With unique insight from his older brother John, Jim Harbaugh took a historic step into the NFL on Friday when he became the 18th coach of the San Francisco 49ers.
It was historic because there have never been two brothers serving as head coaches in the NFL before — John is in his third successful season with the Ravens. It was also historic because Jim Harbaugh recreated the path taken by Bill Walsh some 41 years ago — from the University of Stanford to San Francisco — when Walsh launched the 49ers' dynasty era.
Harbaugh's introduction brought to a swift conclusion a whirlwind week when Stanford beat Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl and triggered a bidding war for the Cardinal coach. He was sought by Michigan and Stanford at the college level, and by the Miami Dolphins and 49ers in the NFL.
"I view it as the perfect opportunity, [the] perfect competitive platform, with these pros, with the level playing field, the chance to be part of a team that has a chance to go after the highest award in all of sports, and that's the Lombardi Trophy," Harbaugh said at his San Francisco unveiling.
Harbaugh reportedly will get a five-year contract worth $25 million to succeed Mike Singletary, who was fired before the end of his second season.
John Harbaugh, 48, assisted his brother, 47, with advice on coaching in the NFL and even arranged a meeting between Jim and Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti.
"It was all the things you can imagine," John said about the discussions he had with his brother. "He's pretty thorough; he had gone through his list, laid it out in his mind. He wanted to do the right thing professionally, and he wanted to do the right thing for his family."
John said Jim also spoke with their father, Jack, who had a 41-year coaching career, and brother-in-law Tom Crean, Indiana's basketball coach — "all the people he knows," John said.
Among the topics were what Jim viewed as important at the NFL level, what it would take to be successful and what type of relationship he needed to have with his owner, Jed York, and new general manager, Trent Baalke.
"No doubt in my mind he'll be successful," John Harbaugh said.
The two brothers — who, John said, shared a bedroom for 18 years — could go head-to-head next season if there is a new collective bargaining agreement. The 49ers are scheduled to play in Baltimore on an as yet unspecified date.
"We did talk about it, and John said they'd probably make it the Thursday night kickoff game for the opener," Jim Harbaugh said. "It'll be great. And that's part of the reason … about making the jump to the National Football League. I said it's the opportunity and the perfect competitive challenge. I look forward to coaching against John Harbaugh and Bill Belichick and the many great coaches in the National Football League."
Jim espoused many of the same values John has in Baltimore when talking about playing the game the right way. And he showed the same kind of determination in accepting the job.
"I have an unshakable confidence," he said, "and great faith … in human beings in their desire to want to be part of a team, want to be part of something great, whether it's building a great cathedral or winning a Lombardi Trophy."
Harbaugh also avoided comparisons, just as John does.
"I don't really ever make any comparisons between myself and other coaches, or really comparing anything," Jim said. "I hope to be very underestimated. I've always found that to be a wonderful competitive advantage and will try to cling to that advantage as long as we can."
Jim played 15 NFL seasons as quarterback for the Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, Ravens, San Diego Chargers and Carolina Panthers after being a first-round pick in 1987. He threw for 26,288 yards and 129 touchdowns.
"He's just got a great sense of what motivates those games," John said. "He's done it as a player and a coach, and did it at the lowest level [coaching]. He was willing to humble himself."
Jim's contract as a first-time NFL coach will likely help John when he looks to extend his four-year deal with the Ravens in the offseason.
"We're not competitive against each other professionally now," John said. "We've been rooting for each other."