PHOENIX — John Harbaugh has a ton more to be proud of than being Jim’s – Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh – big brother.
He is, in fact, one of the more successful coaches in the history of the NFL, with six straight playoffs and a Super Bowl win over Jim’s San Francisco 49ers in his first seven seasons to begin his run with the Baltimore Ravens.
He is also a man of strong opinions and no shrinking violet when given a forum to express them.
Consider his response to a member of the media when asked at the NFL Owners meetings this week why he didn’t appear to agree that former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is being blackballed by the other 31 teams in free agency?
“Yeah, well, I would never use just the generic, stupid term like that to describe a more complicated type of situation,” Harbaugh replied.
“I just think it’s too easy, it’s intellectually lazy, you know? To me, I think it’s more nuanced. I absolutely think he’s going to get signed. I think he’ll probably be starting somewhere at some point next season, and I agree with Jim.
“I think he’ll be winning games for people so, you know, because he can win games for people I think he’s going to be playing for somebody.”
Asked if he disagreed that Kaepernick’s sideline protests had been a distraction, the Ravens coach said, “All those things factor in, what kind of a person he is, but Colin is a good person, he comes from a good family, he’s passionate about what he believes.
“It wouldn’t be a problem for us in our organization. We’ve been very clear over the years. Guys speak their minds in Baltimore.
“I think the players understand and everybody respects everybody else’s opinion on politics. It’s not going to impact how somebody plays. I’m not going to play better or worse because this person believes this or that.
“We could certainly disagree with anything, political opinion or how a guy wears his socks or whatever, it’s not going to impact how I perform.
“We’re allowed to have that conversation, and that’s what America is so I don’t think it impacts it really at all.”
Kaepernick is not the only topic on which Harbaugh is passionate. He has also been outspoken about restrictions on the time coaches can spend working with their players over the course of the season and offseason.
“The whole rant — I hate the term, rant, because it’s not a rant," he said. "Somebody expresses, I would say, a thoughtful agree, disagree, but if you don’t agree it’s a rant, if you do agree it’s a passion.
“C’mon. My thoughts, which are passionate at times, I just think that it’s really the hardest thing in the world to directly answer your question. The player comes in and he wants to lift weights, he wants to work on his footwork, he wants to catch a ball on the Jugs machine. He doesn’t want to go to Florida or California or Phoenix or somewhere to pay thousands and thousands, tens of thousands of dollars to train somewhere when he wants to be in the building with the people he trusts.”
"I understand all the politics behind it and, again, it’s nuanced, you know, there’s more to it than meets the eye. But it’s not American, it’s not common sense, it’s not right and it makes no sense."
Harbaugh also believes he has an answer to the problem.
“Yeah, I have a lot of ideas and here’s the thing — we’ve talked about them a lot," said Harbaugh. "The league’s been great, the Players Association’s been great, everybody’s talking about it and I think in the next CBA it’ll get adjusted.
“I hope, I really hope in a good way that we get past the bickering and basically the taking of sides; it’s not a poker game here. We’re not hoarding chips. You know all this negotiating, you know these guys, all these guys are in business 101. They’ve got these negotiating skills and they’re not going to give anything up unless they get something.
“Let’s just sit down and say, 'alright, what’s good for everyone involved here?' I think it would take about an hour to figure the whole thing out if everybody would just put their agendas aside.
“Let’s get together and do something that benefits everybody involved, including the fans.”
Here’s one more from the Ravens boss and former special teams coach of the Eagles: Why does he think special teams coordinators are still struggling to get NFL head coaching jobs?
"I just think that the people hiring are missing the boat," said Harbaugh. "It’s, you get a talent pool of these guys who are arguably the most prepared to step in and run a team.
“Bill Belichick is a good example. I know he came around to be a defensive coordinator but he was a special teams coach. Marv Levy, you know, Mike Ditka wasn’t too bad, Dick Vermeil was a good head coach, there’s history there.
“I honor Steve Bisciotti. I appreciate Steve Bisciotti for having the courage to think outside the box, but that’s what he does. He thinks differently than a lot of the other people, and you’ve got this pool of coaches that are being kind of ignored and all these other guys are kind of — some of them are successful, some of them aren’t — but all these guys over there are successful at what they do week in, week out and year in, year out, established successful coaches.
“There’s a reason they are successful, it’s because they’re good and there’s no reason to think that they wouldn’t have as good or a better chance of being successful as a guy that coaches another position.”
I had hoped to ask Harbaugh next what he thinks about what’s going on these days in Washington D.C., and maybe even Russia, but sadly we ran out of time.