The 49ers rivalry with the Seahawks is likely going to look a lot different a year from now, especially if Russell Wilson is out of the picture.
That’s because the Niners and Hawks hated each other. Their fanbases hated each other. Heck, even the two head coaches at the time, Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh, were rumored to have hated each other.
Those days have been gone for a while now, of course, and the rivalry hasn’t quite been the same since. And while there was a brief rekindling of the rivalry in 2019 when San Francisco clinched both the division crown and No. 1 playoff seed in the conference with a thrilling Week 17 victory, about the only notable holdover from the glory days of the rivalry was one person.
Quarterback Russell Wilson.
Well, two people: Wilson and Carroll.
There have been grumblings about the two’s relationship for some time now, and last offseason sparked what appeared to be a tipping point in the future Hall of Fame quarterback’s Seattle tenure.
Wilson stayed, of course, sending out comments about how everything was fine and he was happy to be in place. But with the Seahawks shirking with a 3-7 record and a last-place standing within the NFC West, their run of eight playoff appearances in the last nine years is shaping up to be the end of an era.
Russell Wilson no longer masking Seahawks problems
49ers fans have long argued, perhaps incorrectly at times, Wilson was more than good enough to mask the problems Seattle had ever since the vaunted days of the “Legion of Boom” when the defense carried the day.
Still, Wilson earned his way towards being an elite-level quarterback, one capable of carrying the entire team on his shoulders. The Seahawks struggled to draft quality players, especially early, made questionable trade moves and failed to hit on many a free-agent pickup.
Yet Wilson was always there.
The problem now, though, is Wilson isn’t there, both figuratively and literally. He missed three games with a broken finger. And upon his return, neither his efforts nor those of the Seahawks have been up to par, as Stacy Rost of ESPN 710 AM radio in Seattle wrote:
"The Seahawks’ 2021 season feels less the fault of a single finger injury and more like the amalgamation of draft mistakes, costly trades, and a veteran-heavy roster. Mistakes by Wilson – who certainly bears the greatest burden for Week 10’s loss and didn’t take much of a step forward Sunday – were also a factor late last year and have become one again. Wilson himself isn’t the biggest issue with the Seahawks, but his inability to mask Seattle’s problems with MVP-caliber play certainly is one."
49ers witnessing the downfall of their chief NFC West rival?
Wilson was more than good enough to make up for Seattle’s previous tear-down efforts back in 2017, which included parting ways with All-Pro defensive backs like Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman, the latter switching sides in the rivalry the following year.
Yet Wilson doesn’t appear to be doing that now. With an older roster, a shortage of early draft picks and a seemingly unsolvable tension between Wilson and Carroll, there’s a possibility the entire situation gets torn down in Seattle this offseason.
The NFL might be sniffing this out, too, as the Niners and Hawks’ Week 13 Sunday Night Football game is getting flexed out in favor of matchups that’ll likely carry bigger playoff implications.
San Francisco would love nothing more than to hand Seattle a playoff-hopes-crushing loss in Week 13, especially after Wilson and the Seahawks embarrassed the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium back in Week 4.
And while it’s surely possible things wind up being mended between Wilson, Carroll and the Seattle front office heading into 2022, just like it appeared to be heading into this season, any continued downfall like the one the Seahawks are having right now would probably signal the opposite.
If so, there’s a real chance the Niners wouldn’t be seeing Wilson in a Hawks uniform any longer.