Arms race: the Seahawks and 49ers are built to destroy each other


Hours after the Seattle Seahawks finalized the deal with the Minnesota Vikings for potential league-MVP receiver Percy Harvin, the San Francisco 49ers pulled a maintain-the-balance-of-power deal of their own, acquiring mega-physical wideout Anquan Boldin from the Baltimore Ravens.

The San Francisco front office had tried to pick off Harvin by throwing in their own intercepting bids, but with the contract talks impending with receiver Michael Crabtree, the 49ers options were limited. Picking up Boldin was a countermove to the development of Pete Carroll’s big, mega-physical, semi-mythical Seahawks secondary, the Legion of Boom. Now with Boldin, tight end Vernon Davis and Crabtree, the Niners have a skill set capable of running the Seahawks defense downfield off the line of scrimmage. In theory this should open up the running game for Frank Gore, and even for the highly mobile Colin Kaepernick. If it sounds like the Niners are building their roster to match up specifically against the Seahawks it’s because they are..

The counter chess-move (or Go-move, if your mind works that way) for the Seahawks was to acquire pass-rushers Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. With these two additions and the existing Seahawks defensive line edge-rushers, there is not an overwhelming need to bring extra blitzers to try to flush Kaepernick.

Kaepernick is a good passer, but with a reputation for not progressing through his reads completely before taking off out of the pocket. If he gets through the first two or three options in the passing tree and feels pressure (or sometimes even when he doesn’t), the tall, strong Kaepernick often will revert to the running skills that have brought him this far. San Francisco has a great offensive line, and head coach Jim Harbaugh is undoubtedly training his star quarterback to stay in the pocket. If Kaepernick develops as a serious pocket passer you can bet that Seattle will make an adjustment to counter this.

In an arms race the two adversaries specialize against each other so deeply they often end up as mirror images. This happened between the USA and the Soviet Union with the overbuilding of nukes in different, redundant systems (silos, bombers, boomer subs); domestic propaganda; espionage/counterespionage; proxy wars and covert ops to convert small countries into clients – the two superpowers developed similar operations in order to compete against one another.

A similar dynamic is developing between the ‘Hawks and the Niners. At the core is a power rushing game, mobile, dynamic quarterbacks, and physical receivers who can block downfield. Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh have been at this for a long time. Both were Pac 10 coaches who developed their winning systems against each other as their main rivals. The pieces get bigger, the stakes are raised, but it’s all still the same game.

If there’s one flaw in this strategy it might be that both teams could become vulnerable to the other 30 teams in the NFL. It hasn’t happened yet, but the NFL is, to repeat a cliche’, a copy-cat league. Other teams are watching. Other teams will be building big, physical secondaries and power rushing attacks and looking for mobile, dynamic quarterbacks like Johnny Manziel, whose stock is definitely rising in the April draft after the stunning events of the NFC championship game and Super Bowl.

The AFC is not at the same competitive level as the NFC, and these two teams dominate it. We could very soon see a whole slew of teams who have built their rosters to resemble these bitter rivals. The arms race has gone global.

The Seahawks could be a dynasty in the making.

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