The Tragic Tale Of The Seahawks-Niners Rivalry
Just two years ago, the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers had all the makings of an iconic, decade-long NFL rivalry, the likes of which we rarely see anymore -- and for good reason. How often do two young quarterbacks in the same division simultaneously shepard their teams to deep playoff runs? The Kaepernick-Wilson rivalry was supposed to be the next Favre-Culpepper; the next Marino-Kelly. Harbaugh-Carroll was supposed to be the next Parcells-Gibbs. In 2015, casual football fans (if those even exist anymore) were supposed to hold viewing parties to watch Navarro Bowman chase down Marshawn Lynch.
Two incredible defenses. Two state-of-the-art stadiums in two awesome cities separated by 835 miles of pristine Pacific coastline. After that 2013 NFC Championship Game, we all thought Niners-Seahawks was going to be the league's can't-miss matchup three times a year.
Cut to Week 7's Thursday night game, and it's very apparent that the juice behind Niners-Seahawks has fizzled. Two 2-4 middling teams sitting on the floor of their division, nowhere near the top of the league in any relevant defensive metric -- nor any offensive metric for that matter. Hell, it's still October and people are already calling the Week 7 matchup of this once promising rivalry a "must-win" for both teams.
Is this a low-point in the rivalry? Yes, unless it's the midway-point in a much worse future state. What if things get worse for BOTH teams? SPOILER ALERT: Things could definitely get worse for both teams. Let me put on my Skip Bayless hat for a second and ask you: could Niners-Seahawks become "The Toilet Bowl"?
(Probably not, but it's trending in that direction.)
The eye test tells us that the Seahawks aren't nearly as doomed as the 49ers at this very point in the spacetime-continuum, but that's not to say there's any guarantee they aren't sitting on the verge of a franchise-level collapse/Niners-esque mass exodus. Sports are weird and the Mets just swept the Cubs in the NLCS behind a six-game home run streak courtesy of someone who hit nine all last season. Crazy shit can and does happen. Not to be too apoplectic about a team that almost won two consecutive Super Bowls, but a tumultuous last eight months looms ominously over an uncharacteristically disoriented Seattle team that appears to have lost it's identity.
Trading All-Pro center Max Unger for Jimmy Graham doesn't seem to be all it was cracked up to be (he has the fewest yards and touchdowns through six games since his rookie season and the o-line looks bad).
Pro Football Reference has Richard Sherman ranked as the 82nd-best cornerback in the NFL this season (not having fellow-cornerback-turned-Philadelphia-Eagle Byron Maxwell sharing coverage duties for the first time in his career certainly doesn't help).
Bruce Irvin and Bobby Wagner's contract kvetching -- on top of Kam Chancellor's ill-fated four-game holdout -- look like telltale signs of a split locker room, jealous over that goody-goody Russell Wilson's massive deal (he's currently the fourth highest-paid player this season making $31 million).
Their 29-year-old running back just signed a huge two-year deal this offseason after threatening to retire, then proceeded to get injured.
A series of recent coaching miscues has lead to four last-minute losses, notably the final play of Super Bowl XLIX and Week 6's "let's ignore Greg Olsen while he walks into the end zone as if he has some terrible contagious skin disease," has lead to questions about the team's picked over coaching staff.
We've seen these kinds of über-talented teams implode under the crushing weight of their own success. When you zoom out, it almost looks as if the Seahawks could be reaching critical mass.
As for San Francisco, a crushing loss at MetLife Stadium against an injury-plagued Giants squad two weeks ago was somewhat mitigated by a big win over the Baltimore Ravens last week, but you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone bullish on this team. They're just not very good in a very unexciting way (the opposite of what you would've expected after 2013). Kaepernick ranks in the bottom half of all quarterbacks in nearly every category -- except turnovers -- holding tight at the 28-spot in passing yards per game and 35th in rushing yards per game (we're not even sure how that's possible). Needless to say, there has never once been a successful NFL team whose quarterback is playing for his job every week.
Colin Kaepernick is playing for his job every week.
Is this rivalry dead? For Niners and Seahawks fans it certainly isn't (Niners fans never seem to lack, um, enthusiasm), but for the rest of us, it's hard to give a shit about the once dominant NFC West ruling class. That sucks -- we were really excited. :(
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