That is the lasting image of Sunday’s game, in which Harbaugh’s 49ers went into Ford Field and edged Schwartz’s previously undefeated Lions. Coaches’ postgame meetings on the field rarely grab the spotlight _ and certainly shouldn’t. Not even this one.
It has because, as the traditional handshake goes, this was contentious and physical, though that hardly seemed Harbaugh’s intent. And because those meetings always are shown by the TV cameras, when one of them isn’t tame and imminently forgettable, it causes a frenzy.
In recent years, there were the Bill Belichick-Eric Mangini “Do I really have to do this?” deals, which, to his credit, Mangini turned into a running gag.
Or Todd Haley’s snub of then-Broncos coach Josh McDaniels after Haley’s Chiefs lost 49-29 in Denver last year. Haley apologized the next day and when they next faced off, KC winning 10-6, McDaniels got a postgame hug and a pat on the head from Haley.
Just as notable was Belichick’s behavior following the 17-14 loss to the Giants in the 2008 Super Bowl. With the clock stopped and 1 second remaining, Belichick headed onto the field to meet New York coach Tom Coughlin even before Eli Manning could take a knee to officially end the game. Belichick looked like a bad sport, particularly because he once worked on the same staff with Coughlin, considered one of the classiest coaches in the league.
Schwartz was upset by Harbaugh’s lack of protocol. The Lions coach also might have been peeved that earlier in the game, Harbaugh, a first-year NFL coach, didn’t know a particular play couldn’t be challenged; some thought Schwartz yelled out to the 49ers’ sideline about learning the rules.
Harbaugh was involved in similar incidents at the college level, most notably in an exchange with Pete Carroll when Harbaugh was coaching Stanford and went for a 2-point conversion late in a rout of Carroll and Southern California.
Regardless, there is a procedure to follow, win or lose _ although neither coach is being fined.
“Fortunately, there was no fighting and thus no basis for a fine,” a league spokesman said. “However, both coaches told (NFL executive VP) Ray Anderson today that their post-game conduct was wrong and will not happen again. We believe their response is the correct one and that their postgame conduct going forward will be more appropriate.”
Tony Dungy would like to see that happen.
“You go shake the other coach’s hand, you congratulate them, show the sportsmanship. It is something expected,” former Colts coach Tony Dungy told The Associated Press. “I remember in 1981, Chuck Noll and Sam Wyche didn’t shake hands after a game and you would have thought the world came to an end. It has just become the thing you do. Walk across field no matter how the game ended up, whether you are personal friends or not, and you shake hands.”
“What happened was very surprising to me and not the example you want to set,” Dungy said. “I was in a security line today at the airport and a fan said he was glad we talked about it on the show, so he could teach his boys what is sportsmanship and the proper way to do things.
“It surely did take away from (the win). You do keep your poise and you do congratulate the other team.”