FOXBORO, Mass. — Despite their rivalry, there is a lot of love between the Patriots and Ravens.
Bill Belichick said he would “love” to have a closer relationship with Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh, but playing the Ravens nearly every season forbids it. Belichick compared that dilemma to the one he faced when Bill Cowher was head coach of the Steelers.
“It would be a lot better if we didn’t have to play each other every year,” Belichick said about he and Harbaugh’s relationship. “I’d love to have a closer relationship with John if we weren’t in the same competition. It’s kind of similar to, I’d say different but similar to my relationship with Bill Cowher. Before I got to Cleveland when Bill was at Kansas City with Marty [Schottenheimer], we spent a lot of time together, we talked, we visited each other, shared ideas. We were both young coaches anxious to learn and feed off the other guy and get some ideas and techniques and things like that. It was great. Then I’m the head coach at Cleveland, he’s the head coach at Pittsburgh and we play each other twice a year. I love Bill, but you’re playing him twice a year, you’re trying to do everything you can to find a way to beat him. As that situation changed, and then ultimately now with not having to compete against him in the league, it’s a lot easier to have a relationship that isn’t based on the direct competition that you’re in. Different, but there are some similarities there.”
There are a lot of similarities between Belichick and Harbaugh. They both started as special teams coaches, and they are both the sons of coaches. Jack Harbaugh was the head coach of Western Michigan University and Western Kentucky University. Steve Belichick coached at Hiram College, Vanderbilt University, University of North Carolina and Navy. Belichick talked about the value of starting his coaching career as a special teams coach.
“I have a lot of respect for John,” Belichick said. “John’s another guy that kind of started like I did — started as a special teams coach. As he and I have talked about, I think that’s a great way to learn the game of football. You learn situation football, you learn the kicking game, you learn how field position and all those things relate to the other aspects of the game. If you’re an offensive coach, you know defense. If you’re a defensive coach, you know offense. You have to learn those things as part of knowing what’s going on on the other side of the ball. The kicking game is kind of its own entity. John, obviously again had a great background — football family. He grew up with it, as I did. He’s really paid his dues. He’s been a good coach in this league, whether it was on special teams or defense or obviously as a head coach.”
Harbaugh was the Eagles’ special teams coordinator for nine years. Belichick served as a special teams coach for the Lions, Broncos and Giants.
Belichick also compared his relationship to Harbaugh to when University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban was with the Dolphins in 2005 and 2006.
“Two Croatians in the same division,” Belichick joked. “Yeah, it’s crazy. Yeah, I mean Nick, I’ve had as close a relationship with Nick professionally and personally through the years, even before when he was at Ohio State, when he was at Navy, when he was at Michigan State and then obviously the four years in Cleveland and Michigan State again and LSU and then at Miami — that was hard, for both of us because we had a great personal relationship but we’re trying to win, trying to beat each other. I love that he’s at Alabama and he’s not in our division. He’s not shutting us out like he did the last time we played him down there in Miami. But it’s so much better that way on a personal level.”
Belichick’s connection to the Ravens dates back to 1991 when he was hired as the Browns’ head coach. He was fired from the Browns after owner Art Modell announced he was moving the team to Baltimore.