Rick Snider: Harbaugh brothers ready for next step

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Sports,NFL,Ravens,Rick Snider

The HarBowl is happening this time.

Coach Jim Harbaugh's San Francisco 49ers play the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC championship game Sunday afternoon. His brother, John Harbaugh, leads the Baltimore Ravens against the New England Patriots later in the day in the AFC championship game. A tantalizing Super Bowl showdown never materialized when the two brothers lost conference championships last season, but both again are just one win away from the ultimate sibling rivalry. This season, the NFL's first brother coaching combination won't be denied a chance to meet in Super Bowl XLVII.

Seeing brothers compete is as old as sports itself. The NFL desperately wants Peyton and Eli Manning to meet in the Super Bowl. New York Giants running back Tiki Barber and Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber had their moments.

The Harbaughs won't wrestle at midfield for the Lombardi Trophy; that's something New York Jets coach Rex Ryan and his brother Rob, who reportedly is on the verge of becoming St. Louis' defensive coordinator, might do. They're not Michael and Leon Spinks.

No, the Harbaughs would spend a week saying mom loved them equally. They would be right; they're good guys. This is not John McEnroe screaming across the net at Patrick.

The brothers are much alike on the sideline. Watching the pair coach in consecutive games Saturday was like watching a Harbaugh marathon. They work coaches, inspire emotion from players and don't make mental errors.

John Harbaugh has a bigger resume, but Jim's quick rise is more impressive. If their father, college coach Jack Harbaugh, produced more sons, they probably all would be NFL coaches by now, too. Jack's daughter, Joani, is married to Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean.

The Ravens are 61-30 in five seasons under John Harbaugh. They have won a playoff game each year but lost two AFC championship games. Jim Harbaugh is 26-8-1 in two seasons and was the AP NFL coach of the year last season as San Francisco finished 13-3.

Jim Harbaugh was well known to NFL fans after a 14-year career. He succeeded Jim McMahon in Chicago and played for three more teams, including Baltimore in 1998. John Harbaugh was a surprise hire by Baltimore after he served as a Philadelphia assistant for 10 years.

John Harbaugh is coming off perhaps his biggest win, a 38-35 double overtime victory at top-seeded Denver on Saturday. There was no way the Ravens should have won, yet they tied the game in the final moments of regulation before an interception led to the winning field goal.

Are the Ravens a team of destiny forged by linebacker Ray Lewis' pending retirement? Is John Harbaugh leading an older roster to one last moment of glory after losing the AFC title to New England last year?

Is Jim Harbaugh now leading the Super Bowl favorite after a midseason quarterback change that seems stunningly successful?

The HarBowl would be a good one to watch.

Examiner columnist Rick Snider has covered local sports since 1978. Read more on Twitter @Snide_Remarks or email rsnider@washingtonexaminer.com.

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