Jim Harbaugh Super Bowl Simulation From WhatIfSports.com image

Is Jim Harbaugh the best QB at the Super Bowl?

We promote Jim Harbaugh to starting quarterback for each of the Super Bowl XLVII participants

By Adam Meyer - WhatIfSports.com
January 25, 2013

The year is 1995: Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise" is No. 1 on the charts, the 49ers are defending Super Bowl champs and Toledo-born Jim Harbaugh would accomplish near-MVP (runner-up to Brett Favre) stats for the Colts.

Harbaugh ended up leading Indianapolis to the AFC Championship only to have his Super Bowl XXX ("30" not "naughty") dreams slip through the hands of Aaron Bailey on a last-second Hail Mary versus Pittsburgh.

Well, here at WhatIfSports.com, we believe in redemption and second chances. Not only can we simulate Jim's probability of winning this year's Super Bowl, but we have the ability to insert San Francisco's coach into his own starting lineup and give him another shot at Super Bowl glory.

Arguably, Harbaugh's best season was in '95: 2,575 passing yards, 17 passing touchdowns and only five interceptions. So, we took those stats and plugged them into the current 49ers squad. Could Captain Comeback best his brother's Ravens while playing quarterback?

Our simulation engine "played" 1,001 games and the confetti ran red and gold 67.2 percent of the time. In fact, San Fran's chances of winning were 11.9 percent higher with Harbaugh taking the snaps as opposed to Colin Kaepernick. Also, a Harbaugh-led 49ers offense scored an average of 28.1 points against Ray Lewis and company, while a Kaepernick-led offense only mustered 20 points per game.

Jim Harbaugh and 49ers vs. Ravens
MatchupWin%Avg ScoreWIS Interactive
2012 Baltimore Ravens32.822.6Simulate Game
vs. 2012 49ers with 1995 Harbaugh67.228.1Create Dream Team

We then took this a step further: what if Jim Harbaugh (1995 version) played for his older brother's Baltimore Ravens?

Joe Flacco's critics have doubted his "elite" status, but he's continually won in the postseason. In fact, Flacco has won at least one playoff game in each of his five seasons. This year, he appeased fans by finally breaking through New England and reaching the threshold of the Promised Land.

When we compare Harbaugh's 1995 postseason stats to Flacco's current playoff run, Joe has the much better numbers. Eight touchdown passes and zero interceptions embarrass Jim's four TDs and two INTs. However, overall, it's Harbaugh who had the better year. Even though Flacco threw for more yards (the NFL passing game has been more dominant since 1995), his TD:INT ratio (22:10) isn't as impressive as Harbaugh's 17:5. Upon considering that Flacco threw double the picks, it makes more sense that Harbaugh might give the Ravens a better shot at the Lombardi trophy.

After 1,001 simulations with Harbaugh leading the Ravens against Kaepernick's 49ers, the result was a virtual coin toss. While Baltimore outscored San Francisco by an average score of 24.2 to 23.9, it was Kaepernick getting the last laugh, winning 50.6 percent of the time. By comparison, the 49ers defeated a Flacco-led Ravens squad 55.4 percent of the time in our Super Bowl preview.

Jim Harbaugh and Ravens vs. 49ers
MatchupWin%Avg ScoreWIS Interactive
2012 Ravens with 1995 Harbaugh49.424.2Simulate Game
vs. 2012 San Francisco 49ers50.623.9Create Dream Team

So, with Harbaugh not only boosting San Francisco's chances, but also outplaying Flacco in Baltimore's offense, maybe the best quarterback in Super Bowl XLVII won't take a single snap (and we're not talking about Alex Smith...or Tyrod Taylor).

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Adam Meyer is a Contributor for WhatIfSports.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FOXSportsMeyer.

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