Har­baughs’ coach­ing broth­er­hood.

NFL coaches John, Jim share a spe­cial bond along with pro­fes­sion

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY MARK MASKE maskem@wash­post.com

The house in Ann Ar­bor, Mich., had a tiny front yard, with a strip of grass per­haps five feet wide, Jack Har­baugh re­mem­bers. The back yard was an­other mat­ter en­tirely. It was ex­pan­sive, and mow­ing the lawn on that side of the home was an as­sign­ment that re­quired quite a bit more time and ef­fort.

Har­baugh’s sons John and Jim, sep­a­rated in age by 15 months, took turns cut­ting the back­yard grass. Or at least that was how it was sup­posed to work.

“One week one would cut the lit­tle front yard and the other would cut the big back yard, and then the next week they were sup­posed to switch,” Jack Har­baugh said. “But it was amaz­ing how many times they’d for­get whose turn it was to cut the big back yard, and we’d have these heated dis­cus­sions full of ex­plain­ing and pol­i­tick­ing.”

All of that ex­plain­ing and pol­i­tick­ing served the young Har­baugh boys well. It’s part of what both now do for a liv­ing. They fol­lowed their fa­ther into coach­ing foot­ball, and now they are be­lieved to be the first set of broth­ers to be NFL head coaches. Jim was hired in early Jan­uary as the head coach of the San Fran­cisco 49ers and John just com­pleted his third sea­son with the Bal­ti­more Ravens.

“We both thought the world ofmy dad,” Jim Har­baugh said. “We went to prac­tices. Friends of the fam­ily were coaches. There was a cy­cle to the year that re­volved around foot­ball and fam­ily. We saw it all the time. We saw the good. We saw the bad.”

The two are close, “ broth­ers in ev­ery sense of the word,” Jim Har­baugh said. Their bond was re­in­forced in re­cent years by fre­quent phone con­ver­sa­tions. The ques­tion is whether that prac­tice will con­tinue un­in­ter­rupted now that their teams are sched­uled to play one an­other next sea­son.

“We’ll still be broth­ers,” said John Har­baugh, the Ravens coach and, at 48, the elder brother. “We’ll still talk foot­ball. We’ll prob­a­bly be a lit­tle more care­ful with what you share. We won’t be talk­ing about in­juries, I know that, be­fore we play that week. But it’s just a great thing. I couldn’t be more proud, more ex­cited. It’s very cool. I know our par­ents feel great about it.”

The busi­ness they’ve cho­sen

Jack Har­baugh played foot­ball in col­lege at Bowl­ing Green State Uni­ver­sity and was drafted by the Buf­falo Bills of the Amer­i­can Foot­ball League in 1961, then spent more than four decades in coach­ing. He won a Di­vi­sion I-AA na­tional cham­pi­onship in 2002 as head coach at Western Ken­tucky and was head coach at Western Michi­gan. There also were col­lege as­sis­tant-coach­ing stops at Pitts­burgh, Michi­gan, Iowa, Stan­ford, Bowl­ing Green State and More­head State. It was a no­madic ex­is­tence for his fam­ily.

“When I look back now, I don’t see it as a neg­a­tive,” Jack Har­baugh said dur­ing a re­cent tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion. “ They made friends all over the coun­try. They had the abil­ity to adapt.”

They also learned to rely on each other. When­ever they went to a new place, they had each other as friends and team­mates. “We shared the same room for 16 years, best friends,” Jim Har­baugh said. “John wasmy role model and some­one I wanted to em­u­late.” The two have a younger sis­ter, Joani, who is mar­ried to In­di­ana Uni­ver­sity men’s bas­ket­ball Coach Tom Crean.

The fam­ily’s long­est stretch in one place was a seven-year stint in Ann Ar­bor. Jack was the de­fen­sive backs coach for le­gendary Michi­gan coach Bo Schem­bech­ler be­tween 1973 and ’79. Schem­bech­ler would al­low the Har­baugh boys to hang around the team.

Jim was, by far, the more ac­com­plished ath­lete. He was an all-Amer­i­can quar­ter­back play­ing for Schem­bech­ler at Michi­gan and a first-round draft choice of the Chicago Bears in 1987. He played 15 NFL sea­sons for the Bears, In­di­anapo­lis Colts, Ravens, San Diego Charg­ers and Carolina Pan­thers, throw­ing for 129 touch­downs and more than 26,000 yards.

John didn’t have his brother’s suc­cess. A promis­ing base­ball player, he chose foot­ball, only to have his se­nior sea­son in high school cut short by a knee in­jury. He played de­fen­sive back at Mi­ami Uni­ver­sity in Ox­ford, Ohio.

When both broth­ers expressed in­ter­est in coach­ing, their fa­ther didn’t dis­cour­age them. He and his wife, Jackie, were proud to hear it.

“My fa­ther was a rail­road en­gi­neer for 35 years,” Jack Har­baugh said. “His friends said he was one of the best that had ever been around. But I don’t think he ever went to work with a smile on his face or came home with a smile on his face. I wanted a job where I could go there with a smile on my face and come home with a smile on my face, and that’s what I got. That doesn’t mean there weren’t a lot of bumps and bruises.”

Work­ing their way up

John started his coach­ing ca­reer in 1984, at age 21, as a grad­u­ate as­sis­tant at Western Michi­gan, work­ing for his fa­ther.

“We’d ride to work to­gether. We’d ride home to­gether, and we’d talk about foot­ball,” Jack Har­baugh re­called. “ That’s as much fun as I ever had in coach­ing.” The foot­ball dis­cus­sions were al­lowed to con­tinue at home, he said, be­cause Jackie ac­tu­ally leads them. “ There’s never enough foot­ball for her,” he said.

Jim Har­baugh got a jump-start on his coach­ing ca­reer while still an NFL player by scout­ing and re­cruit­ing for his fa­ther as an un­paid as­sis­tant coach. Af­ter re­tir­ing as a player, he spent two sea­sons as the quar­ter­backs coach of the Oak­land Raiders. He be­came a head coach at the Uni­ver­sity of San Diego in 2004 and moved on to Stan­ford in 2007.

Af­ter lead­ing the Car­di­nal to an Orange Bowl tri­umph this sea­son and de­vel­op­ing quar­ter­back An­drew Luck into a top pro prospect, he be­came the hottest com­mod­ity on the coach­ing mar­ket this year. He re­mained in the Bay Area and signed a five-year, $25 mil­lion con­tract with the 49ers, who fired Mike Sin­gle­tary late in their 6-10 sea­son. The once-proud 49ers have missed the NFL play­offs in eight straight sea­sons.

Luck stayed at Stan­ford rather than en­ter­ing the NFL draft and the school tried to keep its coach as well. Jim Har­baugh, who turned 47 in De­cem­ber, also had other NFL op­tions. Mi­ami Dol­phins owner Stephen Ross pur­sued him.

Through­out his de­lib­er­a­tions, Har­baugh said, his ad­vis­ers in­cluded his fa­ther and brother.

“I would never make a huge de­ci­sion in my life with­out the in­put of my brother and my dad, with the love they have for me,” he said.

John Har­baugh had to coach for 24 years be­fore earn­ing his first head coach­ing op­por­tu­nity with the Ravens in 2008. He’d been a highly suc­cess­ful spe­cial teams coach for the Philadel­phia Ea­gles be­tween 1998 and 2006 be­fore spend­ing one sea­son as the Ea­gles’ sec­ondary coach. Even so, he’d never been an NFL of­fen­sive or de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor when the Ravens hired him. The move came only af­ter Ja­son Gar­rett, then the of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor for the Dal­las Cow­boys, with­drew from con­sid­er­a­tion.

“Here’s Jim, who had his col­lege ca­reer and went on to theNFL, and he got a head coach­ing job be­fore John did when John had done all the grunt work,” Jack Har­baugh said. “But never once did I hear John ut­ter, ‘ Why not me?’ He’s al­ways been so sup­port­ive of Jim. And Jim is the same way. I’ve heard him say he hopes he one day pos­sesses the coach­ing skills that John has.”

The Ravens have made the play­offs in each of John Har­baugh’s three sea­sons as their coach, reach­ing an AFC semi­fi­nal this sea­son be­fore squan­der­ing a twotouch­down half­time lead to lose at Pitts­burgh. The Steel­ers have ad­vanced to next week­end’s Su­per Bowl in Ar­ling­ton, Tex.

“Ob­vi­ously he’s meshed pretty well,” Ravens tight end Todd Heap said re­cently at the club’s train­ing com­plex. “Just look at our suc­cess the last three years. It’s fun to be part of a team that’s go­ing to the play­offs and win­ning. That’s kind of what you play the game for. We’ve had a great time, and he’s been a big part of it.”

The 49ers and Ravens are sched­uled to play each other next sea­son in Bal­ti­more, the coach­ing equiv­a­lent of the Man­ning broth­ers quar­ter­back­ing against one an­other in an NFL game. The date is not set.

“It will be com­pet­i­tive,” Jim Har­baugh said. “ The NFL is a 10 out of 10 on the com­pet­i­tive scale. . . . There is a pro­fes­sional com­po­nent to the job that has to be ad­hered to. There won’t be any­thing shared be­tween us that breaks the con­fi­den­tial­ity of both of our or­ga­ni­za­tions. But I don’t see that as chang­ing our re­la­tion­ship.”

Not all the in­ter­ested par­ties will be on hand. The coaches’ par­ents feel, at least at this point, that the event will be too much for them to han­dle in per­son.

“Jackie and I have al­ready dis­cussed it,” Jack Har­baugh said. “We will not be within two time zones of Bal­ti­more that day.”

Per­haps the loser should have to travel to Ann Ar­bor, find the old fam­ily house and mow the grass in the back yard.

JohnHar­baugh, left, has led Bal­ti­more to the post­sea­son all three years he’s been there; JimHar­baugh, right, takes over the 49ers af­ter a suc­cess­ful run at Stan­ford.


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