Viewpoint: NFL coaches went out of line

By Tyler Alley
Sports Editor

The NFL had a number of close games this weekend, but one game in particular had some more drama than others.

The San Francisco 49ers scored a touchdown with under two minutes to go to take a 3-point lead and eventually hand the Detroit Lions their first loss of the season with a 25-19 score.

Unfortunately, the result was not the big story that came out of that game; what happened at midfield following the game is what ESPN pundits are talking about.

San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh jubilantly hopped across the field in excitement for his team. When he met Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz at midfield, he barely acknowledged his presence. He shook Schwartz’s hand firmly, gave him a good slap on the back hand that made it appear like he just shoved Schwartz aside and bounded toward the tunnel in continued celebration for his team’s victory.

The exchange apparently did not sit well with Schwartz, who chased after Harbaugh, bumping him with his shoulder and trying to get a few words in to the coach. The two were separated as players stepped in to protect their coaches.

Different media members have given their opinion on the incident. Personally, I believe Harbaugh was out of line.

Don’t get me wrong; I love seeing a coach that energized for his team’s success and supporting his players like that. But Harbaugh should have stopped celebrating first, walked over to Schwartz, shaken his hand, given him the traditional, “Good game, coach,” and then turned around and celebrated with his team.

Had he done that, the story would be about the 49ers moving to 5-1 and leading a division that last year sent a team with a losing record to the playoffs. There would also be a story about how it was a big deal to beat the Lions, a team who went 0-16 in 2008. The Lions are also 5-1 and so far this year could contend for the Wild Card spot or even their own division, where the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers currently sit as the only undefeated team remaining.

The ultimate story would be about two coaches who have turned their respective teams around from failure to success.

Instead, I am writing an opinion piece on a strange and completely avoidable tiff between the two coaches. People can blame ESPN and sports media in general for this, but really what would most sports fans be talking about around the water cooler anyway?

“Hey man, did you see the 49ers-Lions game?”

“No, I missed it. What was the score?”

“Oh I have no idea, but Schwartz got up in Harbaugh’s face after the game.”

I do not condone Schwartz’s reaction to what Harbaugh did. The Lions coach should have just walked away, talked to Harbaugh about it later away from the cameras and address it as a non-issue come press conference time.

Some people have attacked Schwartz for being mad at another coach for getting emotional, when Schwartz is one of the most energetic and fiery coaches on the sideline.

But I have not seen Schwartz toss aside another coach at the postgame handshake. I understand why he would be upset, and I am on his side, though I do not agree with the way he handled it.

I would like to see Harbaugh apologize, which he has not done yet. He is sticking to his guns, saying he merely shook Schwartz’s hand too hard and he will “get better at the postgame handshake.”

Of course, if I were a 49ers fan, Harbaugh can do just about whatever he wants as long as the team keeps winning as it has been. The same goes for Schwartz and Lions fans.

I am a Texans fans (quit your sniggering), so while I am not personally attached to either team, I am excited to see how these two teams continue to compete. Hopefully, both teams will shake up the NFC playoff picture.

Tyler Alley is a senior journalism news-editorial major from Houston and the Lariat’s sports editor.