Everyone loves a good coachfight.
Whether we have a real one here in the NFC North, however, is up for interpretation.
Perhaps you remember our minicamp trip to visit the Green Bay Packers, one shortened by coach Mike McCarthy's decision to take his team skeet shooting rather than to a practice. You might also recall that a day later, Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz told reporters that the day had been a regular "work day of minicamp" and that "we had no sporting clays today or no amusement parks or water parks."
The statement seemed a not-so-gentle nudge at the Packers, and it appeared McCarthy interpreted it the same way. He told ESPN 540 this month: "[W]e have a lot of confidence in the way we run our program, and we’re always trying to make it better. And I think skeet shooting is going to be the difference in us getting back to the Super Bowl. So there."
The latest: Schwartz claimed on Tuesday that he wasn't referring to the Packers with his original statement, knowing only that Lions players had informed him that other teams were taking time away from practice during minicamp. And he said he learned of McCarthy's response while skeet shooting himself.
From Dave Birkett's account in the Detroit Free Press:
"I had no idea that it was even then," Schwartz said. "I had players that were saying, 'Hey Coach, so and so, somebody went skeet shooting or somebody went to the water park.'
"You know what was really funny on that little story, [a Lions employee] sent me that article and the day that that article came out, you know what I was doing? Skeet shooting. I thought that that was a funny thing."
Schwartz said McCarthy's response "doesn't matter to me." Of his rivalry with the Packers, he said: "When it's the first tie-breaker, let me know."
There's no sense arguing about this. We'll never know if Schwartz was on the grassy knoll before or after Oliver Stone made a movie documenting what he did and didn't know at the time he mentioned "sporting clays." This episode has proved revealing regardless.
There are some NFL coaches, or former coaches, whose personal histories and backgrounds make clear they are close friends. If Leslie Frazier or Lovie Smith engaged in some public back-and-forth with, say, Tony Dungy, we would all laugh and note these were longtime friends having some fun with each other. (Frazier and Smith worked for Dungy during their careers.) The same is true for say, Andy Reid and Brad Childress or even Schwartz and Jeff Fisher or Bill Belichick.
But McCarthy and Schwartz have no shared background that I'm aware of. This little dance didn't come off comfortably. It seems to have ended harmlessly, whether it was a coachfight or something less. But we'll keep an eye out just in case. The best way for retribution, of course, is on the scoreboard.