The poor sportsmanship of several NFL head coaches has dominated the news of late. Whether it is two coaches failing to act civil during a post game handshake or two others trading verbal jabs at one another prior to their game, these silly story lines overshadowed two excellent games.
Two weeks ago, the Detroit Lions and the San Francisco 49ers played in what many consider to be one of the best games of this campaign. Unfortunately, the lasting image that most folks took away from that contest was the heated exchange between the head coaches after the final gong went off.
An exuberant Jim Harbaugh, head coach of the 49ers, raced out to meet a despondent Jim Schwartz of the Lions after the San Francisco 25-19 victory. Now these are two of the more high-octane individuals in competitive sports so a heated exchange was a possibility after a wild game. Harbaugh shook Schwartz’ hand and slapped him on the back in a manner that nearly turned the Lion’s around. Schwartz took exception to Harbaugh’s over-the-top greeting and some heated words ensued. It got the point that Schwartz tracked Harbaugh down and got in the victorious coach’s face.
Thank God, one of the team’s media relations personnel got between the two leaders and stopped them from really going at it because that scene could have gotten uglier. Two coaches going at it, REALL?. Now how can coaches expect for their players to keep their composure when they can not? Well this should not come as big as a surprise to those who know the history of the sport.
Remember back in the 1980s when Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Chuck Noll got in Jerry Glanville’s face after one of their games? Noll let it be known that he was not happy with Glanville’s antics. During that exchange, the Atlanta Falcon’s head coach had the fear of God in his face. I think he heard Noll’s message loud and clear.
Then there was the legendary Ohio State leader Woody Hayes. He threw a round house punch at a Clemson Tigers player who just intercepted a pass that virtually ended the game. That move ended the beloved coach’s storied tenure at the Big Ten powerhouse.
But who can forget when Buddy Ryan took a couple of swings at Kevin Gilbride on the sideline. The crazy thing about that scene was they were on the same team. Ryan and Gilbride were the coordinators for the then Houston Oilers. Ryan took exception to Gilbride’s conservative play calling and went after him right on the sideline. If Ryan sounds familiar, he should. He is not only the architect of the famed 1985 Chicago Bears defense, but as many of you know, he is also the father of New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan. Well, I guess the apple does not fall too far from the tree. Last week Rex, during his weekly stand up comedy routine that doubles as the Jets midweek press conference call, took some unintentional shots at San Diego Chargers head coach Norv Turner. Ryan indicated that he would have won at least two Super Bowls with the talent that Turner inherited when Turner got that team’s heading coaching position over Ryan four years ago.
Turner shot back, posing the question, “ Where are all of the rings that Rex has been guaranteeing over the past two years with the Jets?” Supposedly, the two cleared the air prior to the game but it seemed that you could cut the air with a knife as tense as things got.
Like I said, the sad thing about the Harbaugh-Schwartz and Ryan-Turner exchanges is that they overshadowed two excellent games. Now this is not the first time coaches’ actions dominated the headlines, and it will not be the last time. However, the play on the field should be the story and not what takes place on the sidelines or in the media room.