Sibling Bowl I

Harbaugh Brothers Jim (coach of the San Francisco 49ers) and John (coach of the Baltimore Ravens) will face each other in the Super Bowl XLVII. Photo courtesy of The Christian Science Monitor.

The Super Bowl – just another football game ruined by the hype and the ads. But not this one, Sunday. This game really intrigues me because it is the Sibling Bowl. The brothers Harbaugh coaching against each other.

If two men ever had football in their blood it would be these guys. Their dad, Jack Harbaugh, head coached at Western Michigan and Western Kentucky. Son John coached running backs and linebackers under his father at Western Michigan for two years.

Father Jack later coached running backs at Stanford under son Jim in 2009.

Tom Crean, now head basketball coach at #3 ranked Indiana, married Joanie Harbaugh, Jack Harbaugh’s daughter, who he met while he was an assistant basketball coach at Western Kentucky.

When Crean was later the head basketball coach at Marquette, Jack Harbaugh was assistant athletic director there.

The most intriguing thing for me about the Harbaugh brothers is the gutsiness and flexibility they have shown late in the season. John Harbaugh of Baltimore fired Cam Cameron, his offensive coordinator, late in the season when Baltimore had to win out to go to the playoffs. Cameron was disliked by the players, and the leaders on the offense felt he could not give them a winning game plan.

Harbaugh replaced him with Jim Caldwell who had been fired last year as the head coach at Indianapolis. It worked for Baltimore.

The Harbaugh family.

Jim Harbaugh at San Francisco had the best quarterback in the NFL – statistically – in Alex Smith. But when Smith was sidelined by a concussion he brought in second year man, Colin Kaepernick, who he had pushed the team to draft in the second round out of Nevada the previous year.

Smith was deemed healthy enough to play after sitting out two games, but Harbaugh liked what he had in the mobile option quarterback, Kaepernick, and played him the rest of the season, right into the Super Bowl.

Most coaches in the conservative NFL would not have made those controversial moves, because if they did not work, they would have been pilloried in the press and scapegoated by their bosses, but the Harbaughs took the risks, following the football instincts of a lifetime in the game.

This is a talent that business people often find beyond their reach. We tend to stick with the mediocre hand that we are dealt because inertia is hard to buck. Safety is more appealing than risk.

So hail to the Harbaughs – father and sons. This will be your day. Will the brothers who share similar DNA be able to somehow surprise one another?

Question: Is nepotism good?

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2 thoughts on “Sibling Bowl I

  1. Jim Goerges

    It can be! It can be a nightmare also. In business this is probably one of the hardest forms of management and business models there is. It is hard for the owners, and more so, the employees. Added to running the business,there is a lot of what is fair for the goose, should be fair for the gander, or owner “entitlement”, or issues with “fairness” in the work place and lack of advancement opportunities, or the issue of travel opportunities or lack thereof, and the list goes on and on and…….

    Christian Brothers Brandy or Christian Brothers Hockey sticks are a couple of good ying and yang examples. Then you have the unique issues of 1st to 2nd generation transfers to 2nd to 3rd and 3rd to fourth, all very tough and unique.

    So is nepotism good??, hmmm ya, good for what or whom maybe another good topic!

  2. John "Jack" Frost

    Is nepotism good or bad. It’s good if all participants have the same love and respect for the trade or profession they are engaged in. Add a free-loading relative to your company and watch it come apart in short order. My experience is different, in Europe, as a consultant I talked to many a father who had built up a thriving business and found that his children had no interest in running it. And misreading the tea leaves had not planned on a rejection. Unfettered nepotism is found in politics, Washington being one of the worst for this practice. The Shanahan’s are no slouches when it comes to father/son football.


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