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NFL has a history of confrontational coaches

The league chose not to fine San Francisco Coach Jim Harbaugh or Detroit Coach Jim Schwartz for their postgame dust-up Sunday, but there are several noteworthy incidents involving combustible coaches.

October 17, 2011|Sam Farmer
  • Oilers coordinators Buddy Ryan, left, and Kevin Gilbride feuded to the point where Ryan took a swing at Gilbride during a televised game while Warren Sapp confronted Packers Coach Mike Sherman, who had criticized the Bucs' defensive tackle for a cheap shot.
Oilers coordinators Buddy Ryan, left, and Kevin Gilbride feuded to the… (Associated Press / ESPN )

In the end, the Throw-Down in Motown didn't amount to much.

The NFL decided Monday not to fine San Francisco Coach Jim Harbaugh or Detroit Coach Jim Schwartz for their postgame dust-up at Ford Field, when a hard handshake and backslap by Harbaugh led to a heated exchange that required the coaches be separated.

The incident happened after the 49ers handed the Lions their first loss, 25-19, and led to a brief standoff between the teams before they headed up the tunnel to their locker rooms.

"Fortunately, there was no fighting and thus no basis for a fine," league spokesman Greg Aiello said in an email Monday. "However, both coaches told [NFL senior vice president] Ray Anderson today that their postgame conduct was wrong and will not happen again."

Neither coach was particularly contrite in his regular Monday news conference. Schwartz called the incident "regrettable," and Harbaugh said: "I don't think that there's any reason for an apology."

Of course, this wasn't the first time a little bad blood created a memorable conflict in the NFL.

Some other noteworthy incidents involving combustible coaches:

Mike Ditka vs. Buddy Ryan: The 1985 Chicago Bears were among the greatest teams in NFL history, but things didn't always go so smoothly behind the scenes. Ditka, the head coach, and Ryan, the defensive coordinator, got into an argument at halftime of the Miami game — Chicago's only loss that season — about which player should be covering Dolphins receiver Nat Moore. The disagreement turned into a shouting match, with Ditka reportedly telling Ryan: "We can do it any way you want to. We can go right out back and get it on, or you can shape your [butt] up."

Ryan vs. Kevin Gilbride: Ryan and Gilbride were the Houston Oilers' defensive and offensive coordinators, and didn't like each other. The feud came to a head Jan. 2, 1994, on the Oilers' sideline during a shutout of the New York Jets. Ryan, who derisively referred to Gilbride's run-and-shoot offense as the "chuck-and-duck," was angered when Houston's quarterback fumbled a snap and jeopardized the shutout. Ryan yelled at Gilbride, who started walking toward him. Ryan threw a punch, connecting with Gilbride's jaw. He later called Gilbride a "wimp" and said he should be "selling insurance."

Tom Cable vs. Randy Hanson: Was Hanson punched? Was he flipped out of his chair? Depends on whom you ask. Either way, the diminutive Raiders assistant coach got into an altercation at training camp in 2009 with the hulking Cable, then Oakland's head coach, and wound up with a broken jaw. Hanson later filed a civil suit, saying Cable had to be restrained by other coaches and threatened to kill him.

Eric Mangini vs. Bill Belichick: There was a lot of awkwardness and intrigue between New England Patriots Coach Belichick and Mangini, a former assistant who became coach of the New York Jets. Mangini was the perceived snitch in the "Spygate" scandal. The division rivals played each other twice a season, and each time a crowd of photographers gathered to shoot the postgame handshake, which ranged from an icy, no-look clutch to a bewildering man-hug. "It's like a bad marriage," Jets safety Victor Green explained. "There's animosity and tension."

Ray Perkins vs. Ron Heller: Perkins was head coach of the fast-sinking Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1987, and Heller was an offensive tackle. During halftime of a game against New Orleans, with the Bucs trailing, 28-10, Heller was imploring his teammates not to quit. Perkins misheard him, thinking Heller was instructing them to quit. The raging coach started throwing punches, and, although Heller didn't punch back, Perkins came out the worse — he broke his thumb on the lineman's helmet.

Warren Sapp vs. Mike Sherman: Sapp was an All-Pro defensive tackle for Tampa Bay, and Sherman was Green Bay's coach. On an interception return, Sapp floored Packers tackle Chad Clifton with a blindside hit even though Clifton was out of the play. After the game, Sherman angrily confronted Sapp, who repeatedly challenged the coach to "put a jersey on!"

Todd Haley vs. Josh McDaniels: Haley, coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, has an explosive temper and it detonated after a 49-29 loss at Denver last season. Feeling that McDaniels, then coach of the Broncos, had run up the score, Haley refused to shake hands with him after the game. Instead, he pointed his finger at him, turned and stormed away. TV cameras picked up Haley telling McDaniels, "There's a lot of … being talked about you." The next day, Haley apologized for refusing to shake hands.

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