AFC title game rivals are stable at coaching position

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Bill Belichick has this nice habit. He coaches in Super Bowls.

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Belichick  Michael Dwyer
Michael Dwyer
Belichick

John Harbaugh has established an impressive trend, too: winning playoff games.

When they face off Sunday for the second consecutive year in the AFC championship, Belichick’s Patriots and Harbaugh’s Ravens will offer further proof of the value of stability.

No coaching carousels in New England and Baltimore.

Belichick has been on the job since 2000 and has gone to five Super Bowls, winning the first three. One more trip to the big game and he will tie Don Shula for most Super Bowl coaching assignments.

“He never changes,” veteran guard Logan Mankins said. “It’s always the same way from him. He coaches the same way. He demands the same things. So, when you have that leader in that role, I think it’s easy for everyone else to fall in line.”

Harbaugh has managed something Belichick, Shula and every other NFL coach has not: winning in the postseason in each of his first five years on the job. He’s also been to seven conference title games, four as an assistant in Philadelphia.

Belichick and Harbaugh have reached the pinnacle in the AFC, which hardly is enough for them. They will remain true to their philosophies and personas as they try to guide their teams to New Orleans.

For Belichick, that means a high level of secrecy, never providing any bulletin board material or any real insight when asked about how the Patriots (13-4) have been so triumphant under him. Belichick flopped in Cleveland in his first stint as a head coach, but his work in New England is the envy of his peers.

Harbaugh, a former special teams coach who reached the Super Bowl with the 2004 Eagles, has adjusted well throughout his tenure in Baltimore (12-6). When he joined the Ravens, they had a premier, shutdown defense. Recently, they’ve become more dependent on their offense.

Regardless, Harbaugh approaches the job in the same way: tirelessly.

“We get after it in practices and games. We try to bring a physicality and toughness to everything we do,” veteran center Matt Birk said. “We have a willingness to work hard, and we do, and that comes from coach Harbs.”

Harbaugh is 6-3 in the playoffs, including a 33-14 victory at Gillette Stadium three years ago. He’s lost in both trips to the AFC title game, including 23-20 to New England last January.

Should he help the Ravens get to their first Super Bowl since the 2000 season, he just might meet his younger brother, Jim, in the Big Easy. Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers are playing at Atlanta for the NFC championship.

“I haven’t taken a DNA sample lately,” John Harbaugh said, “but it’s a pretty cool thing.”


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