When the NFL was realligned in 2002 the NFC West was formed by folding in teams from three different divisions. The result was creating a division that lacked any teams with a real rivalry history.
In the 10th season, the closes the division had seen to forming a rivalry was the Seahawks and the St. Louis Rams, as they are the only two teams that have battled for playoff slots and in the playoffs.
NFL history couldn't muster up a rivalry so it took a couple former college coaches with a history of their own to light the fire.
The Seahawks and 49ers hit, pushed, shoved, and drove opposing helmets into the ground during and after plays all game long. Some would call it chippy play but it went well beyond that.
The officials opted to let the teams play a physical brand of football instead of throwing flags for extra-curricular contact. It gave the game a feel of old-time football...and likely a preview of the kind of football teams can expect to see from the NFC West going forward.
Jim Harbaugh's predilection for abrasiveness has been well established thus far in his young NFL career.
Pac 12 fans likely know of his exploits while he was the head coach of the Stanford Cardinal as well.
Following a 2009 blowout loss to Stanford, Carroll asked Harbaugh "what's your deal? Are you alright?"
Harbaugh missed the point, saying "yeah, I'm good. What's your deal?"
Carroll took the loss and Harbaugh's lack of understanding with grace, telling him "nice game."
The issue was clear to most who watched the game. Holding a huge lead, Harbaugh seemed to rub salt in the would by completing a two-point conversion to complete a 55-21 win.
Carroll said there was no animosity after the game.
There was no frustration. The media said that. 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. I’m not one of those guys that reacts and is going to gripe about how a guy coached a game or #mce_temp_url#played a game in the fourth quarter.
I’ve been in so many of those situations where people think you’re running the score up, or they think you’re not playing your guys to run the score up so that you can get recognition in polls and all that. A guy can do whatever he wants. Nothing fazes me about that.
Still, it is hard to believe that Harbaugh's brash personality and interactions don't rub the ever-positive Carroll the wrong way.
“I just find it very irrelevant and not very intriguing,” Harbaugh told Seattle reporters before the first game of the season. “It had little to do with the game then and it has very little to do with the game now.”
Perhaps it doesn't, Mr. Harbaugh. But it is hard to ignore the frigid nature of the non-handshake following the 2009 collegiate game, just as it is hard to not notice the animosity between these two squads has grown immensely this season.
Game on, as the NFC West finally seems to have a heated rivalry.