Jim Schwartz's passion approaches lunacy
October, 16, 2011
By Kevin Seifert | ESPN.com
Andrew Weber-/US PresswireLions coach Jim Schwartz, right, was upset with 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh after Detroit's loss.DETROIT -- I've already referred to Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz as a "sideline madman" this season. So what do we call him now following his stunning (over)reaction after Sunday's 25-19 loss to the San Francisco 49ers?
You've probably seen the video by now. If not, you'll soon see jubilant 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh bounding to midfield for the traditional coaches' handshake. Harbaugh wound up and gave Schwartz an excited handshake, followed by a hard slap to the back with his left hand.
Schwartz immediately turned around with a perturbed look on his face, chased Harbaugh down and bumped his right shoulder into Harbaugh's left shoulder. Schwartz then chased Harbaugh about 40 yards downfield to the players' tunnel and made a number of attempts to charge into a quickly growing mass of players, coaches and staffers to get at Harbaugh. Order was eventually restored, but afterward Schwartz neither apologized nor backed off his reaction.
"I went to congratulate Coach Harbaugh and got shoved out of the way," Schwartz said. "And then I didn't expect an obscenity at that point, so it was a surprise to me at the end of the game."
Asked for further details, Schwartz said: "I'll just leave it right there. I'm sure it's on video."
I'm wondering whether Schwartz will feel the same way after seeing the video. "Shoved out of the way" is a bit of an exaggeration. The exchange looked as though one of the coaches was having a hard time accepting his team's first loss of the season.
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.
Take a look at the photograph accompanying this post. There is a difference between being passionate and acting like a lunatic. Let's just say Schwartz approached the latter.
For his part, Harbaugh took the blame for shaking Schwartz's hand too hard.
"That is totally on me," Harbaugh said. "I shook his hand too hard. I really went in, and it was a strong, kind of a slap-grab handshake."
But to be clear: No handshake and no obscenity could merit Schwartz’s reaction. Either there is more to this story or Schwartz needs to take a few (dozen) deep breaths next time. If he had an issue with Harbaugh, he should have settled it on the phone Monday morning. To use a phrase I’ve heard him say a few times: Good grief.