NEW ORLEANS — If there were any doubt over whether the Baltimore Ravens belonged in the Super Bowl, Monday’s arrival in New Orleans was a sparkling debut for head coach John Harbaugh.
Dressed like a man more likely to run for public office than making his first Super Bowl appearance as a head coach, Harbaugh held court with a large media contingency on Monday evening and was on point throughout the 19-minute session. Handling more difficult questions about former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and President Barack Obama’s recent admission that he wouldn’t let his children play football as well as lighthearted questions about his brother Jim, Harbaugh made an excellent first impression with the Super Bowl media.
Harbaugh’s day got off to a good start on Monday by way of a passionate rally in downtown Baltimore prior to the Ravens’ departure for New Orleans in the afternoon afternoon. And he finished even stronger as he addressed questions six days prior to the Ravens’ meeting with the San Francisco 49ers at Super Bowl XLVII.
“We’re proud to be participants in the Super Bowl. We’re going to do our best to play our best in this game,” Harbaugh said. “We had an incredible sendoff down at the Inner Harbor this afternoon on our way to the airport. We had thousands, I’m not sure how many thousands, but lots of thousands of people there in a cold drizzle, on a January, Chesapeake Bay, afternoon. And they were there all morning waiting for us and they just went crazy.”
The Baltimore coach handled questions about his brother with humor and patience, knowing he will hear the queries all week despite his efforts to keep the focus on both team’s players.
He also won the initial fashion battle with his brother as he dressed in a sharp suit selected by his wife in contrast to Jim’s black sweatshirt and khakis. The style points mean nothing as far as what will happen on Sunday, but the Ravens coach represented the organization with the utmost level of class. And after four previous seasons of coming close — advancing to at least the divisional round in each season — Harbaugh appeared as though he belonged in the limelight.
A small contingency of players reflected Harbaugh’s professionalism as Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Terrell Suggs, and Matt Birk were dressed to the nines for their media sessions. Their comments reflecting nothing but a respect for San Francisco that’s shared by their coach.
“Our guys are class guys,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll play with character, we’ll play with class, we’ll be a tough, hard-nosed football team – that’s the way we’ll play. Before the game, after the game, I think we’re very respectful of our opponents, we always have been, and our opponents have respected us over the years. The team we’re playing is built the same way.”
Harbaugh has been to the Super Bowl before as a special teams coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles at the conclusion of the 2004 season. The Baltimore coach couldn’t recall any profound bits of wisdom from former Eagles head coach Andy Reid, but he referenced a thick planning book that was used when the Eagles met the New England Patriots in Jacksonville.
The 50-year-old Harbaugh will hope for a different result this time around as the Ravens look to win their second NFL championship in the last 13 seasons.
“You have a sense of the timing a little bit,” Harbaugh said. “You understand how the week goes. You understand the distractions, the potential distractions, and you understand the timeline for the game as much as anything. That will be a plus, but they’re all different.”