We all know that Seattle Seahawks fans and San Francisco 49ers don’t care for each other. Every 12 or member of the Faithful would gladly tell you all about the rivalry that exists between the NFC West foes.
From 2012-15, the rivalry was one of, if not the best in the NFL. Now that the Seahawks are 7-2 and the 49ers are 8-0, there’s a chance for Monday night’s contest to reignite the fued between both teams.
I spent the last few days asking around as to whether or not it’s possible to acknowledge rivalries in the NFL. Here are the responses I received followed by my take on the matter.
HC Pete Carroll
Carroll, as expected, dismissed the conversation all together. In his mind, it’s not possible to acknowledge a rivalry while still approaching every game like a championship opportunity. That would mean to place more value on one game compared to others.
“It isn’t in my mind,” Carroll said. “Every game to us is a championship regardless of who we’re playing, where we’re playing, what the situation is, what the schedule says, what the matchups are and what’s happened before. In that case, there is no one game that’s different than another. We don’t want it to be. We want to play every game like it’s the only game we’ve got. That’s how we approach it.”
So at no point will he ever mutter the word?
“It’s not part of the mentality at all,” Carroll said. “That’s right.”
What’s funny is that Carroll was later asked about whether or not he wishes Jim Harbaugh was still in the NFL. Carroll and Harbaugh have a lengthy history that began at USC and Stanford and continued with the Seahawks and 49ers, respectively.
“Yeah. I like Jim. I like Jim a lot. I think he’s a great ball coach. He won’t like me saying this, but I love beating him,” Carroll said while smiling. “He’s doing great. I think he’s an incredible coach. I think he’s unique, he’s tough, he’s smart. Creative. He’s a great ball coach.”
But it wasn’t a rivalry between them?
“No,” Carroll said. “I think you guys thought that. We played them. It was fun.”
It’s hard to imagine that wins against a Harbaugh coached team didn’t feel even a little bit more satisfying than other victories, but who knows. *insert shrug emoji*
LB Bobby Wagner
Wagner acknowledged that Seahawks vs. 49ers from 2012-15 was a rivalry. But he noted that it had more to do with the people involved and the stakes in some of those contests. There’s an added emotion on both sides when you end someone’s season or someone ends your season.
There were so many faces in that rivalry on both sides that remained consistent during that stretch. That’s why Wagner doesn’t believe these two teams are currently rivals beyond what’s typical for divisional opponents. And that’s fair, in my opinion. There’s not a ton of history between players on these two teams.
Except for Richard Sherman, of course. Wagner and Sherman are still close friends and hate losing to one another.
“Richard is a person that’s not going to let you live that down until the following season unless you beat him at basketball in his house,” Wagner said, who enjoys reminding everyone he beat Sherman in 1-on-1 last offseason. “He’ll deny it, but I’m pretty sure a guy like that has cameras at his house and we can find some footage.”
Wagner said it would take a postseason matchup in order for 49ers-Seahawks to get anywhere close to the rivalry it was in its heyday. He’s probably right about that.
49ers HC Kyle Shanahan
I asked Shanahan the exact same question I asked Carroll: “Is it possible to acknowledge/appreciate a rivalry while still approaching every game the same way?”
Shanahan gave a much different response.
“Yeah it is,” he admitted. “Every game you feel as though it’s the biggest game of the year, so that really doesn’t change. But, teams in your division, teams you play twice, things like that, there’s always a little different feel to it. You don’t make anything up or make it any bigger than it is but, you address that. Especially when you play teams a lot, and especially twice a year. There’s always a little bit more to it.”
LB K.J. Wright
Wright was somewhere in the middle. He initially said he didn’t believe in rivalries at all but then admitted that 49ers vs. Seahawks from 2012-15 was a rivalry.
“I loved that because it was good on good – good running backs, good linebackers, it was fun,” Wright said.
He added that his outlook on football as a whole shifted once he had kids. He obviously still loves the game, but he doesn’t invest time or thought into who is and who isn’t a rival. Wright also said that he’d love to see Seahawks-49ers get back to where it used to be.
“Oh no doubt. But the word rivalry – I don’t believe in rivalries,” Wright said. “I did then. Not now.”
QB Russell Wilson
Wilson initially seemed on board when asked if he believes in rivalries.
“You definitely believe in rivalries,” Wilson said. “You think about the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, those types of games. Those are pretty big games. People care about them for sure.”
He quickly changed his tune when asked if he’s able to acknowledge them as a player.
“To fans and people, I think every game means something different to them. For us, anytime you get to step on the field, it means everything. It doesn’t matter who we play. It doesn’t matter where we play. It doesn’t matter if it’s practice. If you have the right focus, practice should mean everything. I think the way that you go about your business.
“I think the greatest players that played this game, when they’re in little league, it meant everything. I think when you’re in college, it means everything. I don’t think the factor of what the color of the jersey they wear changes anything at all.”
My two cents
I think Shanahan put it perfectly. It’s possible to acknowledge that certain games carry more weight without changing how you prepare. Not all wins are created equal. Like I said before, some just provide an added layer of satisfaction.
I also agree with Wagner in regards to the current state of 49ers-Seahawks. I believe it’s a rivalry, but one that is fan-fueled. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I wouldn’t expect many players on either side to feel a specific animosity within this matchup.
Selfishly, I hope that changes Monday night.