When Coaches Get Physical

Sunday was an unusual day of football, especially for the coaches.

After a fierce battle in which the San Francisco 49ers overcame the previously undefeated Detroit Lions with a 25-19 win, Niners Coach Jim Harbaugh was fired up, lifting his shirt and chest bumping his players. Unfortunately, his excitement came at just the moment when Lions’ Coach Jim Schwartz was preparing to shake his hand at midfield. So what did Harbaugh do? He gave Schwartz a vigorous handshake and slapped him on the back so hard that it seemed disregarding and careless. So what did Schwartz do? He chased Harbaugh down the field and the two coaches had to be separated in a childish scuffle.

Then there was Coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints. He was guiding his team against the railing Tampa Bay Buccaneers — who, ironically, lost a crushing game last week to Harbaugh’s Niners, 48-3 — when a Bucs defender crashed into the sideline trying to tackle tight end Jimmy Graham, who then landed on Payton. The beloved Super Bowl winning Saints coach tore his MCL and fractured his tibia, causing him to shout from the bench instead of the sideline. He did not return to the game immediately following halftime. And no surprise, the Saints lost to the Bucs, 26-20.

Based on the traditions of professional football, players are the ones who get paid to play the game, players are the ones who risk injuries, and players are the ones who occasionally get into a scuffle from heated emotions. Coaches? While they do get emotional, they’re traditionally asked to stay out of these kinds of injury-laden, fight-hungry situations. Something must have been in the water on Sunday. A great game got overshadowed and a great coach got hurt.

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