With the Lions and 49ers squaring off on Sunday Night Football in week 2, the most talked about issue is not the play of both teams last week, but something that happened last year: Handshake Gate. The two Jim’s, Harbaugh and Schwartz, would like for the media and the fans to stop asking and thinking about an incident that took place in week 5 of the 2011 season, but the more drama, the better.
In case you forgot, after the 49ers 25-19 comeback win last October in Detroit, Harbaugh gave Schwartz a firm handshake and a slap on the back. Harbaugh was pumped up after such a big win, but Schwartz was not having any of it and was infuriated. The two had to be separated as they jawed at one another heading into the locker room.
Harbaugh and Schwartz want to have the focus on the players and what each team needs to accomplish to pull out the victory. They are right. There are plenty of other things to focus on, like the 49ers beating the Packers and the Lions hard fought win over the Rams, but where is the fun in that? Rarely is the focus of a game between two head coaches, like the upcoming content between the 49ers and Lions. Harbaugh and Schwartz are similar is several ways. Both wear their hearts on their sleeves for their players and team. Both are young head coaches of two of the NFL’s best up-and-coming teams. And both have returned their franchises back to respectability and the playoffs after years of being dormant.
They will not admit it this week, but Harbaugh and Schwartz have to be thinking about the handshake, with both wanting to win badly to stick it to the other coach. The coaches don’t hate each other and have had interactions since then which ended cordially. But they cannot shake (pun intended) their competitive streak. This will be the most watched post-game handshake of all-time.
Jim Harbaugh’s comments from Monday on Handshake Gate:
Our approach with the mini controversies are really to give them the attention that they deserve, which isn’t much. People who will choose to use that to promote this game, or any other game, I think are really missing the point. The game is just so much bigger. As a rule of thumb, I have too much respect for the men who play this game, on both sides, and too much respect for the game to give it anything (more) than it deserves.
Jim Schwartz comments from Monday on Handshake Gate:
That’s long in the past. That just seems so long ago that that occurred. When two teams take the field, that’s not going to be on one player’s mind.