49ers-Seahawks: The New NFL Grudge Match
(Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
The San Francisco 49ers are a franchise draped in Super Bowl glory. The Seattle Seahawks are an upstart group looking to create some glory of their own. San Francisco was the heart of the Gold Rush and the epicenter of the counterculture movement. Seattle is home to rain, grunge and tossed fish. While many will focus on the Brady-Manning debate this weekend, the future of the NFL will be decided in the Emerald City as these two titans of the Pacific coast do battle in one of the best sporting environments America.
Everything about this rivalry is just perfect. You have two geographically close teams who play similar styles of football. Both are strong on defense with tough running games complimented by mobile quarterbacks who seem do do nothing but win. Seattle's CentruryLink Field is the loudest stadium in the nation, and the 49ers will have a new home next season that is sure to be a noise factory as well. Being in the same division, they will become quite the regular season draw. However, it's this playoff meeting, which could be the first of many, that adds flavor to this rivalry.
Maybe the most intriguing aspect of this game is the coaching match up. Pete Carroll was on top of the world at Southern California, winning two national championships and seven PAC-10 titles. However, he was dethroned by an upstart Stanford Cardinal led by Jim Harbaugh. Now the roles have been reversed. Harbaugh leads a historically great franchise in the 49ers, home to legends like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Steve Young. Carroll's Seahawks have had great teams in the past, but they have never achieved the Super Bowl summit. This feud is as bitter as they come. Harbaugh was accused once of running up the score on USC while at Stanford, while Carroll has made disparaging remarks about the 49ers since he arrived in Seattle. This hatred has carried over to the players on both sides, who regularly take shots at each other, both in the media and on the field. Expect things to get chippy.
Harbaugh also has an enemy in CB Richard Sherman. Sherman played for Harbaugh at Stanford, but his college coach passed on him in the draft. Now a star for the Seahawks, Sherman has not forgiven his former coach for the slight and takes joy in playing well against the 49ers.
The rivalry is also highlighted by an emerging quarterback battle that could be one for the ages. Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers and Russell Wilson of the Seahawks both became starters last season. Both are mobile quarterbacks who thrive outside of the pocket, though Kaepernick gets more designed runs. The battles between them have been mostly defensive struggles, but as both grow with experience they promise to bring more excitement as the seasons go by.
Of course, no great rivalry is complete without some serious star power, and this game has no shortage. Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith, Justin Smith, Eric Reid, Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin lead the 49ers, while Bruce Irvin, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and Marshawn Lynch make headlines for the Seahawks.
Will the 49ers return to the Super Bowl and add to their storied history? Will the Seahawks finally break through and win the big one? The answer to those questions will be interesting to see, but one thing we do know is that these teams are set up to be the NFL's premier rivalry for years to come.