Any family would be proud to have one relative who put together a sterling coaching career. The Harbaugh family has two. Both John and Jim are highly successful football coaches with a lot of pedigree in the game. Both brothers are being well compensated for their efforts. Their current standing begs the question: which of the Harbaugh brothers is getting a bigger payday, Jim or John?
Jim Harbaugh was great out of the gate, but has begun to struggle
The power of football runs deep in the Harbaugh family. Jack Harbaugh coached at various colleges for nearly four decades. It was inevitable that his sons would develop a passion for the game. Jim Harbaugh is the younger of the two brothers, but he found success in football at a much younger age.
He was the starting quarterback for the University of Michigan for three seasons. His best year was in 1986-87 when he led the Wolverines to a Rose Bowl victory and finished third in the Heisman Trophy list.
He played in the NFL for 14 seasons before entering the coaching ranks as a QB coach for the Oakland Raiders. Harbaugh became a head coach a year later. He was immediately successful in the role.
He went 29-6 as coach of the San Diego Toreros before moving on to the Stanford Cardinals. This is where he would really make his name. He took a program that went 1-11 in the final season before his arrival and transformed them, with the help of Andrew Luck, into a team that would win the Orange Bowl in only four years.
He returned to the NFL to coach the San Francisco 49ers and improved his reputation once again. They went 44-19 during his four-year tenure. They got to the NFC Championship game or the Super Bowl in his first three years.
He coached against his own brother in that Super Bowl. San Francisco came up short in an exciting 34-31 game. His work with Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick marked him out as a “quarterback whisperer.”
Eventually, Harbaugh’s personality clashed with the 49ers’ front office, and he returned to college to coach his struggling alma mater. Things haven’t gone as planned in Ann Arbor.
Michigan’s record (47-18) is solid, but the team’s offensive issues and inability to beat Ohio State has led some to wonder if he is still the best man for the job.
John has gone through highs, lows, and more highs in Baltimore
In contrast to Jim, it feels like John Harbaugh’s career is only going to get better from here. His rise as a coach was much more surprising than his brother’s was.
He had never been a head coach or been an offensive or defensive coordinator in the NFL when the Baltimore Ravens hired him in 2008. He spent little repaying the organization’s faith in him. The Ravens won at least one playoff game in his first years on the job, including that Super Bowl victory over his brother’s 49ers.
But the NFL is ultimately based on parity. Baltimore found it tough to keep up those impressive standards. They only won one playoff game in the five years after that Super Bowl win. But the Ravens never lost faith in Harbaugh. The team won ten games in 2018 and were the best regular-season team this year.
Their excellence was particularly notable this year because of how Harbaugh and rest of the coaching staff redesigned their offense around Lamar Jackson.
Jackson was named the MVP of the league, and Harbaugh was the Coach of the Year. The Ravens were upset by the Tennessee Titans in the playoffs, but everyone expects Baltimore to be one of the top teams for the foreseeable future.
Jim or John Harbaugh: which brother has the bigger contract?
You might think that an NFL team would pay considerably more than a university, but the salaries of the Harbaugh brother are actually pretty close. Jim Harbaugh reportedly makes $7.73 million at Michigan, while John gets a clean $9 million from the Ravens.
Jim Harbaugh leveraged Michigan’s desperation to sign him into a bigger contract than he may have gotten otherwise. He’s the third highest-paid coach in college football, and he hasn’t been able to live up to the big contract up to this point.
As long as Jackson stays healthy, the Ravens will be a championship contender for a few more years. This means gap between the Harbaugh’s contracts will probably get bigger some time down the line, unless Jim decides to try his hand at the NFL again.