Once upon a time the San Francisco 49ers – Seattle Seahawks rivalry was arguably the most intense rivalry in the entire NFL. The success and youth of both teams promised us years of exciting and brutal battles between two defensively-minded coaches, whose battles traced back to the Pac-12. Sadly, this rivalry is intense no more, and the Niners are completely to blame.
The San Francisco 49ers were once an amazing story: Jim Harbaugh comes to town and completely turns the franchise on its head, leading the team to three straight NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl appearance.
The Seattle Seahawks remain an amazing story: Pete Carroll arrived and a third-round draft pick rose to stardom as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. At least one Super Bowl trophy has been the result.
While both teams had their struggles last year, the Niners are clearly much worse for wear.
Yet just a few years ago, the 49ers and Seahawks were both perennial Super Bowl contenders in the same division, with coaches who had a history dating back to their time in the college ranks, and a mean streak between the two teams. As Newsday put it back in 2013: 49ers-Seahawks rivalry is nasty, but fun to watch.
USA Today’s For the Win put the rivalry a different way last fall: 49ers-Seahawks has become the most depressing rivalry in the NFL.
How true, how true.
While the Seahawks are still a contender, despite their complete dud of a game against the Los Angeles Rams last week, San Francisco reached new depths of despair last season after a series of mistakes and poor decision making by Jed York and Niners management. Forcing Jim Harbaugh out was, of course, the primary failure from which everything else arose.
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The 49ers have a chance Sunday against the Seahawks, but even if they win, this rivalry is now a difficult one to watch. One team, once great, still pursues greatness. The other, once great, is pursuing mediocrity.