And the Jousting Jims, Harbaugh and Schwartz? After a contentious postgame handshake and bumping incident involving the 49ers' and Lions' charged-up coaches turned into a full-fledged spectacle at Ford Field two Sundays ago, the NFL took swift and decisive action.
Yep, tough love at its finest.
Failing to fine Harbaugh and Schwartz for their conspicuously contentious conduct was beyond weak. Not only did numerous players express this publicly, but as my colleague Jason Cole reported Tuesday, Browns president Mike Holmgren went so far as to put in a call to the league office to express his opinion that both coaches should have been dinged.
Considering that Holmgren is his team's top football executive and a longtime NFL coach, that's kind of embarrassing – though surely not as embarrassing as (gasp) uniform violations.
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This latest example of the league's egregious double standard when it comes to discipline involving players and coaches makes me want to extract a pound of flesh from somebody, but that sounds kind of messy. Instead, I think I'll send a memo to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell:
As you know, I'm a big fan. While you've taken your share of grief lately, I've repeatedly defended you against your detractors – even during the lockout.
However, I believe you have a blind spot on the issue of punishing coaches whose behavior tarnishes "The Shield," and it kind of makes you look like a hypocrite.
Personally, I'm not a big fan of fining players for things like improper shoe color or calling wifey on the phone (possibly in a loopy state) to say, "Honey, let's have a candlelight dinner tonight … actually, make that dinner in a completely darkened room." But I get it – you're the Sheriff, and rules are rules.
That said, if you're going to flex your power, it kind of helps your credibility when you at least go through the motions of doing so in an even-handed manner. Too often, your decisions seem arbitrary.
Two years ago, after Falcons head coach Mike Smith and Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall(notes) had a jawing match during a game, you fined Smith $15,000 and let the player skate. I thought that was the wrong decision, but at least it was the rare case of a coach being held to a higher standard – which is supposedly what your personal-conduct policy dictates.
Usually, however, it's the other way around. As I told you then, your complete unwillingness to investigate the incident in which former Raiders assistant Randy Hanson argued with then-coach Tom Cable in a meeting room and emerged with a broken jaw was shameful. You also blew off Cable's admission that he had struck his first wife amid numerous allegations of domestic violence.
What Harbaugh and Schwartz did in the heat of the moment two Sundays ago wasn't nearly that severe, and many of us (myself included) found it entertaining. However, both men exhibited a clear lack of professionalism – Harbaugh with a post-handshake shove to Schwartz's back, Schwartz with an aggressive shoulder bump and continued effort to get back in his rival's face before leaving the field – which was clearly embarrassing to the league.
As Detroit-area sports scandals go, this wasn't the Malice at the Palace or anything close to it. However, the Fracas at Ford was arguably more of a stain on the league's image than a certain linebacker's lemon-colored footwear or a certain safety's decision to use a 21st-century communications tool to soothe his wife's nerves.
Harbaugh and Schwartz are good coaches whose intensity and competitiveness are qualities which have helped them turn around struggling franchises. However, they're also representatives of billion-dollar companies who, when conducting business on a telecast seen by tens of millions of viewers, should be able to exhibit professionalism and mutual respect for a few seconds before heading to their separate locker rooms.
Neither coach did this after the 49ers-Lions game, and you should have fined them as a deterrent for those who might behave even less appropriately in the future.
Take my advice and reconsider your decision to let them slide, if only to reassure legions of skeptical players that you're fair about ensuring that everyone must follow the same standard of behavior.
Oh, and one more thing: Live from Northern California, it's 32Q!!!!!!
8. Oakland Raiders: If Hue Jackson had gone into a Schwartzesque rage toward Todd Haley after Sunday's tense postgame handshake, would someone on the Chiefs have had to make a seventh interception to protect his coach's welfare?
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13. New York Jets: After Rex Ryan shrugged off Chargers tight end Randy McMichael's(notes) diss of the Jets' secondary by paying homage to "Anchorman's" Ron Burgundy, did the dudes from the Spanish-language station take offense?
22. Washington Redskins: So, do you think Mike Shanahan can talk Jake Plummer out of retirement?
[ Related: Mike Shanahan reeling from wrong decisions at QB ]
25. Seattle Seahawks: Can you believe the Seattle Times' Danny O'Neil compared backup quarterbacks to communism in the wake of Charlie Whitehurt's miserable outing against the Browns – and is there any other NFL writer who would dare bust out the C-word when making an analogy?
28. Minnesota Vikings: Now that the Vikings are the most lawless NFL team of the 21st century, will Zygi Wilf commemorate the achievement by giving Chris Cook(notes) a pair of golden handcuffs for Christmas?
[ Related: NFL players arrested less than average citizen ]
29. Arizona Cardinals: When Ken Whisenhunt, in response to a question about whether he'd bench Kevin Kolb(notes), answered, "I'm not saying that," should he have added, "and there are 62 million reasons why"?
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