Things will be a lot different for Ravens head coach John Harbaugh Sunday as he faces the San Francisco 49ers for the first time since defeating the team in Super Bowl XLVII back in 2013.
Both of his former starting wideouts in Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith will now be trying to send his team on their way to their fifth loss of the season, not to a championship parade.
Harbaugh’s Ravens roster has undergone perhaps more of an overhaul than even the 49ers. And most importantly, he won’t be able to meet him brother, Jim, near midfield for a postgame handshake.
On a conference call with Bay Area reporters this week, Harbaugh said he won’t be attempting to play the older brother role come Sunday and take vengeance on those who seemingly bullied Jim out of the NFL. For the elder Harbaugh, it’s all business:
“You really don’t have time for that … Yeah, it’s too much to worry about and too much to prepare for. Too many things that we’re dealing with to even think about that stuff. That’s very much irrelevant to what we’re trying to accomplish. We got our hands full with what we’re trying to do as a football team right now to even think about any of that stuff.”
Harbaugh added that it wasn’t hard at all to put aside the sequence of events that led to his brother Jim’s “mutual-parting” with the San Francisco organization after a successful four-year stint as head coach of the 49ers.
During Jim Harbaugh‘s tenure, the 49ers reached three NFC Championship games, notched one Super Bowl appearance and were a dominant force in the NFL. Harbaugh finished with a historically good .688 career coaching record, going 49-22-1 overall during his time as head coach of the 49ers.
But despite the messy divorce between Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers, John Harbaugh stated that his brother enjoyed his time as a member of the San Francisco organization.
“Jim loved his time there. He loved the players, loved the fans, loved being a 49er. And they had four great years and everybody moves on to the next thing in life. … Once you realize all that, it’s bigger than worrying about anything besides that. And that’s how he feels about it. He’s great about it. And if he feels great about it, I feel great about it for him.”
Harbaugh took the diplomatic route in trying to downplay possible tension between his family and the 49ers organization, even going as far as to praise the work that new head coach Jim Tomsula has done. The elder brother wasn’t hesitant to speak highly of Jim’s work as well with the now 5-1 Michigan Wolverines:
“They won a couple tough games there … This last one against Northwestern, I can’t say I thought they were gonna win like that against a Top 15 team. They’re doing good. I was on the sideline there a couple weeks ago at Maryland, it was a fun experience to be a part of. I hadn’t been to a college game since Jim coached at the University of San Diego against Princeton, back when I was with the Eagles. So, it was a pretty cool experience.”
Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines have outscored opponents 97-0 in the last three games while riding a five-game winning streak into Saturday’s game against Michigan State.
Much like he did with Stanford and the 49ers, Harbaugh has quickly transformed a Wolverine team supposedly in a rebuild year into top contenders in the Big Ten.
Both the Ravens and the 49ers have suffered since Harbaugh left the league, with both teams residing at the bottom of their divisions with a 1-4 record. Both teams, once respected as defensive powerhouses, now languish in the bottom half of the league in total yards allowed per game, the Ravens 24th, and the 49ers a dismal 31st overall.
The two teams will also be without some potential offensive firepower come Sunday, as Vernon Davis continues to work through a knee injury, and Carlos Hyde was held out of practice Wednesday with a foot injury for the 49ers.
Meanwhile, Baltimore RB Justin Forsett was held out of practice with an ankle issue, while WR Steve Smith Sr. continues to mend a back injury sustained two weeks ago.
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