There is no mistake that the main story line of Super Bowl XLVII is the match-up between Jim and John Harbaugh, but not for the reason that many might think. What has set them apart from other coaches is the fact that they have gotten there their own way. Both brothers made decisions late in the season that have paid off and gotten them over the hump.
Last season the Harbros saw their season end in the Championship round. John's Ravens were ousted by the New England Patriots and Jim's 49ers by the eventual Super Bowl Champions New York Giants.
John's Ravens were sitting at 9-4 in week 15 of the regular season after a tough overtime loss to the Washington Redskins. He decided that it was time for a change. So against all common sense he fired his offensive coordinator Cam Cameron with just three weeks left in the regular season.
The decision was met with questioning and backlash from the media and coaches, and it only grew louder after the Ravens were demolished by the Denver Broncos the following week 34-17. Jim Caldwell, who was fired from the Indianapolis Colts head coaching job after last season, was promoted from quarterbacks coach and tried to make changes to the game plan that did not work.
However, he did not fold on his plan and he went back to what the Ravens do the best, run the ball. In the next game both Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce ran for over 100 yards on 38 combined carries in a critical game against the New York Giants.
The offense as a whole has improved averaging 406.2 yards under Caldwell, while they only averaged 344.4 yards while Cameron was still running the offense according to ESPN.
Joe Flacco has also thrived in Jim Caldwell's offense. After an up-and-down regular season Flacco has out-dueled Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady to reach the Super Bowl. During those three games he's thrown eight touchdowns and no interceptions.
Little brother Jim made a change of a different kind. He had a quarterback that had the best completion rating in the league at the time of his injury. In his last full start of the season he went 18-19, with 232 yards and three touchdowns, on Monday Night Football, against a fast(and at times dominant) Cardinals defense, wait...what?
That quarterback was Alex Smith, who took a pay cut to stay with the 49ers and made one of the greatest throws in post season history against the New Orleans Saints last season to lead them into the NFC Championship game, wait... WHAT?!
However Harbaugh wasn't thinking about regular season stats, records or last season; he was thinking of the future, he wasn't thinking of next season, he was thinking of the dreaded NFC championship game.
Colin Kaepernick's regular season starts went as expected, there were spectacular ups and considerable downs. In his first start against the Chicago Bears he lit up the best defense in football for 243 yards and two touchdowns in a 32-7 Monday Night romp.
On the other end of the spectrum he had costly mistakes in losses to the St. Louis Rams and the Seattle Seahawks. For Jim, the athletic ability and explosiveness that Kaepernick brought outweighed the mistakes that would come with a inexperienced quarterback.
With Smith at quarterback they could only win one way: run the ball, play great defense and not turn the ball over. So it was only fitting that second year quarterback Colin Kaepernick's first throw in the post-season was an interception that was returned for a touchdown. The young stud wasn't shaken, he came back and set the NFL record for rushing yards by a quarterback while leading them to a win over the Green Bay Packers.
With Smith at the helm there were questions if the 49ers could win a game coming from behind. Again, Kaepernick justified Jim's decision. Against the Falcons in the NFC championship game they trailed 17-0 after the first quarter. Kaepernick lead them back with Joe Montana-esque poise to a 28-24 win.
In both cases the Harbaughs left everyone, including me, eating crow. It's only fitting that the Super Bowl is in New Orleans this year, because these two men will be marching into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to the beat of their own drum.