They say the hardest thing to do is make it to the Super Bowl after you made it the year before. A repeat is almost unheard of. So how hard is it to make it after you barely missed it? Is it easy? Certainly not. But Jim and John Harbaugh showed how you can take that negative and turn it into a positive. Only one Harbaugh can win, but they proved they have a special coaching talent in their blood.
Getting so close to the Super Bowl and falling short is difficult. As a result, you can either mope and be down on yourself, or commit to doing anything and everything it takes to get back. John Harbaugh was able to instill this into his players. After many playoff appearances coming up short, he broke the barrier and has gotten his team to the promised land. But not without help.
Joe Flacco, a quarterback who was scrutinized by just about everyone outside of Maryland, has been on fire this postseason. He’s passed for 843 yards and eight touchdowns with zero interceptions, while outdueling Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the process.
And let’s not forget Ray Lewis. The future hall of famer has come back from a torn triceps to pile up 44 tackles in his last ride. The emotion and heart Lewis plays with has not only elevated his own performance, but also that of his teammates. He’s a true leader who makes his teammates better and brings the intangibles that every team wants.
The Ravens’ defense has been feared for the past decade, but injuries changed that this year. In the playoffs, however, the Baltimore defense has stepped up. That was most notable against the Patriots, who saw two Brady interceptions and only 13 points — zero in the second half.
Now, onto Jim Harbaugh and his San Francisco 49ers. In his first year as a head coach, Jim turned the Niners into a legitimate contender. The defense and Frank Gore have always been constant, but Jim was faced with a decision midway through the season. Should he stick with Alex Smith who brought them to the championship game, or take a leap of faith and go with Colin Kaepernick, who may be the missing peace to bringing them to a Super Bowl?
I think he made the right decision.
Kaepernick has become a unique dual-threat quarterback in just his first as a starter. He doesn’t turn the ball over like Michael Vick. He protects himself unlike Robert Griffin III. He can run faster than Cam Newton. But what’s most impressive is how he passed the ball against the Falcons when the team needed him to, down 17-0. Smith couldn’t do that. He was just a game manager. Kaepernick is a force of nature.
Linebacker Patrick Willis shouldn’t be overlooked either. He’s the heart of the 49ers’ defense, and their equivalent to Lewis, only not as vocal. His attitude affects his teammates and his play on the field does the talking.
What’s the most impressive of the way the Harbaughs have made it to the Super Bowl is just how heartbreaking their losses were in last year’s championship games. Everyone remembers Lee Evans’s drop, Billy Cundiff’s miss and Kyle Williams’s muffed punts. To be literally a mistake away from glory is a tough pill to swallow.
The Harbaughs swallowed it, moved on and got better.
While there can only be one winner, it’s important to realize the new culture that the Harbaughs have brought to the NFL. They’ve returned to the smash mouth and physical style of play. They’ve used motivational tactics to get the most out of their players. But the biggest thing with them, like Lewis, is their heart. The sheer will to win has brought success to the Harbaugh family. It’s a mindset that they have instilled in their players and it has translated into results.
In the passing league NFL these days, everyone says you need a top-five quarterback to win a Super Bowl. But there won’t be one in the Super Bowl, so is there a new strategy to follow? Is it get a Harbaugh?
Sorry, they’re both taken.