Right about midday Monday, The Seahawks and coach Pete Carroll slapped their deal for Minnesota wide receiver Percy Harvin on the sports table as if to say:
“How you like us now?”
A couple of hours later, their NFC rivals in San Francisco answered with the sports equivalent of “mine’s bigger,” announcing they had acquired Baltimore wide receiver Anquan Boldin for a sixth-round draft pick.
Well played, Jim Harbaugh.
Well played indeed.
I imagine the 49ers coach is somewhere right now, smirking and saying, “What’s your deal?” to an imaginary PC as he laughs maniacally. And thank God for that passion. This league has too much PC blandness nowadays. I like coaches with history, holding grudges from Stanford-USC handshakes from long ago, with an intense desire a couple of years later to really stick it to the other guy.
And while enjoyable, this is the micro way to view Monday’s developments. The trades are further proof of what an absolute beast the NFC West has become and how much bumpier a path it is to the Super Bowl for everybody else in the NFC and what fun Carroll v. Harbaugh really is.
I prefer to take a more macro view because this, to me, also signals a shift of the balance of badass-ery in the NFL. The ugliest, nastiest NFL battles used to be East Coast affairs, Ravens-Steelers and Colts-Patriots and Giants-Packers, with winner taking all and all typically including a Lombardi.
What happened Monday feels like a tipping point, a moment we will look back to in a couple of years as when Super Bowls were determined in Pacific Standard Time in ugly, nasty games between San Fran and Seattle.
I admit Harbaugh and Carroll do not look the part of feuding coaching rivals. They are too Ivy, too attractive, too fit to be as acrimonious as they are, which makes it even more delicious.
If anything, this has the feel of a Facebook fight. I am reminded of the scene in “The Social Network” when Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin sit in a law office trading the brainiac version of haymakers. The brutality is all mental, the back and forth of worthy adversaries.
This is what seems to be taking place with Seattle and San Fran, the NFL’s version of Moneyball, the realization that rivals also can be engaged in March with free agency and April with the draft. And if this is indeed an extension of this Carroll-Harbaugh battlefield, this round, by far, goes to San Francisco because Boldin for a sixth-round pick absolutely demolishes Harvin for a first-rounder.
While I like Harvin, I do not love giving up a No. 1 pick for him or really any receiver. This deal violates a few of my NFL tenets:
1. Do not pay age.
2. Never trade for headaches.
3. Get first-round talent with first-round picks.
That said, this is not the-Cowboys-trading-for-Roy Williams awful. Harvin will be good for Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and makes an already dangerous team more deadly. What Boldin does for San Francisco is make them downright filthy.
There is not a franchise in the NFC right now that is not ready to junk-punch Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome for making their lives a living hell.
A quick note about the Ravens, and this seemingly universal belief that they (a) screwed up by trading Boldin and (b) got screwed by San Francisco for getting so little for him.
Absolutely, this is a loss. If I like Harvin, I love Boldin. He’s a football player in every sense of that phrase. The thing is this was a loss likely to happen anyway for cap reasons, and this way they at least kept Boldin from ending up somewhere he’d really hurt him.
Also, the surest way to get in cap and long-term trouble in this league is trying to keep the band together — after Super Bowls and certainly after 8-8 seasons. The best teams are always churning their roster, and Newsome certainly has shown himself to be the best in the league at assembling a Super Bowl roster.
Or he was.
That may be shifting, too, as the Seahawks and 49ers demonstrated Monday by slapping challenges on the table and saying “Come and get us, boys.”