49ers fans have to be happy the Seahawks traded away Russell Wilson earlier this offseason, but what does this mean to the NFC West rivalry entering 2022 and beyond?
I was on an airplane to New Orleans in October of 2016 with a bunch of Seattle Seahawks fans, who were going to attend the Saints game versus the Hawks at the Mercedes Benz Superdome that weekend.
Naturally, there was some good-natured smack talk when I mentioned I was a San Francisco 49ers fan. But as Niners fans can recall, 2016 sucked. It was a two-win year.
However, nearly every Seattle fan told me how much they missed the glory days of the 49ers-Seahawks rivalry, which reached a pinnacle point between 2012 and 2014.
Granted, the Hawks largely dominated that rivalry, ending the Niners in the 2014 NFC Championship game and then winning Super Bowl XLVIII two weeks later. And quarterback Russell Wilson was effectively the No. 1 reason why the last decade of this NFC West rivalry was so one-sided.
But Wilson is gone now, traded off to the Denver Broncos in one of the 2022 offseason’s biggest blockbuster moves.
“Finally,” might be the quote for every San Francisco fan.
While it might be great for 49ers fans to relish in Seattle’s demise, does it effectively end the rivalry between these two teams?
How dead is the rivalry between 49ers and Seahawks?
In all likelihood, the Seahawks are going to be bad in 2022. Perhaps longer. Pro Football Focus’ pre-preseason NFL power rankings just listed the Hawks dead last at No. 32 overall.
It’s a rebuild up north in the NFC West, and the Niners have gone through their own share of those since the heyday of this rivalry. And if Seattle gets it right, a re-sparked rivalry would certainly be on the table once more.
But it might lack the luster it once had when Wilson was present.
There was actually a time when the Seahawks were nowhere close to being a top rival for San Francisco. Heck, I can recall actually rooting for the Hawks in Super Bowl XL back in 2006 for the simple reason I didn’t want the Pittsburgh Steelers to tie with the 49ers for most Lombardi Trophies. Back then, the Niners’ rivalry with Seattle might have equated to whatever NFC West rivalry exists with a team like the Arizona Cardinals.
It’s there but nothing more.
Imagine rooting for the Seahawks in a Super Bowl now, though.
That said, no San Francisco fan will feel sorry for the Hawks and their fanbase in the wake of what happened over the last 10 years with Wilson in the picture. It’ll take time for the rivalry to truly die, if it ever does.
49ers-Seahawks rivalry isn’t dead but lacks the same punch
It’s one thing to actively boo Wilson. As the face of the 49ers’ chief rival over the last 10 years, he rightfully held a spot as one of Niners fans’ biggest players they love to hate.
However, that same scorn isn’t possibly going to be redirected at Seattle’s two current options to replace him under center, Geno Smith or Drew Lock.
Quite the downgrade, at least in terms of intensity.
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Again, San Francisco fans are probably going to enjoy the Seahawks’ likely struggles this season and certainly beyond. That’s what a 10-year one-sided rivalry will do when the script flips the other way.
But, for a rivalry to be a true rivalry, both teams have to be good. And nothing may ever replicate the intensity of this NFC West rivalry quite like those high-stakes years when both teams were dominant between 2012 and 2014.
Perhaps that part will be missed.