PAUL KITAGAKI JR. / pkitagaki@sacbee.com

Running back Frank Gore, who experienced some hard times with the 49ers, was emotional following Sunday's comeback victory over Atlanta in the NFC title game.

Brother act? Harbaughs prefer the players take center stage

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013 - 5:53 pm

SANTA CLARA – The movie script might at least have included a phone call, after the 49ers and Baltimore Ravens both won Sunday to bring this NFL season to a historic finale.

But as of Monday afternoon, the first pair of head-coaching brothers to meet in the Super Bowl had not allowed themselves even that.

"We haven't spoken. Couple texts," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said of himself and Ravens coach John Harbaugh. "I'd imagine it won't be much more. Pretty busy getting ready."

Hours after the 49ers came from 17 points down to beat the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game, the Ravens defeated the New England Patriots in the AFC game – with Jim watching snippets from the 49ers' team plane.

The 49ers and Ravens will meet Feb. 3 in New Orleans, with San Francisco seeking its sixth Super Bowl win.

Until then, the subplot of two brothers raised by a coaching lifer reaching the pinnacle of their profession is sure to draw a deluge of attention – something both coaches tried to deflect Monday.

"It doesn't matter who the coach is, what relationship you have with somebody on the opposite side," said Jim Harbaugh, 49. "You're trying to beat them. That'll be my approach."

John Harbaugh, 50, told Baltimore-area media: "It's not exactly like Churchill and Roosevelt or anything. It's pretty cool, but that's as far as it goes."

It will be the first Super Bowl appearance for Jim Harbaugh in his second season in San Francisco and for big brother John in his fifth season in Baltimore. Their teams met once before on Thanksgiving 2011, a game the Ravens won 16-6 in Baltimore.

Jim Harbaugh was reluctant at the time to discuss the significance of that meeting – the first between NFL head-coaching brothers – and didn't seem interested in expanding much Monday, describing the Super Bowl matchup as "a blessing and a curse."

"A blessing because that is my brother's team," he said. "And also personally, I played for the Ravens (during the 1998 season), have great respect for their organization …

"The curse part would be the talk of two brothers (meeting) in the Super Bowl, and what that takes away from the players that are in the game. Every moment you're talking about myself or John, that's less time the players are going to be talked about."

In that vein, Harbaugh said he intends to try to answer "as few (questions) as possible" about the brother angle when the teams get to New Orleans next week.

John broke into the league in 1998 as the Philadelphia Eagles' special-teams coordinator after working his way up through the college ranks. Jim at the time was nearing the end of a 14-season NFL playing career, before head-coaching stops at the University of San Diego and Stanford. Each made a bold move this season, Jim replacing quarterback Alex Smith with Colin Kaepernick at midseason and John switching offensive coordinators in December.

Part of Jim's resistance to the narrative likely stems from his knowledge of the challenge facing the 49ers over the next two weeks. The fourth-seeded Ravens have already beaten teams led by Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in these playoffs, and last season held the 49ers to two field goals in a physical meeting.

"He's a great football coach, has a real grasp of all football phases: offensive, defensive and special teams," Jim Harbaugh said of John. "(He is) is as good as anyone in the league.

"It's not about us – I keep coming back to that. But (I'm) very proud of my brother. I love him, and that's the blessing part, that this is happening to him."

Note – Harbaugh said David Akers will kick for the 49ers in the Super Bowl.

Akers, who had to hold off competition for his job earlier this month after making 69 percent of his regular-season field-goal attempts, missed his lone attempt from 38 yards on Sunday in Atlanta.

"The decision's been made," Harbaugh said. "David Akers is our kicker."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Matt Kawahara



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