End NFL coaches' handshakes? Yes: Who needs it? Bud Grant, Vince Lombardi certainly didn't
The postgame handshake was not the ritual for Vince Lombardi, Bud Grant and the coaches of their generation. On occasion back then, coaches would meet as they left the field, especially when one of them was the other's former player. But that was...
The postgame handshake was not the ritual for Vince Lombardi, Bud Grant and the coaches of their generation. On occasion back then, coaches would meet as they left the field, especially when one of them was the other's former player. But that was the exception, not the rule.
George Halas and Curly Lambeau are said to have never shaken hands. Lombardi liked to meet with the opposing coach before the game. Paul Brown gave fair warning before the game, while Tom Landry and Chuck Noll preferred a subtle gesture while exiting. You want to count up those league titles?
More to the point, most of today's head coaches would tell you they don't want to do it, either. So, who started this postgame lovefest? And why do so many of us need to see it to feel good about the game we just watched?
Those who watched the "Ice Bowl" obviously didn't need to see Lombardi and Landry shake hands after the game. Can anybody remember having seen it happen?
Noll would make eye contact and nod and nobody had a problem with that until "Handshake Sam" Wyche came along and literally demanded that Noll shake his hand after Wyche's Bengals had scored a win against Noll and his Steelers. That little exchange seemed to kick off the handshake craze.
But is it really necessary? That little display on Sunday between Jim Schwartz and Jim Harbaugh was ugly. Whatever happened to coaches being men of distinction? Can you imagine Lombardi crying about another coach not shaking his hand? Can you picture Halas getting upset? Would Landry have chased after Harbaugh?
Hey, put them back in coats and ties and fedoras. I liked them better dressed like that. They were distinguished-
looking and they acted the part. Once they started wearing sideline gear, it was as though they became players. Maybe that's what happened to Schwartz and Harbaugh.
Pete Rozelle promoted a non-fraternization policy during his time as commissioner. He didn't like the visual that postgame hugs presented to fans. He encouraged coaches to get their players off the field as quickly as possible after the game, lest fans begin to think the battle they had just witnessed wasn't as real as they thought it was. Coaches from that era, such as Bud Grant, complied with Rozelle's wishes.
"I never shook Halas' hand or Lombardi's hand after a game. That was my volition," Grant, the former Vikings coach, said. "You were expected to play out there, to work up a certain lather against the other team. If you were in a fight and when the fight was over, if you lost and you could be happy, then I believe you
didn't get prepared for the fight. I don't believe you can change colors that quickly. You can't be a chameleon."
Like so many coaches of his day, Grant would make contact with the opposing coach before the game, "but I'd tell him, 'After the game, I'm not going to shake hands.'"
Despite that lack of display of sportsmanship, the game grew into the most popular and successful professional sports league in the country.
A lot of fans the past couple of days have commented that they like the Schwartz-Harbaugh handshake flap because it lets fans know the game is for real. Hey, the old coaches did that by not shaking hands. In the process, they avoided an ugly display and maintained their dignity.
Vic Ketchman is editor of Packers.com.