SANTA CLARA — These days, Jack Harbaugh stays away from game-planning chatter or strategy sessions with his Super Bowl-bound coaching sons. Baltimore's John Harbaugh and little brother Jim of the San Francisco 49ers have been doing this long enough now to no longer need dad's input.
Yet, they still regularly seek it. And, their father does offer one basic mantra: "Get ahead, stay ahead."
"Probably the greatest advice that I've ever been given and the only advice that I've ever found to be true in all of coaching, I think we mentioned it to both John and Jim ... the coaching advice is, 'Get ahead, stay ahead,'" Jack Harbaugh said.
"If I'm called upon, I'll repeat that same message."
His boys still call home regularly to check in with the man who turned both on to the coaching profession years ago, and the mother who has handled everything behind the scenes for decades in a highly competitive, sports-crazed family — with all the routine sports clichés to show for it.
The Harbaugh brothers will become the first siblings to square off from opposite sidelines when their teams play for the NFL championship Feb. 3 at the New Orleans Superdome.
John Harbaugh watched the end of Jim's game from the field in Foxborough, Mass., as Baltimore warmed up for the AFC championship game. Jim called his sister's family from the team plane before takeoff after a win at Atlanta and asked how his big brother's team was doing against New England.
The improbable Super Bowl that has quickly been nicknamed "Harbowl" or "Superbaugh" features a set of brothers known around the NFL as fierce competitors unafraid to make a bold move during the season.
In fact, each one made a major change midseason to get this far — John fired his offensive coordinator, while Jim boosted his offense with a quarterback switch from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick.