Handshake irrelevant? Sure, but context key

September, 11, 2012
9/11/12
6:29
PM ET
 

The Jim Harbaugh-Jim Schwartz postgame coaching handshake angle feels so inevitable, so predictable, so cliché heading into their teams' rematch Sunday.

It's cringe-worthy for some of us more interested in actual football.

For me, the value in revisiting what went down following the Harbaugh-coached San Francisco 49ers' 25-19 victory over the Schwartz-coached Detroit Lions last season lies in revisiting what that game meant to the victors. That game affirmed the 49ers' status as an emerging NFC power. It marked the moment when Harbaugh, six games into his 49ers coaching tenure, went from thinking his team had something special to knowing it did.

"I feel like something special is really brewing here," Harbaugh said after that game at Ford Field left the 49ers and Lions both at 5-1.

Harbaugh was fired up afterward. For him, that moment wasn't about Schwartz or the Lions or postgame protocol. It was about the 49ers arriving.

Sure, I'll be watching to see how Harbaugh handles his postgame meeting with Schwartz at Candlestick Park. In the absence of a truly miraculous finish, we should expect Harbaugh to go the conventional route. When he does, we shouldn't mistake his comportment for social progress. We should see it as a reflection of how far his team has come.

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