49ers coach Jim Harbaugh knew it was coming and he was well-prepared. Despite the 49ers most well-played game in the last 18 years, Harbaugh knew at his Monday news conference that he would be asked about his handshake debacle last year in Detroit with Lions coach Jim Schwartz.
After the 49ers' 25-19 win last year at Ford Field, Harbaugh bounded to midfield, dropped a f-bomb in jubilation, untucked his sweatshirt from his trousers and vigorously shook the hand of Schwartz. Then he half-pushed, half slapped Schwartz on the back and ran off the field. Aghast and angered, Schwartz caught up to Harbaugh and the two jostled briefly before 49ers tight end Vernon Davis and others interceded.
"Our approach with the mini-controversies are really to give them the attention they deserve, which isn't much," Harbaugh said on Monday. "Now people who choose that to promote this game or any other game, they are really missing the point. The game is just so much bigger. Just 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 less than what it deserves."
When questioners persisted, Harbaugh said, "It's completely irrelevant. To put it next to the game itself is missing the point in my opinion. I don't know if I have anything more that I could possibly add to it."
The incident prompted a call from the NFL office, but neither Harbaugh nor Schwartz were fined for the incident.
And while Harbaugh would never admit it, he has learned. Since then he has been a model of post-game comportment. While Harbaugh is sometimes very brief with his postgame handshake, he nevertheless always seeks out the other coach after the game.
When asked about his postgame sportsmanship, Harbaugh said, "Now is not the time to address it."