Super Bowl

Super Bowl 2013: Why the Harbaugh Bowl Is the Matchup Fans Should Want to See

Jim and John Harbaugh, brothers and rivals in embrace.
Jim and John Harbaugh, brothers and rivals in embrace.Rob Carr/Getty Images
Josh CohenCorrespondent IIJanuary 18, 2013

No matchup will produce a more dramatic Super Bowl than the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens—Jim Harbaugh versus John Harbaugh.

It would be a grind to endure two weeks of Harbaugh family profiles in the lead up to the Super Bowl. By game day, we would know as much about Jim's and John's fraternal rivalry as we do about our own familial competitions.

That said, when the Ravens and Niners take the field, all of the pretense and manufactured storylines would fade away. What would remain is a genuinely emotionally-charged showdown between teams that respectively represent the past and future of the game of football.

 

John and the Old Guard

The elder Harbaugh brother's team seems like it comes straight out of another era.

First and foremost, the Ravens are a defense-first team featuring gritty future Hall of Famers.

When his postseason comes to a close, Ray Lewis will step off the field and start preparing for his Canton induction. Even at age 37 and playing with a torn triceps, he has been all over the field for the Ravens in the playoffs, a testament to his strength and intelligence.

Ball hawk Ed Reed will get in on the first ballot, too, while Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs may take a little longer. Over the course of a full season, the Ravens defense is no longer the elite unit it once was. With two weeks left before possibly the biggest game of their careers, however, these guys are as formidable a challenge as anyone around.

On the offensive end, Ray Rice is a throwback player as well. He may do most of his damage on the edges, but Rice is one of the few great work horses left in the NFL, and he may join his defensive comrades in the Hall someday.

Despite Joe Flacco's vertical passing game and explosive special teams, this is still a seasoned, smashmouth football team that won't back down to anyone.

 

Jim and a New Era

Out West, the younger Harbaugh is at the helm of one of the most exciting teams around.

As staunch as the Niners defense is, the 2012-13 iteration of this team is defined by its offensive revolution.

Conventional wisdom says that a winning team sticks by its quarterback and that you don't lose your starting spot due to injury. However, it's abundantly clear that Jim Harbaugh was exactly right to keep Colin Kaepernick under center after Alex Smith returned from his concussion.

Kaepernick has added multiple new dimensions to San Francisco's attack.

Of course, there's Kaeprnick running the ball out of the read option, which had explosive results as San Fran smacked the Green Bay Packers. That element spreads out the defense, taking pressure off Frank Gore and company running between the tackles.

With the strong-armed rookie at QB, Michael Crabtree has also emerged as a dominant wideout. That modern versatility makes the Niners' offensive game nearly unstoppable.

If Jim got a chance to put that offense to the test against his brother's defense in the Super Bowl, fans would witness some of the most sensational football they could ever ask for.

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