Harbaugh was feisty, but Schwartz just plain wrong
So Jim Harbaugh got a little fired up after an emotional, monumental victory. Good for him. Good for the 49ers. Bad for other NFC coaches. Like Jim Schwartz. Especially Jim Schwartz. If you have to take sides regarding who was right/wrong during Sunday’s handshake exchange/turned scuffle, the guy coming out on the right side is Harbaugh, who left the red-faced Detroit coach looking like a chump.
We’d be the first to admit Harbaugh’s post-game handshake/pat-on-the-back slap seconds after time ran out on San Francisco’s 25-19 upset victory was packed with over-exuberance and came down a little on the feisty side.
Except that Harbaugh was the first to admit it instead. He said so right after the game, refusing to back away from who he is and what he did. And he said it with a smirk and a smile.
“Yeah, yeah. I was really revved,” Harbaugh said when asked about the incident. “I was just really revved. It’s totally on me. I shook his hand too hard. I really went in, and it was a strong, kind of a slap-grab handshake… So that was on me. A little too hard a handshake there.”
And that’s where it should have ended. And if it had, all we’d be hearing about now is how perhaps the first-year Niners coach needs to tone down his celebratory mood until after the postgame handshake.
But that’s not where it ended.
Schwartz, obviously perturbed after Harbaugh dismissed him with a back pat that carried some oomph, had a few choices about what he could do next.
A) He could continue to shake hands and give curt congratulations to others, like most coaches would do in that situation.
B) He could show his disdain for the situation with a cold stare, then cut his losses and trot into the locker room, give a rallying-cry post-loss speech to his quality 5-1 team, then get ready to fight for another day.
C) Or, he could have charged after a jogging Harbaugh like a maniac, finally running down the San Francisco coach with a shoulder-bump at the edge of the field, looking like a Jack Russell Terrier on steroids as he barked confrontational words into Harbaugh’s face, sparking an all-out scuffle that had players putting their helmets back on and merging in a smoldering standoff near the stadium’s entrance tunnel.
Schwartz chose option C. And for that, he definitely came out looking like the littler of the Jims.
Schwartz explained it this way during his postgame news conference:
“I went to congratulate coach Harbaugh and got shoved out of the way,” Schwartz said, “and then didn’t expect an obscenity at that point. I went to shake an opponent’s hand, and obviously you win a game like that you’re excited and things like that. But I think there’s a protocol that goes with this league.”
Jim Schwartz talking protocol. Now there’s a good laugh. Go look on YouTube. There are plenty of clips that show Schwartz in over-the-top post-game celebration, slamming headphones to the ground, reaching toward the sky with victory swings, whooping from the bottom of his lungs with exultation and expression.
And even during Sunday’s game, there Schwartz was after Harbaugh was penalized for challenging an unchallengeable touchdown play, being caught by television cameras mocking Harbaugh and apparently screaming across the sidelines, “Harbaugh, know the rules,” with a bit of off-color language thrown in for good measure.
And then, there was Schwartz’s revisionist recollection of the event. Watching it over and over, you will see no shove from Harbaugh, just a firm slap on the back. Harbaugh doesn’t push him. Schwartz’s body movement suggests no force behind Harbaugh’s back-pat that’s enough to even remotely shake Schwartz’s balance.
And what’s this about an obscenity? Where does that come in? There’s no evidence of Harbaugh unleashing any kind of an obscenity during the handshake exchange.
You can see it for yourself. Everywhere. The video clip of the handshake and scuffle that ensued has gone viral.
Here’s what a few educated football minds saw, along with their perspectives, coming later in the evening during NBC’s Sunday Night Football show.
“I didn’t think it was that big of a deal,” former coach Tony Dungy said. “Jim Schwartz should have just let that go. I’ve had some handshakes with some coaches that I didn’t appreciate. When you lose, you just have to go to the locker room. Protocol is not for you to retaliate. If you are Jim Schwartz, by chasing the other coach down into the tunnel and going after him… I don’t know what Jim Harbaugh said, but whatever he said, it didn’t merit that. … Be a bigger man.”
And then this retort from Rodney Harrison: “Exactly, walk away from the situation. You can’t control what Jim Harbaugh does, but you can control what you do. Jim Schwartz has to understand that Jim Harbaugh is coming from a college atmosphere; the guy gets excited. He didn’t purposely try to do that… I played with (Harbaugh). He’s a good guy. He’s not that type of person. … But Jim Schwartz is that same type of guy. We see him every week slamming his hands and celebrating.”
And finally, this from ESPN’s Kevin Seifert, who covers the Lions regularly in his NFC North blog: “Schwartz said "there's a protocol in this league," implying that Harbaugh violated some unwritten rule of postgame sportsmanship. It's rich, to say the least, that Schwartz would be offended after a season of his exuberant fist pumps, cursing at officials and taunting opposing players. Those instances were fun and representative of the Lions' newfound passion, but this one violated protocol? Hmmmm. Harbaugh might have been exuberant, but nothing that I saw him do was unsportsmanlike. If he directed an obscenity to Schwartz, it wasn't clear on video. And even if he had, it wouldn't be beyond the realm of an NFL coach to maintain his composure in that situation rather than charge after his counterpart.”
But when Schwartz is on the other side of that, he goes borderline berserk and charges Harbaugh like an idiot.
Harbaugh’s reaction after Schwartz’s running-head-start bump, which definitely carried more force than Harbaugh’s back-pat/slap? Harbaugh barely looked up and kept running toward the locker room with a ranting Schwartz continuing to follow him, looking for instigation.
Harbaugh didn’t fall for that, leaving Schwartz to be held back by others and playing the part of chump.