By Steve Silverman-
(CBS) Never was the end-of-game handshake as anticipated as it was at the end of Super Bowl XLVII, when the brothers Harbaugh went to greet each other.
What you saw was a classic.
Big brother John defeated little brother Jim.
As the two brothers stepped into each other’s space, Jim Harbaugh’s first words concerned the non-call on fourth down.
In Jim Harbaugh’s view, Michael Crabtree was interfered with or at least held as he went after Colin Kaepernick’s final pass in the endzone.
He moaned to his big brother, and the look on John’s face was classic. It was as if he was saying, “Here we go again. Any time Jim loses, he has an excuse.”
It then appeared as if Jim offered his congratulations and the two men walked away from each other, one a celebrant and the other to figure out what went wrong.
Jim Harbaugh was a petulant and angry man for the first 24 hours after his team lost the Super Bowl. If Harbaugh’s team had played any other opponent than a team coached by his brother, he probably would have reacted the same way.
That’s part of his make-up. He is not a good loser and there seems little doubt that John Harbaugh is far more mature and would have reacted in a more gentlemanly manner had his team had to swallow such a painful defeat.
While Harbaugh has some issues, he can coach football. He made the gutsy decision in benching highly rated Alex Smith for Colin Kaepernick, who was simply a much better football player.
Prior to naming Kaepernick the starter, Harbaugh was giving Kaepernick a series or two every game to show off his arm and athletic ability.
Kaepernick often looked like a superior athlete when he got those chances, but Harbaugh realized that alternating quarterbacks was no way for an NFL team to play.
Harbaugh has a much deeper understanding of the game than Rex Ryan, who seems more intent on publicizing his own brand than figuring out a way for his Jets to win consistently.
A coach like Ryan has been willing to hand off his offense to coordinator Tony Sparano, a.k.a “Coach Meatball”, who was not up to the job. Now it’s Marty Mornhinweg’s turn. Good luck there.
Harbaugh has an intelligent and thoughtful offensive coordinator in Greg Roman, but Harbaugh has control of the offense.
He makes the major decisions himself and he doesn’t foist head coaching responsibilities onto his assistants.
Harbaugh then takes the time to explain to his players what he is doing and why he is doing it. He does not simply depend on his status as being the head man and being the final word.
He deals with his players as individuals. He doesn’t protect them or shield them, but he looks his players in the eyes and explains what he is doing.
He cares about his players and he gets involved with them.
During Super Bowl week, Harbaugh did not merely answer questions from the media and then disappear after the media had its fill with him. He went around the room to check on his players to make sure they were comfortable with the media sessions.
No, he didn’t sit down with Kaepernick, Frank Gore and Patrick Willis. Instead, he sat at the tables with the 49ers backups who were virtually ignored by reporters. He didn’t want them to feel as if they were alone and unimportant.
That’s the kind of thoughtful and caring attitude that new Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman would be wise to take note of and apply to his own coaching.
Trestman is offensively creative and Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young is one of his strongest backers. However, while Trestman has the creative mind and a history of being able to implement his plan, he has to show he can relate to NFL players.
He ought to start by looking at the Jim Harbaugh model. More than anything, Harbaugh presents as down and dirty and in the battle with his players. Lovie Smith didn’t always come across that way. Trestman must make sure he does if he is going to have his best chance to succeed.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.