I am working on version two of my Un-Power Rankings for SBNation, and it occurred to me that I must consider the possibility, as anyone should, that the 49ers are the best team in football. In my first edition, I had the Seahawks as the best team in the NFL and that was on March 22nd. It was always debatable, as anything is, but it was not outlandish to put Seattle in that position. I wasn't the first and only person to be doing that right now.
I'm just the smartest, most handsome, most mature, and has a mommy that loves him the most.
The hardest thing about comparing the Seahawks and 49ers is that they are building the same damn team. The 49ers got the jump on Seattle because Jim Harbaugh inherited a more talented football team. He already had players like Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati, Joe Staley, Alex Smith, Delanie Walker, Patrick Willis, Nate Clements, Dashon Goldson, Justin Smith, Ahmad Brooks, NaVorro Bowman, Isaac Sopoaga, and even punter Andy Lee! That's just sixteen players right there, many of them great, that have helped the 49ers win 24 games over the last two seasons and win the NFC last year. Harbaugh made them better, but the pieces he wanted were already there.
Players left from the Jim Mora season? Max Unger, Jon Ryan, Brandon Mebane, and Red Bryant would be the important ones that helped Seattle go 11-5 last year. LeRoy Hill, Ben Obomanu, and Marcus Trufant would also count, and are all gone. Pete Carroll even brought in Clint Gresham as one of his own, nearly this entire roster has the seal of Carroll and John Schneider on it. It took longer because of that, but now both of these teams are standing against one another in a very close battle of who will the most important battle in the NFL each year:
A power rankings article in May.
This is a head-to-head comparison of the rosters on both teams, the basis of who has the edge is -- believe it or not -- my opinion! Now, opinions, unlike facts, are basically just a person's own person beliefs. Usually. In this case though, since it is my opinion, they will be regarded as facts and written in a dictionary somewhere. If you look up "Kenneth Arthur" in the dictionary, you'll see a picture of me giving the thumbs up with the caption reading "And that's a fact, Jack!" If you have a different copy of the dictionary than me, that's your problem.
But seriously though, let's make a really big deal out of the following. It's important.
Ignoring meaningless shit like coaching, this is just a look at the talent, experience, depth on each roster for each positional unit. This is all just leading up to the Rams winning the division and making us all look like jackasses. That's what happens when you jackassume.
Seahawks - Russell Wilson, Brady Quinn (Josh Portis, Jerrod Johnson)
49ers - Colin Kaepernick, Colt McCoy (Scott Tolzien, B.J. Daniels)
Quarterback is always the least controversial position to talk about, so might as well just get it out of the way now. I mean, who gives a shit, right?!
This part sucks asses because Kaepernick doesn't suck. We've seen him get contained, maybe a little frustrated, but two of the top five quarterbacks in the NFL after Week 8 were Kaepernick and Wilson. Without reviewing all of the tape it's hard to say for me exactly what the cause was, but if it's any consolation, I can say that Kaepernick completed less than 60% of his passes in five of his last six starts, including the playoffs.
Except that he still balled out pretty hard in basically every one of those games except in the 42-13 loss to Seattle. He was 49-of-80 in the playoffs for 798 yards, 4 TD, 2 INT, 10 yards per attempt, 264 rushing yards (181 of which came against the Packers) and three more touchdowns. I might think he's an asshat and a douche, but that's what we call the "flip side of the Richard Sherman coin." There's a chance that Kaepernick is going to be, if isn't already, one of the top five quarterbacks in the league.
And when he's there he can say "Hi!" to Russell Wilson.
If you want me to talk shit about Wilson, I'll tell you the same thing I told Liam Neeson in Taken 3: Take 'n Bake'n... "Good fuckin' luck." If I give any specific advantage to Wilson, it might be that he has a little more in-game experience as a starter. Kaepernick has now made ten starts and been excellent, while Wilson has made 18 starts and been excellent. But all that really does for me is make me feel a little bit (only slightly) more confident that Wilson is the real deal. It doesn't mean that I don't think they both are the real deal though, because I do.
For me, Wilson was just making better decisions and was more composed than Kaepernick, but Kaepernick has physical advantages that could help him at times. I know we are sick of hearing about it, and Wilson has all but proved the doubters (myself included) wrong, but there's still going to be a time or two when it is better to be 6'5. (As a fellow 6'5er, I can tell you that it has always helped me reach shit and talk to ladies that I have no business talking to.)
Both teams have young starting quarterbacks that could be the face of the NFL for the next ten years. I'd prefer to just call that part a wash and move onto the backups, though I'm not expecting a whole lot more clarity.
They aren't building the same team? Quinn was the Browns starter in 2009, McCoy was the Browns starter in 2010. Lesson: The Browns are churning out baller backup quarterbacks for the good teams! I think that there is actually still a chance that McCoy is decent and I don't feel that way about Quinn, but I also think it's important to note that neither one of them has ever been on a good team like they are now.
If we have to see Quinn start a game in 2013, I don't expect him to play nearly as badly as he did in Kansas City last year because the coaches and team around him are infinitely better than what he has ever experienced. The same goes for McCoy.
Portis, Tolzien, Johnson, and Daniels are all equal parts "whatever."
EDGE: Push (shoot me in the face a thousand times I hate myself)
Yeah, thank God for "push." The 49ers are used to tying, but I'm not. I can't bring myself to make a solid argument of one starter over the other without either sounding like a homer or an asshole. I challenge any person that's not a fan of either team to do it too. If Kaepernick was a Seahawk, we'd be pretty excited about him. I'm infinitely happier that we have Wilson, but it doesn't necessarily give Seattle the edge just for that reason. And the backups are as comparable as my sex life is to a dormant volcano tip your waitress.
Seahawks - Marshawn Lynch, Christine Michael, Robert Turbin, Michael Robinson, Spencer Ware (Derrick Coleman, Dominique Whaley)
49ers - Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James, Marcus Lattimore, Anthony Dixon, Bruce Miller (Alex Debniak, Jewel Hampton, D.J. Harper, Will Tukuafu)
As with any of the rookies, it's just hard to judge too much. With Lattimore, it doesn't really matter as he won't be a factor this year for the 49ers, but Michael should play an integral role for Seattle.
I prefer the top three in Seattle to the top three in San Francisco. Gore turns 30 in a week (this is a really awkward moment for me realizing that I am older than Frank Gore and have friends that are about to turn 30 too) and that's a disadvantage. Hunter and Michael could be no worse than comparable, in my opinion. I think they both could have interesting futures, but I would prefer Michael based on size and a little bit based on draft hype. I don't know what the future holds for Turbin, but I could see it going many ways, perhaps to fullback. I've always been a fan of James on the football field, but I don't think he'll ever be more than a gimmick. If they can turn that gimmick into Darren Sproles-roles, then good on them.
Both of these teams should be right at the top in the NFL in terms of rushing. Seattle is just a little younger and gives me less pause on durability. Hunter finished the season injured and James just didn't "wow" outside of a few plays and on kick returns.
Seahawks: Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, Chris Harper (Matt Austin, Phil Bates, Jermaine Kearse, Charly Martin, Brett Swain, Bryan Walters, Stephen Williams)
49ers: Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, Mario Manningham, A.J. Jenkins, Kyle Williams, Quinton Patton (Chad Hall, Joe Hasting, Chuck Jacobs, Ricardo Lockette, Marlon Moore)
The easy rundown:
Rice > Crabtree
Boldin > Tate
Harvin >>> Manningham or whatever else they throw out there in the slot
I wouldn't confuse a comparison between Boldin and Harvin just because they're new and presumed "number two" receivers because they aren't alike at all. Tate isn't really like Boldin either but he would be the presumed starter opposite of Rice. I don't put Rice over Crabtree lightly and I would accept the opposite as a possibility.
Harper was drafted five spots ahead of Patton, so he's a hell of a lot better. *Checkmate*
Who knows what to think of Jenkins. Who knows if Baldwin will play a big role this year. Hard to say if Tate is ready to take a step forward, but he's got a contract situation coming up. I would feel more secure with Crabtree and Boldin than I would with Seattle's unit, to be honest, because we've now just had our first full season of Rice, Harvin's been injured a bit, Baldwin and Tate haven't been consistent. But I also think that the ceiling of Seattle's group is much higher than that of San Francisco.
Yeah, 49ers fans aren't going to like this (why would they like anything that I write on here?) but I give a very slight edge to Seattle for the simple fact that Harvin is unlike any receiver in the NFL. If he hadn't been acquired, then I wouldn't hesitate to go with San Francisco, but I honestly feel that he's one of the most valuable players in the NFL... and yet he's not even the number one receiver on this team and he won't be counted on nearly as heavily as he was in Minnesota.
Seahawks: Zach Miller, Anthony McCoy (Luke Willson, Darren Fells, Cooper Helfet, Sean McGrath)
49ers: Vernon Davis, Vance McDonald (Garrett Celek, Demarcus Dobbs (?), MarQueis Gray, Cameron Morrah)
Miller is coming off of a fairly significant injury. The loss of Delanie Walker is significant too but McDonald is a good prospect that was drafted a few spots ahead of Christine Michael. And Vernon Davis isn't always getting hit by Kam Chancellor. (But when he does, he prefers to get knocked the fuck out.)
Don't get it twisted that just because Davis wasn't very productive for your fantasy team that he's washed up. While he wasn't targeted much by Kaepernick in the regular season, he had 12 catches for 254 yards in three playoff games. This is the first battle that's not really close for me.
Seahawks: Russell Okung, Breno Giacomini, James Carpenter, John Moffitt, Max Unger, Paul McQuistan, J.R. Sweezy (Alvin Bailey, Michael Bowie, Lemuel Jeanpierre, Rishaw Johnson, Mike Person, Jordan Roussos, Ryan Seymour, Jared Smith)
49ers: Joe Staley, Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati, Jonathan Goodwin, Alex Boone (Joe Looney, Carter Bykowski, Sherman Carter, Dan Kilgore, Luke Marquardt, Al Netter, Patrick Omameh, Wayne Tribue, Kenny Wiggins)
(Just want to get this out of the way, but nickname idea for you SF fans: Patrick "Like" Omameh. (Like the Usher song. Except "Meh" instead of "God"))
Slight edge here but a wise man once said, "Lest ye judge an offensive line shall be stoned amongst the ruins of savage land of beast." And that man was me.
Staley could be better than Okung. Iupati could be the best guard in the NFL. Unger could be the best center in the NFL. Davis could have an edge of Giacomini. There's potential there for Seattle if Carpenter comes into camp healthy and better and then maybe the left side of the line is actually right up there with the 49ers, but I'm not ready to concede that. Pro Football Focus listed guard Alex Boone as the 50th best player in the NFL, while Staley was 16th, Iupati was 53rd, and Davis was 80th. On the same list, Okung was 55th and Unger was 35th.
The Seahawks offensive line is very good. San Francisco could still be the best in the league.
Seahawks: Brandon Mebane, Michael Bennett, Jordan Hill, Clinton McDonald (Jaye Howard, Jesse Williams, Tony McDaniel, Myles Wade)
49ers: Ian Williams, Glenn Dorsey, Quinton Dial (Mike Purcell, Lamar Divens)
Here is really where the two teams philosophical differences don't mesh. According to Niners Nation, the 49ers ran their 3-4 defense 35% of the time and hence they need a singular nose tackle for the most part. That was Isaac Sopoaga, but he's gone. Who will replace him?
The truth is that nobody knows. NN speculates that Dorsey will fill the role of Ricky Jean-Francois (also gone) and Williams will fill the role of Sopoaga, but we won't know for sure until the season is almost here probably. Dial was a fifth round pick and Purcell was an undrafted free agent. Dorsey could be a really solid, under-the-radar pickup that is actually better than Sopoaga. But it's sort of an unknown at this point, though I don't think anyone is concerned that the 49ers will all of a sudden be very vulnerable on the defensive line.
That's very unlikely.
Is there a whole lot of guaranteed security after Mebane for Seattle? Bennett, like Dorsey, could be an incredible find if he can stay healthy. But they're really hoping that one of Hill, Howard, or Williams can become a fixture in the middle and it's so difficult to judge defensive tackle prospects that it's hard to say for sure if any of them will.
There's really a lot of differences in value and responsibility here, but the 49ers are replacing their top two players on the depth chart at the position and Williams has very little experience while Dorsey has underwhelmed. I think there's a good chance that like other players who have come to San Francisco in the Harbaugh era, Dorsey could shine, but I'm not sure that he will.
It's hard to give an edge to either team based on their different needs, but Mebane is the only proven stud of the bunch and Bennett could be top notch.
Seahawks: Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril, Red Bryant, Bruce Irvin, Greg Scruggs (Kenneth Boatright)
49ers: Justin Smith, Tank Carradine, Ray McDonald, DeMarcus Dobbs (?) (Lawrence Okoye, Tony Jerod-Eddie)
Again, philosophical differences. The 49ers are going to generate pressure with Aldon Smith, and Justin Smith isn't going to be your typical pass-rusher in the mold of Chris Clemons or Cliff Avril. San Francisco seemed to have gotten really good value from getting Cornellius Carradine with the 40th pick, and signing the project Okoye in undrafted free agency. Dobbs is listed twice because he has also played tight end, he's a 2011 undrafted free agent that the 49ers really like and Niners Nation projects him to make the 53-man roster again.
I think that the Niners' ends do what they are asked to do well and Carradine was a solid addition. I think that the Seahawks' ends do what they are asked to do well, Avril was a great addition while Clemons' ACL is concerning. We need to see Irvin take it up to the next level. I'm almost inclined to give this to Seattle based on the fact that I know where OLB is going to go because of their different schemes but...
The ACL injury to Clemons is too much. Smith was an All Pro last season and though he could be listed as a DT, it doesn't really matter in the fact that he's mostly run out there on the outside. Carradine was a good get. McDonald, the other "Smith" that plays DT and DE, has been an above-average underrated starter for the last two seasons.
I'm a little concerned about every single one of the players listed at defensive end for Seattle, though I think ultimately a couple of them will have very good seasons. I'm just not sure which.
Seahawks: Bobby Wagner, Mike Morgan (Lhuke Escobar, John Lotulelei)
49ers: Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman (Nick Moody, Dan Skuta, Nathan Stupar, Michael Wilhoite)
Shitty shitty shitty shitty shitty shitty sex in the shitty situation here for Wagner. He not only gets to go up against Willis, but he also gets to face Bowman, and Wagner himself might turn into the best middle linebacker in the NFL next year. It only took one season for him to make his mark as being in the conversation for that title, it's well within the realm of possibility.
But is that better than two All-Pro caliber inside linebackers? Are we comparing apples and oranges here?
An apple is red or green. An orange is orange. You peel an orange. You don't have to peel an apple, some freaks do it though. There, I just compared apples and oranges. I realize that Willis and Bowman are All-Pro linebackers with veteran experience, but in different systems, both units performed near the top of the league at doing what they were asked to do. If asked to switch teams, how much of an upgrade is Bowman over Willis when playing in Seattle? What can Wagner do in just year two?
Seahawks: K.J. Wright, Korey Toomer, Malcolm Smith, Heath Farwell (Allen Bradford, Lhuke Escobar, Kyle Knox, Ty Powell, Craig Wilkins)
49ers: Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks, Corey Lemonier, Parys Haralson (Darius Fleming, Cam Johnson)
Again, major differences in assignments here with Wright playing the traditional role of outside linebacker, while all of the 49ers outside linebackers also split time as DE edge rushers. Aldon Smith racked up 19.5 sacks last year as one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, Ahmad Brooks (who I keep forgetting was nobody before Harbaugh came along) had 6.5, and the rest of the team combined for 12 sacks.
Of course, Wright has developed into one of the best young outside linebackers in the league that is also doing what is asked of him. Last year he had 96 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception, 5 pass deflections and a forced fumble. The Seahawks don't rely heavily on having two outside linebackers at this level, with LeRoy Hill only playing a part-time role and so replacing him with Toomer, Smith, or someone else shouldn't be a big deal. It might be an upgrade.
I could consider Wright and Smith as a push, but I feel that there's a slight edge to having Brooks and then upgrading the depth with Lemonier as a third round pick. It can all get very confusing as to who to call a DE and who to call an OLB and who to call a DT in the SF system, but I'm down with OPP yeah you know me.
While most would look at 19.5 sacks and think that's a major edge, I don't. This is another very close battle.
Seahawks: Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner, Antoine Winfield, Walter Thurmond, Jeremy Lane, Byron Maxwell (Will Blackmon, Chandler Fenner, Ron Parker, Tharold Simon)
49ers: Carlos Rogers, Nnamdi Asomugha, Tarell Brown, Chris Culliver, Perrish Cox (Tramaine Brock, Marcus Cooper, Darryl Morris)
I like this part.
I don't know that I'd call the secondary a weakness for San Francisco, I think that it's sort of an opposite push-and-pull effect to what Seattle does. The 49ers ridiculous front seven helps out the back four, the Seahawks ridiculous back four help out the front seven.
Sherman is possibly the best corner in the game, Browner is a big, physical, Pro Bowl number two, Winfield is your number three and a top answer against the run game. The best in football.
Seahawks: Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor (Jeron Johnson, Winston Guy, Chris Maragos, Ray Polk, DeShawn Shead)
49ers: Donte Whitner, Eric Reid, Craig Dahl (Darcel McBath, Trenton Robinson, CJ Spillman)
Thomas and Chancellor are like the Sherman-Browner of the guys that play a little deeper. I love that I can compare a top-end 1-2 punch at safety to a top-end 1-2 punch at corner. The loss of Dashon Goldson might not be that bad, but it's not as good as not not losing Dashon Goldson.
Fairly easy choices at corner and safety here.
Seahawks: Steven Hauschka, Jon Ryan, Harvin? Tate? Harper?
49ers: Phil Dawson, Andy Lee, LaMichael James, Kyle Williams, Kendall Hunter?
Umm... whatever. I mean, special teams is really underrated but also too volatile. Does either team have such a significant edge or weakness that it tips the scale in favor of one or the other? No.
Seahawks: RB, WR, DT, CB, S
49ers: TE, OL, DE, OLB
Push: QB, ILB, ST
Just because I've given five positional groups to the Seahawks and four to the 49ers, don't take that as a huge sign that the Seahawks have the better roster. Think about how good and reliable the San Francisco offensive line is and how much that improves their QB, RB, and WR situations- It's like playing the lightning bolt in Mario Kart. All of your opponents seem smaller, slower, dumber.
Seattle has that potential and is very good, but the 49ers are already there.
And then look at the other side of the ball and see just how dominant the secondary is for the Seahawks. The addition of Winfield was almost unfair, while the additions of Avril and Bennett could potentially give Seattle not just a great defense, not just an elite defense, but a dominant one that people talk about in ten years. And the 49ers front seven is no different in that respect.
These teams are so evenly matched around their rosters in terms of talent that Evan Silva ranked them 1-2 (Seahawks-49ers) when he ranked all 32 NFL lineups. Pretty much everyone around the league is looking at Seattle and San Francisco and knowing that this could be an epic battle for the next five years and beyond between two coaches, two fanbases, and two teams that hate one another.
Well, maybe hate is a strong word. Strongly want to see our team beat their team, in a rivalry that could be anything unlike I've seen as a Seahawks, Mariners, or Sonics fan for my entire life. Even though we're talking about Seattle and San Francisco here, two of the most free-lovinest cities in the U.S. But there will be little love lost over the next two, and possibly three, matchups for the 2013 season between these teams. It's gonna be interesting.
And that's a fact, Jack.