Now that the Seahawks hammered the death nail into the coaching career of Jim Harbaugh for the Santa Clara 49ers, many observers of the NFL believe it also signaled the death of the rivalry between these two franchises. This simplistic view is based upon the tenuous relationship between Harbaugh and Coach Pete Carroll dating back to their college days in the Pac-10 conference. There is no doubt the animosity between the head coaches fed the rivalry, but it was also fueled and fanned by Harbaugh’s two former pupils at Stanford, wide receiver Doug Baldwin (#89) and cornerback Richard Sherman (#25).
Many observers sitting outside the circles of the 12th Man and 49er Faithful suspect the Seahawks new rivalry will be the NFC leading Arizona Cardinals. They are wrong, the rivalry between the Seahawks and 49ers is not dead and gone.
This conflict goes much deeper than the two men commanding these teams. Hate is the engine that makes this rivalry run, and there is plenty of hate to go around. Harbaugh and Carroll may have provided the spark to ignite the fire, but the scar tissue and wounds inflicted upon both fan bases and teams over the past 4 years will continue to burn for sometime.
There are too many “villains” for both fan bases and even with Harbaugh leaving, a new “villain” will likely step into the role. The 49er Faithful still have Carroll and Sherman to revile . The 12s still have Collin Kaepernick and Frank Gore to vilify. Simply put, the coaches hate each other, the players hate each other, the fans hate each other, and even the two cities hate each other. Who knows, maybe even the owners hate each other?
As long as there are 49er fans and 12s willing to attend games and root for their team behind enemy lines, this rivalry breathes life. If the antogonism starts to fade, a 12 just needs to fly a Seahawks banner over Levi’s stadium or a 49er will rent a billboard in Fife, Washington, reliving their franchise’s ancient history of Super Bowl rings past, in order to stoke the fire. You see, it is not just a rivalry, it is a feud.
The only way the Cardinals replace the 49ers as the Seahawks new rival, is when they start winning consistently and their bandwagon starts to fill up. When the red jerseys invading Seahawks stadium are no longer accompanied with gold and and instead are enlisted with black, that is when the rivalry with the 49ers will fade to black.