Jim Harbaugh Vs. Jim Schwartz Handshake-Gate: Breaking Down The Beautiful Altercation

San Francisco 49ers’ head coach Jim Harbaugh and his team  may not want to talk about or acknowledge the handshake incident with Detroit Lions’ head coach Jim Schwartz, but nearly everyone else does.

As well they should — it was one of the most entertaining moments of the 2011 NFL season. With that in mind, here’s a bit-by-bit breakdown of one of coach Harbaugh’s finest days as head man of the Niners:

The Context 

The day was October 16, 2011, and the venue was Ford Field in Detroit. The 4-1 49ers were facing the 5-0 Lions in a battle of the upstarts that would determine which team was ready to take the next step forward in the young season. 

The Niners’ defense came into the contest not knowing how good it would become that season while the Lions’ offense already had national attention as a prolific scoring unit.

The 49ers would prevail in a narrow 25-19 win after stopping the Lions on Calvin Johnson 11-yard completion and subsequent lateral attempts that would prove unsuccessful. Harbaugh was more than a little excited about the win, and then it happened: 

The Shirt-Untucking Chest Bump 

Harbaugh didn’t hide his emotion after the game-ending play as he darted off the sideline, and he was looking for someone, anyone, to share in the moment with. That person ended up being second-year offensive lineman Alex Boone, who gave his coach a chest bump and loved every minute of it. 

As he was exhibiting child-like exuberance, he untucked his shirt in a move that can only be interpreted as a knee-jerk reaction to a huge victory.

The Shake N’ Shove

Once Harbaugh caught up to Schwartz, he gave him an enthusiastic slap on the hand in the midst of his joy and quickly pat him on the back in a shoving-like motion. The best guess is to say that this is what Schwartz took exception to, and he was going to let Harbaugh know about it.

Schwartz Swoops In

The best part about Schwartz running up to Harbaugh is that the FOX telecast was all set to go to commercial. The bump music had come on and they were ready to cut to the studios. Then the music stopped and the audience was treated to the great “Bro-off” between head coaches (Hat tip to Sean Swaby over at Bleacher Report for coining the term). 

Team Official Gets Owned

The little bald guy comes out of nowhere, exclaiming “Woah, woah, woah, woah, woah!”, like he’s really going to stop giant football players from mixing it up. The man, who is likely a team official, gets bull-rushed by the onslaught of players and coaches jawing at one another and is immediately lost in the fray. 

A Melee 

Utter chaos breaks out, and the handshake has now turned into chaos. After some shoving and back-and-forth banter, it all comes to an anti-climactic end. 

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Michael C. Jones is the managing editor and founder of Sports Out West and a Southern California-based sports journalist. His credits include Yahoo Sports and Bleacher Report, among others.


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