The Battling Jims – Harbaugh and Schwartz – reunite Sunday night when the Detroit Lions face the 49ers in San Francisco, where all eyes will be focused on the postgame handshake.
But while there is some very strong dislike between the two (Schwartz thinks he's intellectually superior to Harbaugh and Harbaugh looks down at Schwartz's haughty style), this pair isn't even close when it comes to some of the great rivalries among non-players.
Dating to the days when then-Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell forced out legendary coach Paul Brown, there have been plenty of ugly disputes among the men who pace the sidelines and, occasionally, the men who sit in the owner's box.
Here's a look at the top 10 off-field NFL feuds of all time:
10. Todd Haley vs. Josh McDaniels
Despite their ties (both are friends with and/or disciples of Bill Belichick), these two had a flareup after Haley felt that McDaniels had run up the score in a Denver Broncos win over the Kansas City Chiefs two years ago. During the postgame handshake, Haley gave McDaniels a piece of his mind. The rivalry has since been short-circuited, with both men having been fired and now working as coordinators in the AFC.
[NFL power rankings: Niners' Harbaugh good at shooting down questions]
9. Chuck Noll et al vs. Jerry Glanville
The Pittsburgh Steelers coach wasn't much for on-field antics, but Glanville had a way of getting under just about anybody's skin. Late in the 1987 season, Noll gave Glanville a short-but-stern lecture. Glanville constantly pushed his players to gang tackle to the point of hitting late. Moreover, he rubbed others wrong with his antics, including leaving tickets for Elvis at every game and even dressing a little bit like The King in later days. While coaching in Atlanta, the ever-classy Glanville tried hard to infuriate San Francisco.
8. Bill Belichick vs. Eric Mangini
This had the makings of a great rivalry except for the fact that Mangini ended up getting fired … twice. This one got ugly when Mangini, the Patriots' defensive coordinator, interviewed for a job with the New York Jets and tried to take too many assistants from Belichick's staff in New England before officially getting the Jets job in 2006. Belichick changed the security code on Mangini before he returned from the Jets interview, the first of many Cold War moments between the two. Anyone heard of Spygate?
7. Mike Ditka vs. Forrest Gregg
This pair of Hall of Fame players took their battles to the sidelines later in life. In the 1980s, Ditka and Gregg were the respective coaches of longtime rivals, the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers. The rivalry took an ugly turn in 1986 when Packers defensive lineman Charles Martin committed one of the ugliest cheap shots in league history on Bears quarterback Jim McMahon, resulting in a two-game suspension. Ditka took verbal shot after shot at Gregg, even calling into question Gregg's integrity.
6. Bud Grant vs. Don Shula
This feud burned very cool for years because Grant and Shula were very dignified men who tried not to let anyone see when things really bothered them. However, the rivalry got going after the Dolphins won the second of back-to-back Super Bowls in the 1970s, beating Grant's Vikings in the process. Grant began to dislike what he perceived as Shula's influence over rules (many head coaches of the time were in this camp) and holier-than-thou approach. This one didn't get to play out publicly, but it existed nonetheless.
5. Belichick vs. Tony Dungy
Belichick's success has obviously earned him his share of sometimes jealous detractors, but Dungy has taken particular joy in poking Belichick whenever the opportunity has arisen. In 2007, when Belichick and the Patriots were embroiled in Spygate, Dungy was relentless in his criticism of Belichick. Later, after getting an analyst job with NBC, Dungy has taken his swipes at Belichick, including in 2009 when Belichick went for it on fourth-and-2 at Indianapolis, only to see the play come up short as the Colts came back to win.
4. Art Modell vs. Paul Brown
Modell purchased the Browns in 1961, setting the stage for one of the most stunning moves in NFL history. In January 1963, he fired Brown, one of the greatest coaches in football history (college and pro) and the man who the team is named after. Brown had won seven titles and essentially operated as if he was the owner of the team because Cleveland had always had a silent owner. Modell was anything but silent and the two clashed immediately. Even after being fired, Brown had enough to pull in the league to eventually get the expansion Cincinnati Bengals, but he never forgave Modell for running him out of Cleveland.
3. Al Davis vs. the world
Whom did Davis not consider a bitter rival? Davis feuded with his own players (Marcus Allen) and coaches (Mike Shanahan and Lane Kiffin). He feuded with other owners (the Rooney family and the late Gene Klein, among others). He feuded with rival coaches (Sid Gillman), cities and with the league itself (he sued the league, leading to the great moment when commissioner Pete Rozelle had to hand him the trophy after Super Bowl XVIII). Davis was a man who was always looking for a fight.
2. Tom Landry vs. George Allen
If you want to know the genesis of the Dallas Cowboys-Washington Redskins rivalry, this is it. This was actually more about Allen making Landry into an enemy because Landry never really played along. However, Allen was so consumed by his suspicion of Landry and the Cowboys that he refused to have TV cameras in his locker room or near his practice field for fear of the Cowboys would try to steal information. Classic stuff.
[Martin Rodgers: RG3 turned to former Olympian to overcome big obstacle]
1. Ditka vs. Buddy Ryan
What distinguishes this rivalry is that Ditka and Ryan actually worked together at the time. When Ditka was named the head coach of the Bears in 1982, owner George Halas forced him to keep Ryan as the defensive coordinator. As chemistry experiments go, this is like splitting an atom with sulfuric acid. Both men rank among the most combustible in NFL coaching history. Ditka was a screamer and Ryan battled just about anybody (he openly despised Shula, Landry and Jimmy Johnson and once punched fellow Oilers assistant coach Kevin Gilbride in a game). Ryan hated that Ditka was the head coach and refused to take orders from him (Ryan wouldn't call off the blitz in a 1985 44-0 win over the Cowboys and Landry, who was Ditka's dear friend). The relationship was so bad that the two men had to be separated during Chicago's lone loss to Miami in '85. Somehow, they combined to create one of the most dominant teams in NFL history that year.
1. Baltimore Ravens: QB Joe Flacco and WR Torrey Smith are going to become one of the greatest deep threat combo ever.
2. San Francisco 49ers: Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh Super Bowl? After what the 49ers did in Green Bay, there's a real chance.
3. Houston Texans: A vicious front seven, a solid secondary and a good enough offense to make it all go.
4. New England Patriots: Additions of Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower have revived front seven.
5. Atlanta Falcons: Loss of CB Brent Grimes is brutal, but the offense may be good enough to cover for the defense.
28. Seattle Seahawks: All that talk about Russell Wilson being a special talent? Eh, maybe the next Seneca Wallace.
29. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck is going to get a lot of work at throwing off his back foot this season.
30. Cleveland Browns: As mediocre as Wilson was, he was about 15 times better than Brandon Weeden.
31. Miami Dolphins: The only team in the league that failed to score an offensive TD. That could be a trend.
32. Oakland Raiders: Receiving corps is a train wreck and the depth at running back is awful. D will win some, maybe.
THIS AND THAT
• To all those Saints fans who were critical of my column bashing New Orleans for not signing Drew Brees earlier in offseason, consider that Sunday was on the second time in his seven seasons with New Orleans and first time since Christmas Eve 2006 that he completed less than half his passes in a game. Sorry folks, but the reality is that the Saints wasted valuable time in a critical season squabbling over a few million dollars over a six-year contract for the best player in team history. Throw in the fact that the Saints have spent six months being distracted by the bounty scandal and you had a recipe for a disastrous opening game.
• Suffice to say, but numerous agents are carefully watching the NFL Players Association and how it handles the investigation of agent Drew Rosenhaus. "If the union doesn't do something, everybody is going to wonder if there are any rules at all," one source said. Multiple union sources said the organization is plainly aware of that.
• Someday, years from now, there's going to be an interesting discussion about whether Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive back Ronde Barber deserves to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His 16-year career is more of an appreciation of the subtle art of playing football than a string of highlight reel plays. However, give Barber credit that in his first career start at safety, he came up with an interception and helped limit Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers to 10 points. The man knows how to play and that's no small compliment.
• The folks who run the Browns are trying to keep fans calm after quarterback Brandon Weeden had four interceptions and finished with a 5.1 rating in his first start. The guy people like coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Tom Heckert need to be worried about is incoming team president Joe Banner. Word around the league is that Banner, who could be in charge shortly after the team is officially transferred to new owner Jim Haslam in October, was not at all impressed with Weeden.
• Congrats to former Miami Dolphins defensive star Jason Taylor for his work on the ESPN postgame show Monday. Taylor obviously prepared for his first performance on the show, giving both insight and energy to the program. There was no falling asleep when Taylor was talking.
[Around the NFL: Larry Fitzgerald uses world travel to impact many lives]
• Yeah, this is an NFL column, but USC coach Lane Kiffin has enough NFL ties that he deserves a jab. The decision to ban reporter Scott Wolf from covering practice and two games (which has been rescinded) for reporting on an surgery is so incredibly stupid that I'm almost at a loss for words. Just so you know, you don't sign Wolf's paycheck and if you think you were going to keep news about a surgery from getting out, that's mind-boggling. What you're doing is a disservice to Wolf and to USC, an academic institution that should know better. Frankly, maybe Al Davis was right about you.
• On face value, Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker did a pretty nice job (23-of-32 passing for 229 yards, one TD and one interception) against New England. He probably could have created another touchdown if an apparent pass interference call in the end zone had been made in the first quarter. However, one AFC defensive coordinator said this week that Locker should have done much more. "Everything the Patriots did was to contain [running back] Chris Johnson," the coach said, noting that Johnson was limited to four yards rushing on 11 carries. "I know Locker is young, but there's some stuff he should have seen right away."
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