Some teams simply don’t like each other very much, and the fact that they play each other two times a year (if not more, thanks to the playoffs), doesn’t really help patch things up. The San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks don’t have one specific event that turned this rivalry into something special. It’s a simple case of proximity, a rise to power at the same time and having figures who aren’t afraid of talking to the media.
The Seattle Seahawks hired Pete Carroll in 2010 and the results were soon to follow. Two consecutive 7-9 seasons (one playoff appearance with one win) followed by the excellent 2012 & 2013. The Seahawks have gone to win 24 of 32 games over the last two seasons. They were 1-1 in the playoffs last year, narrowly beaten by the Falcons, and this season finished on top of the NFC for the first time since 2005, when they made it to the Super Bowl.
Harbaugh has sparked an even more of a turnaround. The 49ers were going through a decade of failure and disappointment when he arrived. All of a sudden, come three consecutive appearances in the conference championship game. He turned Alex Smith into a winning quarterback before turning his back on him and going with Colin Kaepernick.
Then there’s the story of animosity between the two head coaches. Harbaugh and Carroll coached in the Pac-12 during the same time, when USC were the dominant force. When Carroll was gone, Stanford took the reigns in 2010 with Harbaugh in charge and Andrew Luck at quarterback. There have been denials about not liking each other, but just like in the Calipari and Pitino case, it’s hard to hide what seems to be in plain sight.
The 49ers get under people’s skin. The Seattle Seahawks have their guy who talks to the media and does the trash talking for them – Richard Sherman. The 49ers seem to be a product of their coach and his behavior on the sidelines. Not everyone likes it, and many call it ‘classless’. The way their carry themselves on the field, to Colin Kaepernick’s way of celebrating. This is a different breed of animal on both sides, which is probably exemplified best by the differences in both quarterbacks.
The Seahawks humiliating the Niners on the last two games in Seattle have helped feed the flames. It ended in a 29-3 drubbing earlier this season, followed by Harbaugh refusing to shake hands with Richard Sherman after the game. The Seahawks aren’t exactly graceful winners as well. No one is trying to hide the feelings going into the third game, especially not Sherman himself.
There’s no love lost and there’s no love found. I don’t know if there’s going to be handshakes after this one. It’s going to be intense and it’s going to be physical. I don’t hate anyone. But passion, definitely. There’ll be dislike, strong dislike. It’s playoff football, so there’ll be a lot of intensity, anyway, even if we weren’t two teams very familiar with each other. But there’s going to be a lot of chippiness in a hard-fought game. The two best teams in the NFC are the ones that are here.
The obvious comparison between Carroll and Harbaugh was coming. Sherman didn’t say anything too blunt like the last time a war of words between him and his former college head coach made some headlines, but he couldn’t resist having a little dig at Harbaugh.
If you’re a loose guy who dances at practice, like me, he (Carroll) lets you be that guy. It’s all some of us have ever known in the NFL. He makes the game a lot more fun. It’s a lot less so under Harbaugh).