49ers

Richard Sherman still has 'bad blood' for ex-49ers coach Jim Harbaugh

Richard Sherman still has 'bad blood' for ex-49ers coach Jim Harbaugh

SANTA CLARA – Richard Sherman, the 49ers’ Pro Bowl cornerback who fuels himself with emotion, believes he maintains a high standard of performance because he approaches every week the same.

“You got to prepare the same,” Sherman said Thursday, as the 49ers continued preparations to face the Seattle Seahawks on "Sunday Night Football" for the NFC West championship.

“I play the same every week. It’s not like I play with less emotion last week and the week before that, and I’m just going to hype up for this week. It doesn’t make any difference. I’m trying to win every week. I want to win the same (this week) as I did last week, as I did the week before that, the week before that.”

Sherman experienced the 49ers-Seahawks matchups from the other side for his first seven NFL seasons. He took particular delight in defeating the 49ers because of his acrimonious relationship with Jim Harbaugh, his coach at Stanford.

After the Seahawks’ 29-3 victory over the 49ers in September 2013, Sherman ran across the field to pat Harbaugh's butt to rub it into his former coach.

Six years later, Sherman, now 31, said he can look back and not regret a thing.

“I meant it to Harbaugh,” Sherman said. “We’ve had our history. I don’t regret a second of that. I’d do it again, twice, maybe more.

“If he were their coach and we were in the same position, it would maybe be worse right now. There’s bad blood there. There’s history there. . . . It was very personal. It was less 49ers and Seahawks. It was very personal.”

Sherman said there is no comparison to his feelings toward the Seahawks organization for releasing him in the 2018 offseason while he was rehabbing from surgery to repair a torn Achilles.

“Much, much different circumstances,” Sherman said comparing the feelings he has for the Seahawks to his past with Harbaugh. “Our history goes way more personal than football.”

As told to NBC Sports Bay Area in October, Sherman said his relationship with Harbaugh was irreversibly damaged when Harbaugh expressed anger toward Sherman after he underwent season-ending knee surgery early in the 2008 season. Harbaugh told Sherman he quit on the Stanford team, Sherman recalled.

Sherman said Harbaugh told him he would never play offense for Stanford again, despite being the team’s leading wide receiver as a freshman and sophomore. Sherman moved to defense and began the following offseason at the bottom of the Stanford depth chart.

Because he knew every facet of the team’s offense, Sherman dominated during offseason practices and quickly rose up the depth chart and started his final two college seasons at cornerback. Following his senior year, Sherman also felt Harbaugh did not help his draft status with NFL teams. The Seahawks and Harbaugh’s bitter adversary, Pete Carroll, selected Sherman in the fifth round of the 2011 draft.

[RELATEDSherman's unconventional path led him from streets to NFL]

Sherman also had a personal grudge against former 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree, with whom he clashed during Larry Fitzgerald's charity softball game in the offseason. Sherman made his pass break-up that led to the clinching Malcolm Smith interception in Seattle's victory over the 49ers in the NFC Championship game in January 2014. Afterward, he flashed a choke sign, and had his memorable post-game interview with Erin Andrews.

Sherman said Sunday's game will be all about business and not personal feelings. When it was suggested this is not a normal week, Sherman disagreed.

"It is for me," he said. "It's ball."

How Patriots trading Jimmy Garoppolo earlier would've affected 49ers

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USATSI

How Patriots trading Jimmy Garoppolo earlier would've affected 49ers

The New England Patriots' ideal Tom Brady successor is the franchise quarterback for Brady's childhood team.

The Patriots dealt Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers for a second-round draft pick in 2017, to coach Bill Belichick's reported chagrin. He envisioned Garoppolo leading the Patriots into another decade of dominance, but owner Robert Kraft ordered Belichick to trade Garoppolo and keep Brady, ESPN's Seth Wickersham reported in 2018.

Neither Brady nor Garoppolo will be in New England when the 2020 season starts, as the former signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (that's still weird to type and say out loud) as a free agent last month. The Patriots' QB depth chart currently consists of Jarrett Stidham and former 49er Brian Hoyer, which doesn't exactly inspire dynasty-building confidence.

That left NBC Sports Boston's Phil Perry to wonder if the Patriots would've been better off trading Garoppolo sooner, when then-Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson stopped just shy of holding a neon sign over his head indicating he would trade the No. 12 pick before that year's draft for Garoppolo.

"On its face, making that move made sense for both sides," Perry wrote Friday. "The Browns were desperate for a competent quarterback. They were flush with picks. The Patriots, meanwhile, didn't have a first or a second-rounder that spring. For them, trading Garoppolo with a year left on his contract represented an opportunity to bolster their 2017 rookie haul with a top-15 talent."

The ripple effects, as Perry noted would've been far-reaching.

Jackson would've had his quarterback of the future, and thus the Browns might not have drafted Baker Mayfield No. 1 overall -- or even had the pick -- in 2018. The 49ers, who Kyle Shanahan admitted were focused enough on acquiring Kirk Cousins as a free agent in 2018 that they passed on Patrick Mahomes in the 2017 draft, then likely would've gone all-in on Cousins. The Patriots, then, could've drafted Deshaun Watson at No. 12 overall -- the same pick the Houston Texans used after acquiring it from the Browns -- as Brady's successor.

Thankfully for fans sick of New England winning titles, that didn't happen. It's also fair to wonder if any of the teams involved other than the Patriots actually were better off.

Acquiring Garoppolo could've saved Jackson's job in the short-term, but the Browns didn't become a team who failed to meet lofty expectations until after Jackson's firing. The 49ers, had they signed Cousins to the same contract he signed with the Vikings in 2018, would've had more flexibility in the first season but less in the second when compared to Garoppolo's extension. Neither Cousins nor Garoppolo is a clear upgrade over the other, and it's not like you can guarantee Cousins wouldn't have torn his ACL in 2018, either.

[RELATED: Kittle's 49ers rise didn't shock fellow Iowa star Hanks at all]

The Patriots can (and surely will) kick themselves all they want for not maximizing Garoppolo's trade return, but the Browns might not view a hypothetical Garoppolo deal with the same regret since that still would've meant not picking Watson.

The 49ers, assuming they still signed Cousins, surely would've been happy either way.

George Kittle's 49ers rise didn't shock fellow Iowa star Merton Hanks

George Kittle's 49ers rise didn't shock fellow Iowa star Merton Hanks

Tight end George Kittle already is the 49ers’ best fifth-round draft pick since 1991.

Kittle has picked up two Pro Bowl selections and a First-Team All-Pro award in his first three NFL seasons. The 49ers have not experienced that kind of success from a player in the fifth round since the selection of defensive back Merton Hanks, a four-time Pro Bowl player and starter on the 49ers’ Super Bowl champion team in the 1994 season.

Kittle, like Hanks, played college ball at Iowa.

“I think that’s a great symmetry,” Hanks said this week on The 49ers Insider Podcast.

“The 49ers do pretty well with fifth-round draft picks from the University of Iowa. We tend to knock it out of the park a little bit there.”

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Hanks, who now works as senior associate commissioner of Conference USA, described himself as a first-round talent who fell in the draft due to a bad performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. He apparently scared teams with his reported time of 4.77 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

Kittle had an impressive combine. He had all the measurables, but he did not post great numbers as a pass-catcher during his four-year college career. In 25 games over four seasons, Kittle caught just 48 passes for 737 yards and 10 touchdowns.

In his first 45 regular-season games with the 49ers, Kittle has 216 catches for 2,945 yards and 12 touchdowns.

“I can’t say I’m surprised at all,” said Hanks, who referred to Iowa as “Tight Ends U."

[RELATED: How ex-49er Merton Hanks channeled 'Sesame Street' in iconic dance]

Iowa produced two tight ends in the first round of the 2019 draft: T.J. Hockenson, chosen No. 8 overall by the Detroit Lions, and Noah Fant, whom the Denver Broncos picked at No. 20.

“Coach (Kirk) Ferentz had NFL ties," Hanks added. "He understands the NFL game and what tight ends have to do to be successful, not only on the collegiate level, but the NFL level.”