The word "dynasty" comes up a lot when the New England Patriots are discussed.
That is exactly what Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh wants to build the Ravens into.
After winning three Super Bowl titles – XXXVI, XXXVIII and XXXIX – the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick have been regarded as the class of the NFL. Since 2001, Belichick has amassed a 99-32 record for a 75.6 winning percentage, which is the best among any American professional sports team.
The Ravens, however, are attempting to create their own version of New England's success.
"That's the nature of the NFL," Harbaugh said. "You look at the teams that have done that: I think the Eagles are another example of that. The Giants have become an example of that. Nobody to the extent that the Patriots have done it, for sure, and that's something we aspire to. That's the idea."
There is a mutual respect and a long-standing relationship between Harbaugh and Belichick, whose clubs will meet this weekend.
Much of that can be traced back to their backgrounds as special teams coaches. Harbaugh led the Philadelphia Eagles' units from 1998-2006.
Belichick coached special teams for the Detroit Lions early in his career, and then went on to helm the New York Giants' special teams from 1979-82.
As Harbaugh climbed the coaching ranks, the two would sometimes sit together during the NFL Scouting Combine and discuss football at the behest of current Patriots special teams coordinator Scott O'Brien.
And when Harbaugh's name was in the running for Baltimore's open head coaching position in 2008, Belichick made a point to endorse Harbaugh to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti.
Belichick mentioned the call earlier this year in a radio interview on SIRIUS NFL Radio.
"That's one of the things I mentioned to Steve, because John had such an extensive special teams background [that] sometimes there's a little reluctance about hiring somebody like that as a head coach, thinking it would be better to have a guy that's been longer as an offensive or defensive coordinator," Belichick said. "I don't think that's necessarily true, particularly in John's case."
Belichick, whose Patriots are currently 2-1, continued to enumerate the qualities he saw in Harbaugh.
"John's just an outstanding football coach, period," Belichick explained. "He knows people, he knows talent, he works hard, he's got a good feel for the game, both from a scheme standpoint, a technique standpoint, and motivating players and getting them ready to play.
"We've competed against him many times and it's always been a challenge to go up against John's units, whether that was in the '07 season when he coached the secondary in Philadelphia or the years like going back to the Super Bowl when he was the special teams coach with the Eagles."
While professional athletes routinely talk about wanting to face the best competition, Harbaugh does not think the notion translates to the coaching staff.
Unless the coaches are lining up across one another, Belichick and the Patriots simply present the next challenge, not one that generates extra passion.
That theory will be tested Sunday with Belichick and the specter of his three Super Bowl rings on the opposite sideline.
"The good thing about this game is that the coaches won't be teeing off on each other during this game," Harbaugh joked during his Monday press conference. "I don't think anybody would pay to see that right now. I'd like to say that I think I'd have the edge, though. In a hamburger drill, I think I'd have the edge. Coach [Belichick] may not think that."
At a time when brash New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan openly talks trash about facing Belichick, telling reporters that he was "not here to kiss [his] rings," Harbaugh was certainly more complimentary.
But Harbaugh also aims to be on the winning end of the post-game handshake.
That would be an appropriate step towards his goal.
"You've got to admire everything about what the Patriots have done and what Bill Belichick has done there, and really, the whole organization," he said. "They've been able to have success and sustain it for a long number of years.
"We'll keep trying to make that not happen for them, at least when we play them."