And the thing that's interesting is he did it as a coach at the lowest level. He was willing to humble himself and get down in there and do the dirty work that sometimes the ex-players aren't always willing to do."

Fiery and emotional like his older brother, Jim Harbaugh threw for 129 touchdowns and 26,288 yards in 15 NFL seasons after being drafted in the first round out of the University of Michigan.

"I have an unshakable confidence, and great faith in human beings in their desire to want to be part of a team, want to be part of something great, whether it's building a great cathedral or winning a Lombardi trophy," Jim Harbaugh said. "I don't really ever make any comparisons between myself and other coaches, or really comparing anything. I hope to be very underestimated. I've always found that to be a wonderful competitive advantage and will try to cling to that advantage as long as we can."

Jim Harbaugh keeps a photo of Bill Walsh taped to his computer screen to remind himself of what he's striving for.

"Well, he is the most important person," Harbaugh said. "I had a chance to meet him when I was at Stanford and when I was a player in the NFL. I have a picture of him that I look at every day, a legendary coach and a great man. I have a long way to go and a lot of work ahead of me before any comparison can be made."

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