Bill Belichick and John Harbaugh probably won't be too chatty this Sunday when their teams face off at M&T Bank Stadium.
But Belichick could see the two being buddies if the Ravens and Patriots hadn't developed into rivals over the last few years.
"I'd love to have a closer relationship with John if we weren't in the same competition," Belichick said Friday when asked about Harbaugh.
The Patriots head coach was effusive in his praise of Harbaugh throughout the week, and compared their relationship to those he's had with other coaches throughout his career.
"It's kind of similar to, I'd say different but similar to my relationship with [former Steelers Head Coach] Bill Cowher," Belichick said. 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."
Harbaugh and Belichick have never worked on the same staff, but they do have a history together. Both began their careers in the NFL working with special teams and climbed all the way to the top.
Belichick also reportedly helped get Harbaugh on the Ravens' radar when they were looking for a head coach in 2007. Belichick, an Annapolis native, even called Owner Steve Bisciotti suggesting that he interview Harbaugh.
"I have a lot of respect for John," Belichick said. "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."
The respect between the coaches is mutual, and Harbaugh has spoken highly of his counterpart on numerous occasions through the years. Harbaugh has previously said that he believes Belichick is the "greatest coach in our league."
"They are very, very well-coached – that goes without saying – across the board, starting with Coach Belichick and right through the staff," Harbaugh said this week.
In addition to the connection between the coaches, Belichick is also close with Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome. Belichick first hired Newsome to his staff in Cleveland after he retired as a player, and the two have spoken very highly of the few years they spent together.
"He was a great resource for me," Belichick said. "He taught me an awful lot and he's been very complimentary about his comments of what he learned from me but I think I probably learned more from him than he learned from me. He's a very astute, sometimes quiet kind of guy, but the wheels are always turning, he's taking a lot in. When he speaks, you listen because you respect him and you know that he's just not saying things to hear himself talk. He's saying them because he's given it a lot of thought and he has a very important observation or opinion to share. He's had a great career. I can't think of many people that did what he did as a player and then in his current position and all the other things along the way – as a scout, as an assistant coach and so forth.
"He's a pretty special person, special football person too."