BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 09/18/2015

Thiel: For Seattle, Packers are the new 49ers

The departure of Jim Harbaugh and the slide of the 49ers has taken the fizz out of the NFC rivalry with the Seahawks. Enter the Green Bay Packers, eager for redemption.

Seahawks WR Jermaine Kearse at the moment that decided the NFC Championship at the Clink in January. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

A sentence never before expressed in American culture: Green Bay is the new San Francisco.

Presuming, of course, you prefer your cheddar cheese as a hat as opposed to brie as an entree.

Perhaps the sentence requires more precision: The Packers are the new 49ers. Yes, that’s better. I don’t want people to think tractors have usurped cable cars in American cultural iconography.

In the Seattle football world, the Packers are the new 49ers. In 2015, the Packers are the NFL team to be respected/feared/condemned/mocked, whatever the mood your Twitter account has on a particular day.

The splendid rivalry with the 49ers grows smaller in the rear view mirror. Sad.

As far as the forensic evidence indicates, they remain members of the NFC West. But so much has changed that they remain identifiable only at the molecular level.

Gone, of course, is coach Jim Harbaugh, the best cartoon villain since Yosemite Sam. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was his Bugs Bunny, right down to the chewing gum as carrot.

During one of his agonizing teleconferences with Seattle media, I wanted to summon the courage to ask: “Jim, would you do us a favor and say, ‘Tarnation, rabbit!’ just once?”

My bad. Pity.

The 49ers were 8-8 last year, riven by injury, management neurosis and rampant criminality. It was so bad that the 49ers for the season opener Monday came out in disguise, changing uniform color from jail-coveralls orange to black.

The 49ers also lost numerous players to free agency, injuries and retirements. And the year before that, they gave up their fabulous ghetto of a stadium, Candlestick Park, and moved 40 miles south to the soulless suburb of Santa Clara and its sterile Levi’s Stadium, where the grass field works as poorly as the the traffic.

Can you imagine the Packers giving up on Green Bay to move 40 miles south? Think about that: The Menomonee Packers? Or the Manitowoc Packers? Although I do like sound of the Fond Du Lac Pac.

But the Santa Clara 49ers are now with us, and the sporting soul is a smidgen worse. The decay of the rivalry was probably unavoidable. The Seahawks won six of the past seven, including the 23-17 victory in 2014 in the NFC Championship that was pinnacle game experience in Seattle sports history. Just as Rick and Ilse will always have Paris, the 12s will always have the memory of the Niners and that game.

The burgeoning relationship with the Packers also is trending lopsided, the Seahawks having won the past three, all in Seattle, all marquee events.

On a Monday night in 2012, the Seahawks won the “Fail Mary” game 14-12 on Golden Tate’s touchdown catch that was so controversial  it brought an end to the fry cooks who replaced striking referees (another dubious moment in the Roger Goodell dictatorship). A year ago, the NFL regular season’s Thursday night opener at the Clink was won by Seattle 36-16.

Then came the NFC Championship in January, won by Seattle 28-22 in overtime after being down 16-0, then 19-7 with less than five minutes left. The greatest comeback in conference championship history has left the Packers’ fan base furious and the Packers nearly speechless.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, normally a fairly conversational gent, responded tersely Wednesday to a conference-call question about the motivation of 0-3.

“There’s not a lot of motivation there,” he said. Replaying the recording, there may have been the faint cracking of a molar after he said it.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who after the loss turned over playcalling this season to an assistant and fired his special teams coach, was similarly tight-jawed about the Seattle streak.

“We’re focusing on going 2-0, winning our first home game,” he said. “Everything we’re doing, we’re focusing on winning this football game.”

It must be a rivalry, because the first sign is always denial of same by participants.

At least Pete Carroll was willing to acknowledge the magnitude of the Seahawks’ endeavor. The Seahawks have won only once in seven tries at Lambeau Field, in 1999 upon Mike Holmgren’s return as coach after being poached by the Seahawks (two other road wins were in Milwaukee).

“If we’re able to get this game it will be a great accomplishment for us,” Carroll said. “They were 9-0 at home last year. They know what they’re doing. They know how to play there, and they play to their fans and their crowd, which is historically an extraordinary place to play.”

The franchises have met only 18 times, including three playoffs. So the rivalry is not dripping with long history. Then again, neither were the Seahawks and 49ers, until Carroll and Harbaugh brought their dislike for each other from college jobs to the NFC West.

Unfortunately for fans of soap opera, Carroll and McCarthy have little personal history, offering up the standard professional respect for one another.

Too bad. But this will be the teams’ third meeting in 12 months. That certainly suggests enough familiarity to breed some genuine contempt.

It won’t be like twice-a-year with the Harbaugh gang, but it is still the pinnacle, and the football world will gather Sunday night to watch. Green Bay is the new San Francisco, while Seattle seeks to be the old Seahawks.

Regardless of outcome Sunday, a good rivalry demands a game five in January. Whether it’s where the snow is deep or the rain is sideways, the NFL and its fans could use the juice of pure, high-end football, free of judges and lawyers.




  • just passing thru

    As always, good wordsmithing, Art. I fear the Seahawks are going to have a very rough Sunday night. The Pack will show their rivalry sentiment on the field.

    • ll9956


      • Kim Shockley

        my associate’s stride close relative makes $98 an hour on the portable workstation……….Afterg an average of 19952 Dollars monthly,I’m finally getting 97 Dollars an hour,just working 4-5 hours daily online.….. Weekly paycheck… Bonus opportunities…earn upto $16k to $19k /a month… Just few hours of your free time, any kind of computer, elementary understanding of web and stable connection is what is required…….HERE I STARTED…look over here
        ➤➤➤➤ http://GoogleTopTrendingJobsNetworkOnlineCenters/$98hourlywork…. =★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★

    • art thiel

      Thanks. Keep in mind Packers started 0-2 last year, and did OK.

  • Tian Biao

    Green Bay as the new Niners? I suppose . . . still, it’s hard to work up much animosity towards a bunch of grown men who are willing to wear wedges of fake cheese on their heads. Maybe after this game it’ll be different. Whereas old Yosemite Sam was an easy villain, and Carroll as Bugs Bunny had me laughing out loud.

    • SeaRaays

      I believe every game in our division will become a rivalry. Due to how tough it is now. Seahawks are enemy number one and the other teams could easily be fighting for playoff spots. Including 49ers if they terribly over achieve. At least they could be spoilers.

      • art thiel

        By definition, division games are more significant. Not news.

        The 49er-Seahawks with Harbaugh-Carroll was special. Now it’s ordinary.

        • SeaRaays

          Yes..but I am starting to feel like the AFC west of the 1980s and 90s. As a kid I hated all those teams. Broncos..Raiders..Chiefs..those 3. Always a fight even in a blowout. Now 15 years in this Division .. We have a legit history with the NFC west and we have strong division foes that can knock any one out of the Playoffs. It will be a fight to the end. In Holmgren’s era the Rams were the closet thing.We were to new of a division foe at the time for fans to have visceral connection of needing to win against them and bragging rights. GB is a team we looked up to and they hate us for beating them like we did. They feel an injustice and want a payback. Most Seattle fans just want a win or because the media already have talked the fans into a loss… just to be close. It does not bring about the dry heaves if we lost to them like say to SF or even Arizona. God forbid if we lost to the Pats again. That would be a revenge game for Seattle fans. Like this is for GB.

    • art thiel

      Hard to hate the only community owned team in American sports. But do your best

      • PokeyPuffy

        So true, hard to hate Green Bay. I have relatives in Wisconsin and after GB lost in the conference finals they switched to rooting for the Hawks, mostly because Russel is still very well loved in the state.

  • MrPrimeMinister

    Revenge as a strategical ploy rarely succeeds. It’s more of a fan thing than coach or player motivation.

    • art thiel

      True enough. But it’s not as if players and coaches don’t feel it. They just have to manage it better.

  • jafabian

    Hoping for a win. Would love to see how Rodgers and the cheeheads handle it.

  • 1coolguy

    “The splendid rivalry with the 49ers grows smaller in the rear view mirror. Sad.”

    WOW Art – Let’s not jump off the bank wagon quite so fast. As to the 49ers, granted the oft-hated Harbaugh is gone which makes for less controversy, yet I suggest they are still a formidable foe. Having watched their game against the Steelers I saw (2) two things that are clear improvements: Kaepernick was in better command and actually stayed in the pocket more and Carlos HYDE has already made (169 yards) fans forget Gore.
    ALSO, as the journalist you are, let’s not forget the valuable, ongoing quotes you are afforded by their owner York and GM Baalke, provided without apology and via special delivery!
    The Packers with Rodgers appear to be the better team and we have had tremendous games the past 3 meetings, agreed, yet I don’t see the Niners rivalry being in the rear view mirror.

    • art thiel

      I didn’t see them play the Steelers but they did play Monday night against the Vikings, who were brutal. Niners were barely better. The 49ers faded last year, and I don’t see a big uptick. Division games are always more important, but did you circle the 49ers games when the schedule came out?

  • SeaRaays

    Wasn’t the ,” fail Mary” in 2013. During the ref’s strike?

    • SeaRaays

      Hey ..I just looked and it now says 2012. The brownies I ate must of been the real good kind. Don’t bother with my blabber

  • PokeyPuffy

    The LOB will likely not slow Rogers down, but how about Russel Wilson taking this game over and outscoring the Pack for a 49-45 victory? Come on Russ put the team on your shoulders, lets justify that huge paycheck! That may be the only route to victory we have at this point.

    • art thiel

      Packers front seven not nearly as good as St. Louis, so I see lot of points. Like GB, 31-27.

  • 1coolguy

    YIKES: This isn’t good! Redskins just beat the RAMS! 24-10 and ran all over them. Cousins had an excellent game, etc. As the Redskins are picked to have another lousy year, what does this portend for the Hawks, losers to the Rams?