Is there a more entertaining rivalry between two head coaches than that of Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh? Sure, Tom Coughlin’s hissy fit at Greg Schiano earlier this season moved the needle a bit. When Todd Haley offered a finger to then Broncos’ coach Josh McDaniels, instead of a handshake, heads turned. And, of course, Jim Harbaugh’s notoriously firm handshake with Jim Schwartz certainly piqued some interest. But there’s nothing quite like the banter shared by Harbaugh and Carroll.
Nothing epitomizes this better than the now infamous “What’s your deal?” moment shared by the two coaches. As rumor has it, while head coach at the University of Southern California, Pete Carroll was none to pleased with Harbaugh after the Harbaugh-coached Stanford Cardinals ran up the score against Carroll’s Trojans. This displeasure apparently lead to a contentious post-game handshake.
According to both Harbaugh and Carroll, nothing remotely negative was said. “He said, ‘What’s your deal?’” Harbaugh recalled, “I said, ‘What’s your deal?’ And then from there, it’s about as well-documented a six word sentence as there could be.”
“There was no frustration. The media said that,” Carroll recalled. “The guy on the other side of the sidelines gets to do whatever he wants in any situation. I have no problem with whatever. It doesn’t matter to me.”
Maybe it was driven by the media. Maybe not. You can see for yourself. But the coaches don’t exactly look happy to see each other.
Whatever their respective deals actually are, it is apparent that the love shared by Carroll and Harbaugh is superficial in kind. But don’t tell them that.
When asked about their relationship last season, both Harbaugh and Carroll insisted that their relationship was founded on mutual respect, not contempt, according to SF Gate’s Kevin Lynch, anyway:
“I wouldn’t say I’m friends with … any head coaches in the National Football League — other than my brother.” said Harbaugh of Carroll. “We’re trying to beat them, you know, so, no, we don’t socialize. Not trying to be friends with anybody, trying to beat them. But I respect him and I like him.”
Carroll on Harbaugh: “I don’t know him very well. I like him because I know he’s a great competitive guy. He’s tough, he does all the things good players do and good coaches do. So I have a lot respect for that.”
If gamesmanship proves respect, well, then, these two coaches respect the heck out of each other. This immense respect has been on display recently, as each has engaged in chiding the other over Christmas cards.
When asked if there was a “hallmark” of a Carroll coached defense, Harbaugh replied: “I don’t remember getting any cards from him at the holidays.”
“I heard that he didn’t get one from us, yet,” Carroll responded. “I want to go back and check my list and see how that happened. But maybe there will be something coming along before too long. If Jim’s not sending a card, that’s OK. I understand. We’ll try to get one in the mail soon.”
If Carroll doesn’t get one in the mail soon, he can hand deliver it on Sunday night when the 49ers and Seahawks will face off in what might be the most anticipated game of the season. This game has it all: Contentious rhetoric, playoff implications, national television, Harbaugh, Carroll, and rabid fan bases.
We know how you feel about Carroll and the Seahawks, but we wanted to hear from the opposition. And so, we discussed the rivarly blogger Brian Nemhauser of HawkBlogger.com, where Nemhauser offers unflinching and uncompromising analysis of his favorite team. And though you thought you hated Carroll, it is nothing in comparison to how the Seahawks’ fans feel about Harbaugh.
East Bay Sports Guy (EBSG): Is this season a surprise for Seahawks’ fans? That is, did you anticipate being 9-5 with a rookie starting quarterback?
Brian Nemhauser (BN): For some. I predicted a special season in training camp, and honestly, the team’s record should be at least two games better than it is. All of their losses have been seven points or less, and they led in the fourth quarter of three of them. This is the second-youngest group of starters (offense and defense) in the NFL. They have a great cap situation, a great locker room, and tons of potential for more growth. They are just scratching the surface right now.
EBSG: Do Seahawks’ fans despise Jim Harbaugh as much as 49ers’ fans despise Pete Carroll?
BN: No. It is not possible for 49ers fans to despise Carroll as much as Seahawks fans despise Harbaugh. There are Seahawks fans that would enjoy beating Harbaugh more than winning a playoff game. He is the biggest asshole in football, and will eventually have the walls collapse around him. Players won’t put up with him once the team faces any real adversity. We just hope he doesn’t get a Super Bowl win before that happens.
Special thanks to Brian Nemhauser for participating. Hopefully we can do this again in the Playoffs.