Chris McCosky/ The Detroit News
Allen Park— Lions coach Jim Schwartz didn’t exactly offer any apologies for the postgame dustup between him and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh.
“It is unfortunate that the events after the game overshadowed the fact that it was probably one of the best football games of the day yesterday between two teams that are 5-1 in the NFC; two young and improving teams,” Schwartz said. “The game is played by players on the field. We don’t want things like that to occur but there are competitive people in this league. We need to do a better job of leaving it to the players on the field.”
Asked directly if he wanted to offer a public apology, Schwartz said only, “It’s a regrettable situation, particularly the fact that it detracted from what happened in the game.”
Harbaugh didn’t apologize, either.
“I don’t think there’s any reason for an apology,” he said Monday at his news conference. “We spoke about it after the game. At some point we’ll talk in private. Apologies always seem like excuses to me.”
Schwartz spoke to league officials Monday and gave his version of the story. Harbaugh did the same. Neither will be fined.
“Fortunately, there was no fighting and thus no basis for a fine,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said via his Twitter account. “Both coaches told Ray Anderson (executive vice president of football operations) that their postgame conduct was wrong and it will not happen again.”
Schwartz said whatever ill wind was blowing between the two has subsided.
“I have shaken hands after games 40 or 50 times that last two and a half years and never had anything come up,” he said. “Obviously, something did. It happened. It was regrettable, but there is nothing going forward between us personally or between the two teams.”
Schwartz said he didn’t think there was any bad blood between the two before the game, either. They were together for a year in Baltimore when Harbaugh was still a player.
“I was a lowly quality control coach on defense and he was the quarterback,” Schwartz said. “I haven’t exactly stayed in contact with him. There’s nothing there and there’s nothing now. It was just something that happened at the end of a game and it took away from the fact that it was a tough, hard-fought football game.”
Harbaugh delivered the same message.
“The thing that you feel bad about is that it detracts, takes away, from what our football players did, what their football players did, and the game itself,” said Harbaugh, the former Michigan quarterback. “When you see what is being talked about today, it’s about that last night. That was unfortunate. Like I said after the ballgame, I take responsibility for my part in that.”
Both are young, passionate and emotional coaches. Both can come off as arrogant, cocky, hot-headed. Both have a penchant for rubbing opposing players and coaches the wrong way. It was probably inevitable that they would clash.
Harbaugh, when he was at Stanford, had words with then-USC coach Pete Carroll after he went for a two-point conversion with a 34-point lead.
He once threw a punch at former Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, who, as a network analyst, challenged Harbaugh’s skills as the team’s leader.
Schwartz has gotten under coaches’ and players’ skin with his demonstrative fist-pumps after games and with some of his biting postgame remarks.
Case in point — his shots at Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and receiver Dez Bryant after the Lions won Oct. 2 in Dallas.
On Sunday, Schwartz was shown mocking Harbaugh for an illegal challenge after the Lions scored.
The seeds for Harbaugh’s exuberant postgame handshake and backslap may have been sown back in March during the NFL meetings.
According to a story posted March 23 on Philly.com, Schwartz told Harbaugh he would struggle mightily as a rookie coach if the lockout wiped out all offseason work — which it did.
John Harbaugh, Jim’s brother and the Ravens coach, recalled the conversation.
“We were having dinner the other night and Jim Schwartz told him basically there’s no way you’re going to be able to get it done (if the lockout lasts into the summer),” John Harbaugh said. “He told him there’s no way you’re going to be able to accomplish what you need to accomplish in two weeks if this thing lasts a while.
“Jim just kind of bit his tongue, which is what you’ve got to do in this situation. There’s nothing you can do about it.”
Except bring your team to Ford Field and spank Schwartz’s Lions.
“Protocol is not for you to retaliate, if you are Jim Schwartz, by chasing the other coach down into the tunnel and going after him,” said former coach Tony Dungy, speaking to NBC’s Bob Costas on Sunday night. “I don’t know what Jim Harbaugh said, but whatever he said, it didn’t merit that.”
Rodney Harrison, a former player, put it this way.
“Both coaches were wrong. Jim Harbaugh, first of all, smacked him on the back,” Harrison said. “Putting your hands on a grown man, you can’t do that. If you’re Jim Schwartz, what do you tell your kids?”
To which Dungy replied — “Be the bigger man … If you are Jim Schwartz, you know what, let me go in the locker room and tell our guys, ‘I hope we see these guys again.'”
The Lions players, after having a night to digest it and watch replays, still have their coach’s back.
“I saw it one time last night and I don’ think it’s that big of a deal,” receiver Nate Burleson said. “It’s one of those things that happens and we moved past it pretty fast. I don’t think anything serious is going to come from it.
“He’s passionate about the game. I will say that, and I like that about him. We’re an emotional team. We go as our head coach goes. I think how we’ve been playing is a direct reflection of Jim and that’s been pretty good for us so far.”
Schwartz said he did talk to Harbaugh briefly after the scuffle.
“Afterwards, in the tunnel, I spoke to him after everything died down,” Schwartz said. “We will talk again soon.
“Everybody is a competitor. Usually when a game is over you shake hands and move on to the next game. That’s what we are here to do.”
Falcons at Lions
Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday, Ford Field, Detroit
Records: Atlanta 3-3, Detroit 5-1
Line: Lions by 4
Series: Detroit leads 23-10 (Atlanta 34-21, Sept. 7, 2008)
Did you know?: The Falcons are one of four teams in the NFC the Lions have a winning record against.