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There Are No Secrets in 49ers, Seahawks Rivalry

Posted Sep 13, 2017

The additions of Kyle Shanahan, John Lynch and Robert Saleh add to the familiarity of the NFC West rivalry.


There are precious few secrets in regards to the NFC West rivalry between the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks. These are two franchises that know one another very well through their bi-annual meetings. 

San Francisco’s additions of general manager John Lynch, head coach Kyle Shanahan and defensive coordinator Robert Saleh have removed any remaining mysteries about the Pacific Northwest foe.

Let’s start with Shanahan, who faced the Seahawks twice in 2016 as offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons. Another notable bout against Seattle came in 2012 when the Washington Redskins hosted the Seahawks in the Wildcard Round of the playoffs.

“Having a lot of experience against Kyle’s offense, it’s loaded,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said on a conference call. “It’s a really good scheme. It’s a really good approach – tremendous balance between the run and pass. We have a lot of history.”

Carroll has history with Saleh as well. Saleh worked on Carroll’s staff in Seattle for three seasons from 2011-13. He then left for the Jacksonville Jaguars with defensive coordinator-turned-head coach Gus Bradley.

Now just three years since their time together in Seattle, Saleh is in charge of San Francisco’s defense. Carroll explained that he expected his former understudy to climb the NFL coaching ranks.

“I’m not surprised at all that (Saleh has) arrived as a coordinator in the league,” Carroll said. “He’s a great worker and a brilliant guy. He’s a good communicator and has a great demeanor about him.”

Saleh’s scheme shows his connection to Carroll’s coaching tree. The comparisons to Seattle’s defensive system have run rampant throughout OTAs, training camp and now into the regular season. The implementation of a LEO position is one example of the similarities. Comparisons of Jimmie Ward and Eric Reid’s roles to that of Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, respectively, are others.

“It’s very similar,” Carroll said of San Francisco’s new defense. “There are a lot of similarities. They have some nuances though so it’s a good challenge.”

Shanahan and Saleh were logical choices in Carroll’s mind. It was Lynch’s move from the broadcast booth to an NFL front office that shocked Seattle’s head coach. According to Eric Branch, Lynch worked 17 Seahawks games for FOX Sports since Carroll’s arrival in 2010.

Before each of those contests, Lynch would pick Carroll’s brain during pregame production meetings. The conversations were often more in-depth than similar chats with other color analysts. Still, Carroll thought he’d see Lynch on “Monday Night Football” rather than as a rival executive.

“I’m kind of disappointed that he went to be a GM in our division,” Carroll said, laughing. “I like John a lot, and he asked a lot of questions – more than most (broadcasters) do. We went into a lot of depth so he does know how we think. 

“By the same token, I’ve talked a lot with Robert Saleh and told him everything I know.”

With all of the cards on the table, San Francisco will aim for its first win in Seattle since 2011.


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