[Editor’s note: The recent dust-up between Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher, two of college football’s most prominent coaches, made me wish that something similar would happen among NFL coaches. Eleven years ago, it sort of did. After a regular-season game between the 49ers and Lions, San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh and Detroit coach Jim Schwartz had an interaction that became a full-blown brouhaha. Coincidentally, the Schartz vs. Harbaugh incident became one of the 100-plus chapters in Playmakers. So, with the express written consent of the fine folks at Hachette, I’ve copied and pasted the chapter. If you like what you see, you can see more that you’ll like when you buy Playmakers.]
Early in the past decade, John and Jim Harbaugh have become two of the most accomplished coaches in the NFL. Both are known for being fierce and competitive. In 2011, that intensity and competition led one of them to spark a small scuffle in Michigan.
People who know the two — Jim coached the 49ers from 2011 to 2014 and John the Ravens from 2008 — claim they have the same firepower, but John is generally better at keeping things secret (eg, When the lights went out in the second half of Super Bowl XLVII, it was the first time the brothers played each other in the league championship game). Jim, on the other hand, usually has his heart, mind, ego and temper on his sleeve.
That culminated in Jim’s sixth game as 49ers coach. It stemmed from an offseason dinner with opposing coaches that day. At the NFL’s annual meeting in March, shortly after a shutdown that would end the offseason began, Lions coach Jim Schwartz spoke to Jim Harbaugh about his lack of competition in his first season on the job strength challenge because of his lack of opportunities to practice. April to June.
“We were having dinner that night, Jim Schwartz told [Jim] Basically you can’t do it [if the lockout lasts into the summer],” John Harbaugh said at the time.[Schwartz] Tell him that if this thing goes on for a while, you won’t be able to accomplish what you need to accomplish in two weeks.Jim [Harbaugh] Just bit his tongue a bit, which is what you have to do in this situation. Because there is nothing you can do about it. “
When the 49ers visited the Lions on October 16, 2011, Jim Harbaugh had a chance to do something about it. Detroit is 5-0 for the first time since 1956. The 49ers unexpectedly won four of their five games early in the year, but were 4.5 point losers.
Whether or not Jim Harbaugh still thinks about Schwartz’s condescension in the offseason (Harbaugh certainly has), another event sets the stage for what ultimately happens.after the lions quarterback Matthew Stafford Jim Harbaugh threw the red challenge flag in connection with tight end Brandon Pettigrew on a 16-yard touchdown pass. That year, however, the league passed a rule that made all scoring games automatically reviewed. Harbaugh was given a 15-yard penalty for challenging a game the coach couldn’t. On the other side, Schwartz taunted Harbaugh, strutting his head up and dressed up, yelling “know the rules” at Harbaugh, his expression showing he was stunned by the development rather than being disrespected by Schwartz.
Touchdowns and extra points gave the Lions a 10-0 lead. However, the 49ers managed to erase the deficit, take the lead, and hold on to it, winning the game 25-19 and beating Detroit 5-1.
That’s when things get interesting. Harbaugh was excited. Television copies show him pulling up his shirt to reveal a ghostly white abdomen. But Harbaugh isn’t trying to show off his newborn father’s body. The gesture comes from a Harbaugh stunt designed to inspire a blue-collar work ethic in his players.
After the initial roster for the season was finalized, Harbaugh created work shirts for all players and coaches. Dark blue, short sleeves, nameplate sewn on the pocket. Harbaugh explained that the 49ers will be a tough team that gets paid every day. And, like blue-collar workers, they would go home, kiss their wives and kids, have a beer, sit in their favorite chair, unbutton their work shirts, and watch TV. Excited, Harbaugh unbuttoned his shirt as a nod to a hard-working day in a frustrating victory in Detroit.
The excitement continued until a difficult handshake with Schwartz after the game, followed by a slap in the back from Schwartz. Schwartz calls out to Harbaugh, Harbaugh says something to Schwartz, and Schwartz chases after Harbaugh to fight him (or, at least, to create the impression that he’s trying to fight Harbaugh).
Officials, players and photographers, and even 49ers public relations director Bob Langer (in a suit and tie) rushed to stop Schwartz from getting too close to Harbaugh. The team gathered in the only passage leading to the locker room, and cool heads eventually prevailed.
Not everyone wants things to calm down so easily. When 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman realized what was about to happen, a team official warned him, “Be smart.” So Bowman put on his helmet, buckled his chin strap, and ran into the middle of the action.
Ultimately, there isn’t much movement. However, this incident is one of the biggest examples of the past 20 years in which a competitive drive combined with real or artificial toughness can spill over from the player to the coach, resulting in one who may be a little over-excited and Force the opponent to try (or at least appear to try) to use physical force against his enemy.
It’s fine for Schwartz that his efforts were unsuccessful, or at least unreal. Harbaugh, the Bears’ first-round pick and longtime NFL quarterback, will likely soon complete the job of Schwartz, a third-level linebacker for Georgetown who was out of college Never played football.
[This article is an from Playmakers: How the NFL Really Works (And Doesn’t) by Mike Florio © 2022. Available from PublicAffairs, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.]