In two days and a few mind-blowing acquisitions, the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers continued a dick measuring contest that seems likely to continue for years. Shortly after Seattle rocked the National Football League with the trade for Minnesota Viking receiver, Percy Harvin, San Francisco countered with the pick-up of Baltimore’s Anquan Boldin. Seattle promptly counter punched picking up the best defensive lineman available in free agency, Cliff Avril, and within two days filled two week spots in an otherwise young and studded team. Arguably the two top NFL teams going into the 2013 season just got better. All the time the money was swirling and rivalries heightened, the rest of the NFC had to change their pants. It’s been called an arms race but it’s more like a great shift in power. The NFC West showed last year they were for real and this year it’s for keeps.
In a time the sports world should be talking about March Madness and previewing Major League Baseball, it seems impossible to draw attention away from that big thing happening on the west coast. Clearly greatness has been in the making, over the last few years, through intuitive drafts, great plans and confident leadership. A great team has been built, highlighted by an energetic coach, a young talented quarterback, a bruising running back and a shutdown defense. Insert one of the two teams here. The rise of San Francisco and Seattle has been slow and steady and built on much more than just quick moves and reactionary front offices.
When Pete Carroll came to Seattle and put forth his edict to compete, few saw through the release of veterans and a team broken after years on top. Countless roster moves, questionable auditions and the energy of a four year old boy after finishing off a case of Fun Dip, Carroll emerges in 2013 nothing short of a football genius. Building in drafts and finding the right people for the right time has allowed the franchise to focus on fixing things from the inside and surrounding themselves with a youthful, electric team that is focused on the same thing, winning. Moves like Percy Harvin and Cliff Avril are bad moves for a team still working things out. The Harvins and Avrils are pieces you put into a puzzle ready to win a Super Bowl. Russell Wilson desperately needed a playmaker that would allow him to use his arm and open up the field. There could not have been a better fit in the NFL for Harvin and Seattle. Cliff Avril needed a home and some strong coaching. A dynamic defensive end coming off 20 ½ sacks in the last two years, Avril allows the Seahawks flexibility bringing back defensive end Chris Clemons after a knee injury suffered against Washington. Seattle is a team without a glaring weakness with the luxury of looking for less glaring weaknesses to fill with the 8 remaining draft picks.
When Jim Harbaugh came to San Francisco, it came with a giant, arrogant, football savvy roar. Harbaugh immediately laid out a plan, developed his quarterbacks and built on an already talented defense. About two years ahead of Seattle with learning curve and talent, Harbaugh took a team with veterans and youthful lines and made them a playoff team with immediate impact. No one was surprised that San Francisco made a Super Bowl run in 2012, several were surprised at the maturity shown by their brash and uber-talented quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, and an improbably string of games after replacing veteran Alex Smith. Coach Harbaugh is a decision maker who is two years in to his team’s extraordinary talent. LG Mike Iupati, LT Joe Staley, DE Justin Smith and LBs Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith and NaVorro Bowman create a great young nucleus of players in key positions. Veterans Frank Gore and Vernon Davis have played with skill and experience, making this the team to beat in the NFL. The additions of Anquan Boldin and Glenn Dorsey mirrored Seattle’s acquisitions and unlike the counterparts from the north, seemed reactionary. Kaepernick is for real, the defense will not fade, but San Francisco is primed to lose the top spot in 2013 thanks to one hell of a franchise fix in Seattle.
When it comes to Seattle or San Francisco, one thing is for sure… they drafted right. Both of these teams have spent the last few drafts building up offensive and defensive lines and making the most of their picks. Seattle took a few more chances that paid off, but not without a few bumps on the road. Neither team has been perfect, but 2013 could be as good as it gets. It was only two years ago that Green Bay nearly finished the season perfect and though 2012 was rockier than the Cheeseheads would have liked, never, ever, count Aaron Rodgers out. The NFL is a crazy league that shifts more gears than Dale Earnhardt Jr. on his drive to work. The Seattle Seahawks are young, spirited and able to take over that NFL world and they’re making the moves to do it. The offseason is young, but I have no doubt that 31 other teams are scrambling to catch up. If the road to the 2013 Super Bowl ends up going through Seattle, the rest of the NFL will be smoked just like the rest of the salmon in the Pacific Northwest.