There is no debating that the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers are two of the best teams in the National Football League. The Seahawks and Niners have gone on to represent the NFC in the last two Super Bowls. The Niners were looking to get back to the Super Bowl this past February when they were denied that chance by the Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game. The Seahawks would go on to defeat the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 48, but in the mind of many football observers, the real Super Bowl took place at the NFC Championship Game between Seattle and San Francisco. These two teams are as close as two squads can be in the NFL as the road to the NFC West Title runs between them. Both organizations went to the Pac-12 Conference to hire their current respective head coaches. In 2010, the Seahawks lured Pete Carroll away from the University of Southern California and in 2011 the Niners would go to Palo Alto, California to talk to former Stanford University head football coach Jim Harbaugh to give the National Football League a shot. In an era of parity and passing in the NFL, the Seahawks and Niners are a throwback to a different era of football that was blue-collar and defined by blood, sweat, and tears. Both teams talk big, but more importantly they can each back it up when they step between the white lines. And aside from the overall team rivalry between the Seahawks and 49ers, there are some interesting individual rivalries, but one in particular takes the cake.
49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree and Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman entered the National Football League at opposite ends of the spectrum. Crabtree was a two-time All-American at Texas Tech University before the Niners made him the tenth overall selection of the 2009 NFL Draft. Sherman went to Stanford to play wide receiver, but he would be converted to cornerback there. Sherman had to sweat it out during the National Football League Draft in 2011 as his name would not be called until the fifth round.
In his first three seasons in San Francisco, Crabtree was unable to live up to the lofty expectations for him as he failed to gain 1,000 receiving yards in any of those campaigns. Crabtree took his game to another level in 2012 with 85 receptions, 1,105 receiving yards and 9 receiving touchdowns in helping the 49ers reach the Super Bowl.
In Sherman’s first season in Seattle, he tallied four interceptions and would be named to the NFL’s All-Rookie Team by the Pro Football Writers of America. In Sherman’s second season he would have 8 interceptions with 3 forced fumbles as he was selected as an All-Pro. Last season Sherman would once again have 8 interceptions which led the National Football League and in the process he helped the Seahawks raise the Vince Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl Champions for the first time in franchise history.
Crabtree and Sherman have taken different paths to the NFL, but they will be forever linked by last January’s NFC Championship Game.
In the closing moments of the game the Seahawks were leading the 49ers by a score of 23-17. San Francisco was driving for the potential game-winning score when 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw the football to the end zone in the direction of Crabtree. Crabtree was being covered by Sherman who would deflect the football in the direction of Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith who would seal Seattle’s victory with an interception. Crabtree would finish the game with 4 receptions for 52 yards while Sherman had a pair of tackles along with that infamous pass deflection. Sherman is known to talk smack to his opponents during games. After the play Sherman extended his hand to Crabtree who would respond by shoving Sherman. In his on-field, post game interview with Fox’s Erin Andrews, Sherman referred to Crabtree as “a sorry receiver”. In the era of social media, Sherman’s post game rant has been talked about, dissected and mocked. Both players want to put it behind them, but with training camps in the NFL set to open later this month and with the Seahawks and 49ers expected to be favorites to win the Super Bowl, we’re still talking about it and rightfully so.
Like it or not the National Football League is entertainment. And in the entertainment world the villains are the ones that sell the tickets. Sherman has embraced that role as he is the NFL’s version of “Roddy Piper” as he is quickly becoming the player that America loves to hate and he is a man that has never met a camera that he hasn’t liked. When the video game Madden 2015 is released later this summer it will be Sherman that will be gracing the cover. On a team of stars Crabtree has always stayed in the background, but after an Achilles injury limited him to just five games in the regular season last year, he is ready to once again be a force for the Niners like he was in 2012.
Due to the salary cap and free agency, it has become tougher to see lengthy rivalries like we did in the 1970’s between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Oakland Raiders. We are fortunate to be witnessing a great rivalry right now between Seattle and San Frnacisco. The first time that the 49ers and Seahawks will meet in the upcoming season is not until Thanksgiving and the nation will be glued to their television sets to see the latest installment of Crabtree vs. Sherman. Like I said before the Niners and Seahawks are must see TV with all eyes on Sherman and Crabtree.