AFC North: Jim Harbaugh

Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh acknowledged Friday that the Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers will conduct four joint practices after their preseason opener.

This arrangement makes a lot of sense for both teams, and that's why it isn't out of the question to think this could become an annual family reunion with the Harbaugh brothers.

The ideal situation is the Ravens and 49ers holding combined practices with their NFL neighbors. But the Ravens and Washington Redskins haven't arranged an informal scrimmage since 2007, perhaps because of their battle over territorial lines and fans in Maryland. The 49ers and Oakland Raiders haven't always been willing to work together in the past, and they haven't played a preseason game since violence erupted during and after their August 2011 meeting at Candlestick Park.

The key to these joint practices is finding a common ground on practice structure. What kind of drills will be run? How much hitting will be allowed? Can teams control their players so punches aren't thrown and hits on quarterbacks don't occur? This isn't expected to be much of a problem with John and Jim Harbaugh, given the fact they even share the same team mantras like "Team, team, team" and "W.I.N." (What's important now). These practices also allow their father to watch both of his sons' practices and serve as "unofficial official."

The Harbaugh family will enjoy the rematch of the Super Bowl more than some of the players. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin hasn't faced the Ravens since being discarded for a sixth-round pick. Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs and 49ers offensive tackle Anthony Davis may have lingering bad blood after Suggs insinuated Davis was a "fake tough guy" and Davis responded by calling Suggs an (expletive) "loser."

This is the first time either team has held combined practices in their Harbaugh eras. Joint practices, though, aren't anything new. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills have a two-year agreement on meeting in training camp. The New England Patriots, who have conducted several joint practices over the years, could work out against the Philadelphia Eagles this year.

Combined practices will become even more popular if the NFL reduces the number of preseason games. Teams still need to evaluate their players, and these combined practice sessions would help offset fewer games. It's good foresight to establish these relationship between teams now.

If everything goes smoothly this summer with the Ravens and 49ers, it would be beneficial to both teams to make this more than a one-time family affair.
Nothing breaks up the monotony of training camp like a Harbaugh hoedown.

As expected, the Baltimore Ravens announced they will host the San Francisco 49ers for some scrimmages during training camp. The workouts between the former Super Bowl opponents appeared likely once the NFL announced earlier this month that the 49ers would open the preseason at Baltimore Aug. 7.

It is the first time the 49ers are playing on the East Coast in the preseason in nearly 20 years. The Harbaugh brothers -- John coaches the Ravens and Jim coaches the 49ers -- are going to take advantage of the long trip for the 49ers to get some extra competition time in.

NFL teams often do this in the offseason. This scenario is a bit different because the practices will be held after the game. John Harbaugh told reporters the two teams will practice at Baltimore’s M&T Stadium on Aug. 8. They will work at the Ravens’ practice facility for the next three days. The 49ers then host Denver the following weekend in their first game at Levi’s Stadium.

“We felt like the first two weeks, we needed to do our install process and all that kind of stuff and it would be better after the game,” John Harbaugh said. “It’s just going to be fantastic. I can’t wait to do it.”

In Harbaugh style, expect it to be a full family affair, including an appearance by the coaches' 74-year-old father, Jack.

“Dad is going to be out there,” John Harbaugh said. “He’s going to be the unofficial official. He’s going to be in charge of breaking up all fights. If we start rolling around on the field, Dad is going to have to jump in, I guess."

Just like old times.

Browns noise keeps on keeping on

February, 22, 2014
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PettineAP Photo/Tony DejakIn his short time with the Browns, new coach Mike Pettine has dealt with several distractions.
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Friday afternoon, Mike Pettine learned the Cleveland Browns had tried in January to send draft picks to San Francisco to acquire Jim Harbaugh to be the team’s coach.

A team official called Pettine to warn him the story would break.

His initial response was to, as he said, shoot the messenger.

“I asked, ‘How does this affect my tenure as the Cleveland Browns' head coach? Has that changed?’” Pettine said Saturday morning at the NFL combine. “The obvious answer was 'no.' Then I think my next line had something to do with having the word flying in it, or it referenced a part of a rat’s body.”

So Pettine didn't care a flying fig or a rat’s patootie that the Browns tried to trade for Harbaugh.

“It doesn't faze me,” he said. “That’s noise to me.”

His words were strong, but the look in his eyes and his face didn't match the words. Pettine almost seemed to be rolling his eyes at yet another report, this one from ProFootballTalk.com.

How close the Browns came to accomplishing a deal is up for debate. San Francisco owner Jed York posted on Twitter that the report was “not true.” Others said the Browns never asked the 49ers for permission to talk to Harbaugh, but ESPN's Chris Mortensen said the Browns and 49ers had serious discussions. Clearly the idea was discussed, and Harbaugh -- who led the 49ers to the past three NFC Championship Games -- was the mystery candidate then-Browns CEO Joe Banner declined to name.

The attempt to hire Harbaugh could be looked at a number of ways. The half-full view is they tried to find an established coach. The half-empty view says the front office really wasn't on the same page, that as it was talking to Pettine it was trying to hire Harbaugh.

Pettine could view it that he truly was an alternate choice, a guy the team settled on rather than the guy the team wanted. Now he could wonder how committed the Browns are to him.

Pettine does not look at it that way.

“What it tells me is that the Cleveland Browns have a desire to win and want to get this team back to a championship level,” he said. “To me it shows the commitment, but as far as how it affects me and my approach to how I’m going to coach this football team and how we are moving forward, it has zero effect.”

The Harbaugh deal was in the works when Banner and former general manager Mike Lombardi were in place with the Browns. Lombardi and Harbaugh have a close relationship, so the effort to bring Harbaugh aboard could have been his.

But just when the Browns seemed headed toward some sense of normalcy, the news broke and Pettine had to refer to a rat’s backside. In the short time he’s been with the Browns, the two guys who hired him have been fired, he’s working for a GM he didn't meet until the day he was hired (inside video on the team’s web site showed Lombardi introducing Pettine to Ray Farmer that day), and he's dealing with questions about a trade for another coach.

Quickly he’s learned what life can be like with the Cleveland Browns.

“A big thing about being a head coach is dealing with the noise, dealing with the distractions,” he said. “Just add that one to the list.”

It’s hardly one that could have been expected, though.

The way he said it, Pettine seemed startled and maybe even weary of all the drama. He didn't hide that reality when he was asked if the drama in Cleveland seems more frequent than in other cities.

“That potentially is an accurate statement,” Pettine said. “I’d like to think that it’s going to get quieter. That’s my goal, to quiet the noise. The sooner I can get off this podium and go in there and find some players to help the Browns the better. I know a lot’s happened. But it’s my goal to get the staff I've hired moving forward, that we can quiet things down and go about the business of winning football games.”

To that end, one of the first things he showed the new coaching staff was a little bit of Browns history. He showed a PowerPoint with a slide showing that since 1991, the Browns have been to the playoffs twice and won once.

“In those 23 years, there’s been 141 coaches,” he said. “The challenge for them was ‘How are we going to be different?’”
I watched the Oscars to see how first-time host Seth MacFarlane would fair (for the record, I thought he got better as the night went on). I didn't expect an NFL-related announcement to come during the show. During one commercial break, ABC revealed Ravens wide receiver-returner Jacoby Jones will be on ABC's "Dancing With The Stars," beginning next month. I will put up a post on this a little later. For the issues not involving the ramba, here's your wake-up call ...

RAVENS: 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh indicated that the Super Bowl loss to the Ravens won't affect his relationship with his older brother, Ravens coach John Harbaugh. Jim said at the NFL combine that he called John a few days after the Ravens defeated the 49ers, 34-31, in New Orleans. "We just got a strong relationship, and it just always seems to get stronger," Jim Harbaugh said, via The Baltimore Sun. "Very close. We talked a little bit about the game, and some other things. We discussed some facets of the game, and some other football talk.”

BENGALS: The Bengals were one of the 20 teams who talked to Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o at the NFL combine. Te'o has been the most talked-about prospect in this draft because of a bizarre hoax involving an Internet-created girlfriend. Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer told The Cincinnati Enquirer that the 15-minute chat focused mostly on football but everything was covered. “Some guys you can tell when they get excited talking about certain things and if they don’t," Zimmer said. "When you go back and start watching the tape I will have known a little bit about his background, watched a little more tape. He can tell you about some of the games he played good and bad in. You can talk to them a little bit about what happened on this play, what you are thinking.”

STEELERS: It may not be an issue with the Steelers that some draft prospects, like California wide receiver Keenan Allen, don't work out at the combine. As Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette points out, the Steelers drafted tight end Heath Miller first round eight years ago without seeing him workout because of injury. "Heath never worked out," general manager Kevin Colbert said. "He had a sports-hernia surgery and, to this day, I couldn't tell you what Heath Miller ran in the 40. And, quite honestly, it doesn't matter."

BROWNS: The Browns might regret not having a second-round pick to use on Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel, according to the Akron Beacon Journal's Marla Ridenour. "When he stepped to the podium, EJ Manuel of Florida State commanded it," Ridenour wrote. "At 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, he’s an impressive physical specimen with the body of a tight end. But it was more than that. Manuel had the confidence, the presence, the aura of a star." The Browns don't have a second-round pick because they used it on wide receiver Josh Gordon in last year's supplemental draft.
Michael CrabtreeDerick E. Hingle/USA TODAY SportsSan Francisco's Michael Crabtree is unable to make the catch on fourth down in the fourth quarter.
NEW ORLEANS -- The San Francisco 49ers needed five yards to break the Baltimore Ravens' hearts, and Dean Pees was having flashbacks.

"We were not going to let him run it in on us," the Ravens' defensive coordinator said a few moments later, referring to fleet-footed Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick. "We got beat in Washington because I let (Kirk Cousins) run it in on us. We got beat in Philadelphia because I let (Michael Vick) run it in on us. I wasn't going to let him run it in on us."

The 49ers needed five yards to steal Super Bowl XLVII with one of the greatest comebacks of all time, and Bernard Pollard was trying to keep it simple.

"In the huddle, before every one of those plays from the 5-yard line, all we kept saying was the same thing: 'Beat your man,'" the Ravens' safety said. "And if you look at that film, I promise you, every defensive back beat his man up. We understood the situation."

The 49ers needed five yards on fourth down, after failing to get them on second and third, and Kaepernick decided to change the play. When he saw the Ravens' safeties near the line of scrimmage, he audibled, calling for a fade route to Michael Crabtree in the right corner of the end zone. This shifted the running back out wide and, unbeknownst to Kaepernick, played directly into the Ravens' hands. To account for the back, safety Ed Reed slid out to his left, allowing him to slide over and help in coverage on Crabtree once it became apparent Kaepernick would throw. This allowed cornerback Jimmy Smith to play the fade, which he did with, um, enthusiasm.

"There's no question in my mind that there was a hold on Crabtree on the last play," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "In my opinion, that series should have continued."

However, it did not. Smith's extremely physical coverage of Crabtree, which certainly could have resulted in a holding call without surprising anyone, was let slide by a permissive officiating crew that had called a loose game all night. Kaepernick's pass fell incomplete, the Ravens took over, and a short time later the Super Bowl champion Ravens were celebrating the same five yards the 49ers will spend this entire offseason lamenting.

"The game was a display of our entire year," Reed said. "It started great, got ugly and ended great -- with 53 tickets to paradise."

This Super Bowl had pretty much everything, from Joe Flacco's MVP performance to Jacoby Jones' 108-yard kickoff return to the 34-minute third-quarter power outage that appeared to swing the momentum in San Francisco's favor. But in the end it came down to those last five yards -- second-and-goal, third-and-goal and fourth-and-goal from the 5-yard line. The Ravens knew those five yards weren't going to be easy to hold, and they were not.

"The way Colin was playing, he's just so dangerous, obviously it's always in your mind that he's going to take off and run on one of those plays," Ravens linebacker Paul Kruger said. "I think we were surprised he didn't."

Instead, the 49ers called three straight pass plays, all to Crabtree, all incomplete. On the first one, Harbaugh said he believed the call should have been pass interference on cornerback Corey Graham, who was jostling physically with Crabtree in the end zone while Kaepernick's throw sailed high. On third down, Kaepernick tried to hit Crabtree in the flat, but Graham and Smith broke up the pass. And on fourth down … well, we've already talked about that one.

What each of the three plays had in common was that Pees called a run pressure on each. He sent his pass-rushers into the backfield with a mission to contain, first and foremost -- to keep Kaepernick from taking off and running the ball in for the winning touchdown. With the ball that close to the goal line, Pees knew any pass thrown would be coming out quickly, so he figured there wasn't much time to get someone free to pursue a sack. He wanted to use his up-front guys to control the quarterback, which meant increased pressure on the defensive backs to stay true in coverage if he did throw. Like his players, Pees was surprised the Niners threw on all three plays.

"I thought that one [on third down] was going to be a run before they called that timeout," Pees said.

It may have been, but with the play clock ticking down the Niners had to call the timeout and reset. When the third-down pass was broken up, the fourth-down chess games began. Pees called a blitz that gave him another flashback -- this time to Super Bowl XLII, when he was calling defensive plays for the Patriots and Eli Manning and Plaxico Burress beat him for a Super Bowl-winning touchdown. This blitz Sunday, he said, was not exactly the same, but it reminded him of that one. The key difference for Pees will forever be that, this time, it worked. The blitzing linebacker hurried Kaepernick, Smith and Reed did what they had to do in coverage, and the pass went incomplete to give the Ravens a Super Bowl title.

"We had to make those last three plays," Pollard said. "We just had to, and we knew it. Look, this game … we didn't play great. We really didn't. But we won."

They'd played great in the first half, not so much in the second, but these battle-tested Ravens know how to focus on what matters. Sunday night, what ended up mattering was five yards the 49ers needed and the Ravens would not let them get.

Video: The other Harbaugh brother

February, 3, 2013
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video
The Mayne Event on the mysterious third Harbaugh brother, Lenny.

Video: Jim Harbaugh, 49ers arrive

January, 27, 2013
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Jim Harbaugh addresses the media Sunday with the San Francisco 49ers in pursuit of their sixth Super Bowl title.

Double Coverage: The dueling Harbaughs

January, 27, 2013
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Jim Harbaugh and John HarbaughUSA TODAY SportsGambles have paid off for Harbaugh brothers Jim (left) and John on their way to the Super Bowl.
Perhaps you've heard the news: Super Bowl XLVII features two head coaches from the same family. Brothers, in fact. You could look it up, or you could listen in while NFC West blogger Mike Sando and AFC North counterpart Jamison Hensley take (family) matters into their own hands.

Sando: The Baltimore Ravens seem like such a close-knit group. They seem like family even more than Jim and John Harbaugh do. But a few years ago, I recall hearing how some Ravens players weren't taking to John Harbaugh's abrasive, authoritarian coaching style. I'd be curious to know if there's been an evolution at all, or to what degree the relationship between John Harbaugh and the team has grown. What has changed?

Hensley: Mike, you're right that it's taken the players time to warm up to John. A lot of players thought he came across as too blunt and bent on doing things his way. In June 2010, at least one player complained to the NFL Players Association about voluntary offseason practices being too physical and meetings running too long. The Ravens were forced to cancel one week of their spring camps because of that.

To be fair, John Harbaugh came into a situation in which the locker room was filled with strong personalities, and he had never been a head coach before. But Harbaugh has grown into the role of head coach, especially this year. Players talk about Harbaugh being more open-minded and responsive to them. They feel more comfortable airing out their differences. This team is tighter than any of the previous ones under Harbaugh, and he has played a big role in that. I'm sure Jim faced some equally tough challenges in his first couple of seasons with the 49ers.

Sando: Jim Harbaugh also inherited a team with quite a few established players. But those players embraced him from the very beginning for reasons that say quite a bit about what makes a head coach and his staff credible. Players in San Francisco were starving for a coaching staff with the right answers to their schematic questions. Former coach Mike Singletary’s inspirational approach lost traction eventually because the offensive scheming was so lacking. Players will not respect coaches over the long term if those coaches don’t have schematic answers. Jim Harbaugh and his coaching staff have had those answers.

There is still room for growth in other areas for Harbaugh, however. His unrelenting intensity could have a limited shelf life if left unchecked. His approach carries long-term risks as far as sustainability. But with the team advancing to the Super Bowl within a two-season period of his hiring, that isn’t an issue now.

Hensley: The key word that you touched upon is risk. The common theme is John and Jim aren't afraid of it. That was apparent by the bold moves they made during the season.

[+] EnlargeJohn Harbaugh and Joe Flacco
Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY SportsJoe Flacco has responded well to a late-season coaching move by head coach John Harbaugh (left).
John Harbaugh fired his offensive coordinator with three weeks remaining in the regular season when the Ravens were in first place in the AFC North and on the brink of clinching a playoff berth. Who does that? Harbaugh handed the offense over to Jim Caldwell, who hadn't called plays since his days at Wake Forest more than a decade ago.

The result has been more of a commitment to the run and loosening the reins on Joe Flacco. It could have backfired on Harbaugh, but he repeatedly said it was the right move for the team.

The only move that would trump a coaching change like that is switching your quarterbacks at midseason. Oh, wait. That's treading on your territory, Mike. I know people will get tired of hearing about the brothers and the Har-Bowl, or whatever you want to call it. But John and Jim have made the necessary moves to get their teams to this point.

Sando: No question. Jim Harbaugh easily could have stayed the course with Alex Smith, who had posted a 19-5-1 record as a starter and taken the team to the NFC Championship Game a year ago. That would have been the safe move. That would have insulated Harbaugh from criticism if Colin Kaepernick faltered, which easily could have happened in the short term as the offense adjusted to a quarterback with a different style.

Anything less than reaching the NFC Championship Game this season would have cast the Kaepernick decision as a failure in the public’s eye -- and maybe in some players’ eyes, too. I do suspect the decision wasn’t as tough for Harbaugh as it appeared from the outside. He traded up to draft Kaepernick. He watched Kaepernick light it up against Chicago in that Monday night game before he decided on the starter going forward. Harbaugh was in position to know how good Kaepernick could be. He just had to navigate through the politics of an in-season change.

Hensley: The biggest change John Harbaugh made since he took over in 2008 was with the team culture. The Ravens were seen by many as thugs who talked trash to every opponent. In his introductory news conference, Harbaugh said his focus was going to be on three things: team, team and team.

Harbaugh's greatest strengths as a coach are his attention to detail, ability to motivate and focus. Walk the halls of Ravens headquarters, and you’ll see one of Harbaugh’s favorite slogans throughout the building: W.I.N. (What’s Important Now). Some players think it's too rah-rah for the NFL, and it seems better suited for college. But you can't argue with Harbaugh's results. He's the only head coach in NFL history to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons, and also the only coach to advance to three conference title games over that same span. If the Ravens win the Super Bowl, Harbaugh will tie Bill Belichick for the most wins since the start of the 2008 season.

Sando: Not bad company there, Jamison. The slogans you cited made it clear to me that we will not need DNA testing to confirm the relationship between these two Super Bowl coaches and their formerly coaching father, Jack. “The team, the team, the team” is a favorite Jim Harbaugh saying. He also posted a sign outside the 49ers' locker room in Santa Clara stating that a person is getting better or getting worse, never staying the same.

Jim also likes to punctuate victories in the locker room by gathering the team around him and asking, “Who’s got it better than us?” To which the players scream, “Nobody!” That one came from Jack Harbaugh back when the family was moving frequently and living on a tight budget. The Harbaughs are rolling in money now, at least relatively speaking, but they sound like the same guys in so many ways.

Hensley: While we have talked about the similarities of the Harbaugh brothers as coaches, no one should lose sight of the family element here. It must be tough for John and Jim to know that only one is going to be holding the Lombardi Trophy. It must be tougher for their father and mother.

One of the reasons Jim chose the 49ers was because they were in the NFC and that reduced the chances of facing John on a regular basis. That's why I agree with Jim that this is both a blessing and a curse. There will be stories all week leading up to the Super Bowl celebrating the top coaching family in football. Come Sunday night, only one brother will be celebrating.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Brothers Harbaugh haven't talked since both of their teams advanced to the Super Bowl. Yet their message to the media is the same: Focus on the players, not the Harbaughs.

John and Jim are already tired of the all-Harbaugh Bowl, and it's only days removed since the Ravens and 49ers won their conference championship games. John Harbaugh said all the sibling stories were told before the 2011 Thanksgiving game between the two teams, like the one in which they put the tape down the middle of their shared bedroom as kids.

"We aren’t that interesting. There is nothing more to learn," John Harbaugh said. "It’s just like any other family, really. I really hope the focus is not so much on that. We get it. It’s really cool, and it’s really exciting and all of that. It’s really about the team. It’s about the players. The more we focus on those guys, the better it is for everybody.”

The reason why there will be so much hype about John and Jim Harbaugh is brothers usually play each other in "Madden" video games, not in the Super Bowl. In fact, while there have been nine other sets of brothers to face each other as head coaches in the NBA, NHL and MLB, this is the first time that brothers will compete in a postseason game as head coaches in any of the four major pro sports in the United States, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

John Harbaugh, though, scoffed at the historical significance of brothers coaching against each other in the Super Bowl.

"It’s not exactly like Churchill and Roosevelt," he said.

An hour after John Harbaugh spoke to reporters Monday, Jim Harbaugh repeated the same theme, calling this milestone family reunion "a blessing and a curse."

"The blessing because it’s my brother’s team and also personally I played for the Ravens," Jim Harbaugh said. “The curse part would be that talk of two brothers playing in the Super Bowl and what that takes away from the players that are in the game.”

The constant questions about family is something John and Jim should get used to over the next two weeks. The odds of no one talking about the "Battle of the Brothers" are just as good as the odds of Ray Lewis not doing his signature dance at the Super Bowl.

This Sunday's AFC wild-card game is like six degrees of Jim Harbaugh.

Luck
Ravens coach John Harbaugh is the brother of 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, who coached Colts quarterback Andrew Luck when they were both at Stanford. So, will Jim Harbaugh give an inside scouting report to his brother?

“I hope he would share some stuff with me," Harbaugh said, drawing laughter from reporters.

Harbaugh then added, "What are you going to get? You can see it on tape. He’s a tremendous quarterback. He’s got pluses, and he has things that aren’t so plus. So, it’s like any quarterback. We’ll be looking forward to playing against him.”

It would be foolish for John Harbaugh to not call his brother. Obviously, by working with Luck every day, Jim Harbaugh can provide insight that you can't see on film.

In many ways, it would just be evening the score for the Ravens. You know Colts coach Chuck Pagano is going to draw on his knowledge from last season, when he was the Ravens' defensive coordinator.
Teams don't fire their offensive coordinator in the same week they can clinch a playoff spot. Teams also don't change quarterbacks in late November when they're getting ready to go on a Super Bowl run.

It looks like making unorthodox moves runs in the Harbaugh family.

A month after Jim Harbaugh committed to Colin Kaepernick over Alex Smith in San Francisco, John Harbaugh dismissed offensive coordinator Cam Cameron in Baltimore. John Harbaugh said he thought about the potential of this becoming a distraction, but he decided to do it because it was best for the team.

“I don’t think it will be disruptive. I think it will be positive," John Harbaugh said at his Monday news conference. "It will be up to all of us to make it that way. Like we talked to the team: the solutions are right here in the room to improving."

Like his brother Jim, John Harbaugh isn't one to give specifics on why he made the move. Was it the run-pass ratio? Was it the lack of the no huddle? Harbaugh was vague on what prompted him to fire Cameron.

"It would be real easy to go the route in saying it's the result of something and somebody is taking the blame for something. It is not that," Harbaugh said. "People are going to believe what they want to believe. It's what I believe is best for our offense and for our football team. That's not to say anybody can't do the job or didn't do the job. Cam was doing a heck of a job here and nobody knows that better than me. And nobody stated that more times. I believe that. I also believe right now at this time, the timing says that this is the best thing. This is what we're going to do."

Harbaugh said there were phone calls made last night about Cameron and acknowledged it was his decision to make the move. But he danced around a question on whether owner Steve Bisciotti had suggested removing Cameron.

"I'm not getting into any of that," Harbaugh said. "We do a great job in this organization of communicating and talking. I'll just leave it at that."

Harbaugh also wouldn't say whether Jim Caldwell, who replaces Cameron, will remain the offensive coordinator for next season.

"This is an opportunity for us to win football games," Harbaugh said. "Long term considerations are long-term considerations. That’s not at the forefront of our mind."


ESPN's Trent Dilfer, Chris Mortensen and Mel Kiper Jr. talk about the intensity of the Harbaugh brothers and the draft needs for the Ravens and 49ers. Mortensen also predicts a Harbaugh will be hoisting up the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the 2012 season. Click on the video to see if it's John or Jim Harbaugh.

No Super Bowl talk among Harbaughs

January, 17, 2012
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It was a major family affair when John and Jim Harbaugh coached against each other on Thanksgiving night.

Can you imagine the spectacle if the brothers went head-to-head in the Super Bowl? It's a realistic possibility with John Harbaugh's Ravens and Jim Harbaugh's 49ers one win away from competing for the Lombardi trophy.

Jack Harbaugh, the father of John and Jim, told 790 the Zone in Atlanta that the family will think about that possibility once the AFC and NFC championship games are over Sunday.

“That’s a long way away and we haven’t thought about it, discussed it, so we just kinda play that out," Jack Harbaugh said. "The most important thing is this is about Jim and John and we hope that they both have success as all parents out there can understand that have children that are involved in any type of activity.”

Jack Harbaugh and his wife won't be traveling to San Francisco or New England to watch in person. They'll be sitting at their Wisconsin home.

"We’re able to stay here and watch and we’ve got understanding neighbors when they hear the pounding and the shouting they understand that it’s just part of the weekend routine for us," he said. "We’re very comfortable and very happy where we are and enjoying from long range.”

John Harbaugh watched the 49ers edge out the New Orleans Saints on Saturday, and Jim Harbaugh saw the Ravens beat the Houston Texans on Sunday.

"It's pretty neat," John Harbaugh said. "I'm proud of him. He's proud of what we're doing. Our parents are pretty fired up."

Said Jim Harbaugh: "I had a chance to watch his game, and find myself, as always, pulling very hard for him and his team. I'm very happy for him and his success."

AFC North Stock Watch

December, 20, 2011
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NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. Odds of an AFC North team capturing the AFC's top seed: The Ravens would've clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs by winning out, but they got routed on Sunday night. The Steelers were then in control of the No. 1 seed until they got hammered on Monday night. The Ravens and Steelers showed no urgency when the most coveted postseason spot was within their grasps. The failures of these AFC North rivals likely means the road to the Super Bowl in the AFC will go through New England.

2. Steelers' record against the Harbaugh brothers: The Steelers' mark against John and Jim Harbaugh dropped to 0-3 after they lost at San Francisco. Pittsburgh's record against the rest of the league is 10-1. What the teams under the Harbaugh brothers have done better than most is force the Steelers into committing costly mistakes. In the three combined losses to the Ravens and 49ers, Pittsburgh has turned the ball over 13 times and has taken it away once.

3. AFC North teams on the West Coast: A theme for the AFC North teams this year is "How the West was lost." This division has struggled mightily when traveling across the country, going 2-6 on West Coast trips this season. It really bottomed out in Week 15, when the AFC North's top two teams (the Ravens and Steelers) lost by a combined score of 54-17 in prime-time games in California. The only two West Coast trip wins by the AFC North were the Bengals at Seattle and the Steelers at Arizona.

RISING

[+] EnlargeJabaal Sheard
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireJabaal Sheard has recorded 7.5 sacks for the Browns this season.
1. Rookie wide receivers: The Bengals' A.J. Green, the Ravens' Torrey Smith and the Browns' Greg Little have all flashed potential throughout the season. This rookie trio really stood out in an otherwise forgettable week for the division's offenses. Green, Smith and Little totaled 17 receptions for 323 yards and two touchdowns. This came at a time when these receivers are supposed to be hitting the rookie wall.

2. Bengals on the road: Young teams like Cincinnati are expected to struggle on the road. But the Bengals have been one of the most successful NFL teams away from home. Cincinnati improved to 5-3 after surviving a scare at St. Louis. The only teams that have more road wins than the Bengals are the New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers. This is quite a turnaround for the Bengals, who came into the season having lost 11 of their past 12 road games.

3. Jabaal Sheard, Browns defensive end: Cleveland's second-round draft pick has actually outplayed first-round pick Phil Taylor this season. Sheard is finishing his rookie season strong, recording five sacks in his past five games (including two at Arizona Sunday). He now has 7.5 sacks, which is the most for a Browns rookie since linebacker Kamerion Wimbley had 11 in 2006.

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