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Coaching Linked in Two Potential Super Bowl Match-Ups

No one picked this final four for the NFL's conference championships. While Arizona's alleged upset win over Carolina and Philadelphia's shocker over the defending champs were not consenus choices, it's actually not very surprising.

Same thing for Baltimore's win over top-ranked Tennessee, or Pittsburgh's victory over San Diego.

Just look at where the coaches came from. Arizona made the choice to go with Super Bowl champion offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt of Pittsburgh back in 2007 - the same season Pittsburgh hired Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin.

The fact both coaches made their respective conference championship games in their second season is a testament to the wisdom of both franchises.

In Baltimore, the Ravens capped off a dramatic turnaround, after finishing well out of the playoff race in 2007 under Brian Billick, they made a somewhat surprising pick with John Harbaugh, the former special teams turned defensive backs coach in Philadelphia. While the Ravens made a fantastic turn-around in 2008, the Eagles maintained their usual level of success, and qualified for their fifth NFC Championship game in the past nine years. Reid is also at least somewhat responsible for the development of Harbaugh, and Tomlin's first and only coordinator stint came under Reid's former offensive coordinator, Brad Childress.

So a Steelers-Arizona Super Bowl, or a Philadelphia-Baltimore Super Bowl brings a quasi-Teacher vs. Student match-up. Teams in the NFL looking for a head coach take note: Some franchises develop outstanding coaches.

Whisenhunt and offensive line coach Russ Grimm both coached under former Steelers coach Bill Cowher. Tomlin got the job over both of them, but again, clearly this has worked out well for all franchises involved.

Basically, in the conference championship games, we have four franchises who made excellent personnel decisions - the development of coordinators (Tomlin and Whisenhunt) the dividends paid on going with pure talent over experience (Harbaugh) and the savvy of veteran coaches (Reid).

One cannot consider the conference championship games as coincidental. These match-ups were forged from coaching cradles established in some of the better franchises in the league. More importantly, the winning mentality in those quality franchises is recognized in the younger coaches, and is a big part of the reason for their hire - and their success.

I made the argument in this space for both Tomlin and Harbaugh for Coach of the Year honors, right along with Atlanta's Mike Smith - who won the award. With all due respect to the job Smith did in Atlanta, it shouldn't be a surprise, judging by the backgrounds of these coaches and the personnel decisions of their franchises, they are where they are right now.

And considering the nature of the remaining teams, whatever the match-up is in the Super Bowl, it may not be the last time they are in the positions they are in.