49ers coach Jim Harbaugh vows to 'get better' at handshakes 

Detroit: Home to the beleaguered auto industry, hard-traveled musicians such as Eminem and Kid Rock — and, if TV commercials are any indicator of Motor City culture, a population that prides itself on remaining stalwart amid adversity.

Detroit is also the city of NFL coach Jim Schwartz, who appears to embody none of these qualities. Following the 25-19 defeat of his Lions on Sunday, Schwartz lost it after he became the recipient of an overzealous postgame handshake and back-slap from 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, who now might be seeking a few etiquette classes.

The furious Schwartz chased Harbaugh 30 yards down the field while players from both sides scrummed between the two chippy coaches. Harbaugh remained confident at a Monday news conference, where he expressed some regret for the high emotions, but issued no official apology.

Asked by a reporter if he could have better handled the win, Harbaugh was vague, saying most aspects of a game can always be better.

“Personally, I can get better at the postgame handshake,” Harbaugh said, “and will attempt to do that.”

While NFL Nation watched in amazement Sunday, the display of raw emotion was little surprise to Gordon Young, a San Francisco blogger whose reportage revolves around his hometown of Flint, Mich.

“Sports teams take on such an outsized importance in Michigan. So many things have been going so wrong in Michigan for so long,” Young said, surmising that big sports wins also translate to hopes for renewed economic vitality. “You just want something good to happen to the city.”

But in less than 24 hours, the Detroit Tigers were knocked out of the American League Championship Series and the Lions suffered a heartbreaking home loss at the hands of Harbaugh’s surging Niners.

Interviewed after the game, Schwartz complained that he was “shoved out of the way” and said he “didn’t expect an obscenity” or the slap-grab handshake. Asked for further detail, Schwartz said he’d just “leave it right there.”

“I’m sure it’s on video,” Schwartz said.

dschreiber@sfexaminer.com

 

Reaction

Do you think Harbaugh should have apologized?

“I took what he said as an apology. I think it was a 50-50 — sore winner, sore loser.”
— Mike Kuo, 38, S.F.

“No. Schwartz was way out of line. He’s a little guy and probably has a complex or something.”
— Ben Song, 25, S.F.

“No. I’m behind that. I’m behind an emotional coach.”
— Matt Moore, 27, S.F.


Postgame confrontation

Coaches traditionally confer on the field following games, mostly with a handshake and a few words. But sometimes emotions run high. Here are a few memorable interactions:

Bill Belichick-Eric Mangini
 

The skinny: The two NFL coaches have one of the more storied feuds in the history of the game. It all started with the former Jets coach tipping off the league about Belichick’s Patriots spying on New York’s defense in 2007. Their postgame interactions became the stuff of legend. Belichick hardly talks about his former protege, but Mangini seems to have no ill feelings.

Chuck Noll-Jerry Glanville

The skinny: The year was 1988. Noll was coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Glanville helmed the Houston Oilers. Following a 24-16 Steelers loss, Noll took the postgame handshake a bit further by reprimanding Glanville for his team’s perceived dirty play. The dressing-down included a finger in the face and a drawn-out handshake.

George Allen-Tom Landry

The skinny: Just how did the heated Washington Redskins-Dallas Cowboys rivalry begin? Why, that would be when George Allen came to the Redskins in 1971. In 1972, Allen famously told his players he wanted to fight Landry on the 50-yard line — and he demonstrated his seriousness by smashing boards in the locker room.

Jim Harbaugh-Pete Carroll
 

The skinny: Back when both coaches were in the college circuit, Harbaugh’s Stanford Cardinal beat Carroll’s USC Trojans 55-21 in Los Angeles in 2009. The Cardinal were successful on a late-game two-point conversion when they already had the game in hand. That apparently upset Carroll. According to Harbaugh, this happened after the game: “[Carroll] said, ‘What’s your deal?’ I said, ‘What’s your deal?’ And then from there, it’s about as well-documented a six-word sentence as there could be.”

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Dan Schreiber

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