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By Steve Silverman
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Make no mistake about it: This is an intense and personal battle for the two Harbaugh brothers in Super Bowl XLVII.
Both brothers are saying and doing all the right things at the media circus as the teams prepare to play for the NFL championship.
Jim Harbaugh actually gave his brother John full marks as being the superior coach.
“Maybe I’m half the coach he is,” Harbaugh said on media day. “Perhaps I’m not even at that level. He’s been at it more than twice as long as I have, and he has been a playoff coach every year he’s been in the NFL. That’s telling you how great a coach he really is.”
Both Harbaugh coaches have shown that they don’t lack for courage.
When Jim decided to replace Alex Smith with Colin Kaepernick, that was perhaps the gutsiest decision by any NFL coach made all season.
Smith plays the same style of football as Kaepernick, and he had a superb 2011 season and was completing 70 percent of his passes. Few coaches would consider going to the backup once the starter was healthy enough to play, but Harbaugh had no interest in going with a guy who could lead the Niners to a win over the Rams or the Bears.
He wanted a quarterback who could win the Super Bowl. His decision came from his gut, and his gut was quite educated.
Harbaugh used his own experience as a player and a coach to make the move, and he saw Kaepernick as a spectacular athlete with the skills to dominate at the position.
It’s one thing to come to that conclusion in the privacy of your own office or even discuss it with your assistants, but to implement it at the midway point of the season is incredibly gutsy.
It’s much like the decision that John made when he fired his long-time friend and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron with just a few weeks to go in the season.
The Ravens’ offense was stagnating, and it appeared that the team was in the middle of a meltdown similar to the one the Giants went through this season. But instead of going with the flow and letting Cameron try to right the offensive ship, Harbaugh made the toughest executive decision of his career.
He let his buddy go and he handed the Ravens’ offense over to Jim Caldwell, the failed former head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.
Harbaugh was not happy with the direction of the Ravens’ offense, and he was not pleased that superb running back Ray Rice was not getting his hands on the football as much as he should have been.
While that’s enough to make any coach angry, it’s not enough to change horses midstream. Getting rid of Cameron wasn’t the proper medicine; giving Caldwell the chance was the proper move.
Running a Super Bowl-caliber offense is not a simple job. While Rice is probably the best all-around player on the Ravens’ offense, it was Joe Flacco’s passing that got the Ravens past the Broncos in the divisional playoffs and the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.
Caldwell will probe with Rice at various points in the game, but he understands that Flacco has the ability to throw the deep ball without risking an interception. He will stretch the field and that will make Rice much more dangerous.
Both coaches have plenty of guts and plenty of support in the locker room.
But the 49ers have a much better defense. The Ravens struggled in that area through much of the regular season. While they have played better in the playoffs, the 49ers’ offense will put significant pressure on the Ravens’ defense that the Broncos and Patriots couldn’t.
Kaepernick has the ability to go to the outside and run with the football. Neither Peyton Manning nor Tom Brady could do that.
The Ravens’ defense is not fast enough anymore to stay with Kaepernick. If the Ravens manage to slow down the run, Kaepernick will find that his receivers are getting man coverage and he will defeat it.
Flacco will make a few big plays, but Kaepernick is more consistent.
So the coaching matchup in this game appears even. But the quarterback advantage goes to the 49ers, and the defense advantage also goes to the Niners.
San Francisco will join the Pittsburgh Steelers as the only six-time winners of the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl XLVII will be broadcast on CBS, with kickoff set for 6:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Are you with Silvio? Will the 49ers win their sixth Super Bowl on Sunday? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…