2024 AFC Championship: How working for Andy Reid's Eagles shaped John Harbaugh as Ravens HC face ex-boss

PHILADELPHIA — How Andy Reid and John Harbaugh crossed over was unique NFL Practice circles. Jack Harbaugh was the only connection between the two of them when they first met, through remarkably different circumstances.

Four decades ago, Jack Harbaugh A College football The coach knew Reed from his days as a graduate assistant at BYU. Reed met Jack through former BYU coach LaVell Edwards and developed a friendship with him that eventually led Reed to Harbaugh's oldest son, John.

The two will face off in the NFC Championship on Sunday when John Harbaugh's Baltimore Ravens meet Reid's Kansas City Chiefs in a postseason setup.

Long before this moment, however, Harbaugh wasn't sure if it was his NFL A coaching career can be over before it really begins. Long before Harbaugh became the Ravens' center, the older of the Harbaugh brothers was brought in by Philadelphia Eagles head coach Ray Rhodes in 1998 as the special teams coach.

The 1998 Eagles were one of the worst teams in franchise history, ending with a 3-13 record leading to Rhodes' firing. Harbaugh, then 36, was a holdover on one of the worst teams. NFL.

A new head coach had arrived and was preparing to assemble his own staff. The first exchange with Reid, of course, turned to Jack.

“When I met John,” Reid said, “I was going, 'Man, if you're half as good as your dad, you'll act, so it didn't take long.'

Somehow, Harbaugh managed to keep his job and convince Reed why he should come back.

“I hope I stay and he gave me an opportunity to do that,” Harbaugh said earlier this week ahead of the AFC title game. “I was young and figuring things out. It was good for him [I] I hope he's glad to see him back.”

Harbaugh took advantage of his second chance with the Eagles and became one of Reid's top assistants during his nine years with his former boss. As Reid established a perennial championship contender in Philadelphia, Harbaugh became not only one of the best special teams coaches in the game, but also one of the most respected coaches in the organization.

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“Coach Harbaugh is a leader of men, and when he talks; whatever he says, you believe what he says,” said Hugh Douglas, who played for Reid and Harbaugh for five seasons in Philadelphia. “A coach's biggest job is to brainwash his players into what he's trying to accomplish. Coach Reid and Coach Harbaugh do a tremendous job of that.

“When you see them in their press conferences, they inspire confidence. When you see them around their players, the players look at them and they say, 'When coach tells you something, he knows what he's talking about.'

With Douglas the guinea pig, Harbaugh established that backbone during his tenure with Reed. Reed was tested by Douglas Harbaugh during a special teams meeting early in the era.

“The guys were all talking. He singled me out and told me to be quiet. I knew exactly what he was doing because he was trying to get respect and he was trying to get the room back,” Douglas said. “That time when he was with the young guys I was like, 'Dang, coach, why are you calling me out?' He said, 'Hugh, if the young men see you doing that or acting this way, if I don't tell you anything, they'll think they can do it, so you've got to be a leader.

“I was the veteran in the room. I had to be that guy,” Douglas said. “I understand that and I respect him for that. The game is about being a leader of men and having guys respect you.

“I'll never forget that, bro. I'll never forget that. I looked at him and said, “Got it, Coach.'' To this day, I have a lot of respect for Coach Harbaugh.”

As Harbaugh's stock in the Eagles' organization rose, Reid's assistants began landing coordinator jobs around the NFL — and winning at the early stages. Brad Childress was the only assistant to land a head coaching job at the time, and Harbaugh went after him — even if he was only a special teams coach.

“Coach Reed does a great job of putting his assistant coaches in positions to be successful,” Douglas said. I remember when Coach Harbaugh wanted to be a head coach. Coach Reid told him — I assume Reid communicated this way — you have to coach a position to do this. That's when Coach Harbaugh started coaching the defensive backs.

“Not only that, but his dad was a coach. His brother played the game, so he's been around football his whole life.”

Harbaugh's road to success in Baltimore was relatively quick. In Harbaugh's first year as head coach in 2008, the Ravens reached the AFC Championship game with new quarterback Joe Flacco. Harbaugh won a playoff game in each of his first five seasons Super Bowl XLVII CHAMPIONSHIP.

Harbaugh was the first of Reid's assistants to win Super Bowl, Reed would win the championship seven years earlier and hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy himself. Thanks to a small index card installed in Reid's office on the NovaCare campus, Harbaugh was able to carry Reid's most important traits all the way to Baltimore.

“One thing with Andy [was] He kept this 3×5 card on his bulletin board behind the desk. It said, 'Don't judge,'” Harbaugh said. “I was excited to ask him about it one time, and he basically [said] It is a biblical principle.

“Take people where they are. Assume the best. Try to talk to everyone equally. I never forgot that.”

Reed was eventually released in Philadelphia and immediately hired in Kansas City. The winningest head coach in Eagles history actually has the most wins with the Chiefs, with two wins Super Bowl titles and goes on to six consecutive conference championship games. Reid has won just under 10 games Once In his 11 seasons in Kansas City.

“Football, especially professional football, is like a microwave,” Douglas said. “Now you have to have that. You try to balance being a good team, a fit team and developing your young players. Unfortunately a lot of coaches don't have that time.

“Andy Reid has developed such a culture in Kansas City. When you look at it, when you see him have Patrick Mahomes, it takes time to build that culture. It really (takes time) to have a system that you believe in. It allows you to get the guys you need that can push you in the right direction.”

Reed and Harbaugh were fortunate enough to work for companies that had the patience to allow them to build the culture they envisioned. Philadelphia was one of the most valuable franchises in the NFL when Reid was there, and now Kansas City and Baltimore hold those titles with Reid and Harbaugh.

“With Coach Harbaugh, I laugh every time I hear him talk because I know the guy,” Douglas said. “I've seen him grow from being a special teams coach to coaching a Super Bowl champion team. That's pretty cool to watch.”

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