Something happened during last season's Super Bowl week I'll never forget. Harbaugh was at a brief news conference and photo session with his family -- his brother John, coach of the opposing Baltimore Ravens, his parents, and his 98-year-old grandfather (who died last week). John was wearing a sport coat and a tie and a smile. Jim was wearing the pleated khakis, the librarian pen and a scowl. When the last question was asked, he turned and marched off the stage without so much as a goodbye.
His mother, though, reached out and snagged him by the elbow, hard. She gave him a look that said, "You're staying right here, young man, and we're taking some photos to remember all this by." And only then did Harbaugh stand still long enough to take some pictures with his family at a historic family Super Bowl. Oy.
Carroll 5, Harbaugh 3.
Both men replaced their starting quarterbacks in 2012 with unknown backups. But Carroll replacing Matt Flynn with Russell Wilson doesn't take nearly the guts of Harbaugh replacing No. 1 overall draft pick Alex Smith with Colin Kaepernick. Smith had taken the Niners to the NFC title game the season before. In Week 8, he'd gone 18-for-19, nearly setting a record. And yet, three weeks later, I was standing there that Monday night after Kaepernick thrashed the Chicago Bears in relief and somebody was asking Harbaugh, "So Alex gets his job back when he's healthy?"
And Harbaugh said, as though he were deciding on what to have for lunch, "I usually go with the hot hand." Just like that. Have a clipboard, Alex. We got a new guy.
Carroll, 5, Harbaugh 4.
PASSION, PLAN AND PROGRESS
These may be the two most passionate coaches on earth. They both embraced the same exact plan at the same time -- build a killer defense, run the ball down their throats, and get a young running QB who can break teams. They have become, far and away, the two best and most competitive teams in the NFC -- perhaps because they are the two best and most competitive coaches in the NFC.
Maybe that's why they repel each other. They're two north ends of the same magnet.
Carroll, 5, Harbaugh 4.
IN THE END . . .
I'm on Carroll's side of the v., but just barely. I like Carroll, but I'm fascinated by Harbaugh. If I could have only one call to bail me out of jail, it'd be Carroll. If I had only one man to cover the rest of my days, it would be Harbaugh. If I had to pick one man to win this game Sunday, it'd be Carroll.
Mark that with your neck pen.
But isn't it delectable? Jackhammer v. surfer. Square v. slick. Two men who gall each other and yet will be flung together constantly like this for years.
Awful for them. Lovely for us.