The 49ers have an incredible opportunity in front of them this weekend in Seattle.
I’m not talking about the potential to move to a 7-5 record, which would nearly guarantee a playoff berth for the Niners.
No, as cool as that would be for San Francisco, there’s plenty of time left in the season to complete that goal.
In the meantime, something larger is in play.
They can put a stake in the heart of their arch-rivals.
If San Francisco wins Sunday in Seattle, they’ll set the Seahawks into a tailspin that could take years to undo.
How often can you not just defeat, but vanquish, a mortal enemy?
It’s rarely, if ever, possible. Once-in-a-generation, at best.
Take advantage when you can.
And don’t pretend the Seahawks’ future is not on the line Sunday.
Seattle is 3-8 on the season. Going into this Week 13 game, they have a 2 percent chance of making the playoffs, per FiveThirtyEight. Another loss effectively eliminates those playoff odds and brings about what could be the most fateful offseason in modern franchise history.
The Seahawks would have five games left and no stakes.
Don’t forget, the Seahawks traded their first-round pick to the Jets for box safety Jamal Adams in July 2020.
That trade was a perfect encapsulation of Seattle’s current problems, which have kneecapped this season and put in jeopardy their ability to compete in seasons to come.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll wanted to recreate the famed Legion Of Boom defense with Adams, who would be playing the role of former Seattle great Kam Chancellor, despite the fact that Adams isn’t nearly that good and that kind of defense has effectively been outlawed in the modern NFL.
So to land Adams from New York, Seattle sent the Jets a nice safety — Bradley McDougald — and their 2021 and 2022 first-round picks. Plus, Seattle gave Adams a new contract.
It was a move that was puzzling in the moment and comical (from the Niners’ perspective) in retrospect.
It was the kind of rash, logic-free move that a franchise on the decline makes. A nostalgia play from an organization devoid of new ideas. A death throe for a once-great team.
It’s not surprising that the Seahawks believed they could get away with such an obviously rash and short-sided (at best) move — they have Russell Wilson. And for the last half-decade-plus, the diminutive quarterback has made whole a roster that is littered with holes.
The Seahawks won’t have Wilson next season, though.
Don’t forget that after the 2019 season, the Seahawks and Wilson were embattled in a messy and public contract negotiation. Wilson received his new deal, but an offseason later, his camp put out a list of preferred destinations, via trade. Wilson claims he never demanded a trade, but that’s just twisted semantics. He wanted out. He stayed.
But not for long.
Wilson is clearly not happy with the direction of the Seahawks under Pete Carroll, whose power in the organization is currently unchecked following the death of team owner Paul Allen. The team is now held in trust.
Who could blame Wilson for wanting out? Carroll is stuck trying to recreate the past — playing an uninspired, conservative, run-first offense and trusting an overmatched defense that gets worse by the year to be the backbone of the team. Every year, Carroll needs his All-Pro quarterback to bail him out. Year after year Wilson has.
But Wilson missed time for the first time this season and the whole world is able to see what the Seahawks are without him. Carroll and general manager John Schneider’s annual failures in the draft have left a non-quarterback roster that’s one of the worst in the NFL. Now, they don’t even have the channels to improve.
So Wilson will try to leave again this offseason. If Carroll and Schneider facilitate a trade, they’ll receive a ton of draft capital — enough to re-boot the whole roster.
If they don’t move him, the descent will continue and an already toxic situation will become messier.
I truly believe the end of the Seahawks is nigh. Following Wilson’s return and the embarrassing losses to the Packers and Washington Football Team, the season’s ninth loss — bringing about Wilson’s first losing season as an NFL quarterback — will end this campaign — emphasis on paign — and put into motion the wheels of offseason chaos.
The 49ers have been in a spot not too dissimilar not long ago. The 2014 Niners were teetering. The Jim Harbaugh situation was a tinderbox and a once-great team was falling apart.
Obviously, there was a whole season of work, but the Niners’ Week 13 and Week 15 losses to Seattle punctuated the end of the season. There would be no turnaround, only rebuilding. Losses to an arch-rival carry extra weight like that.
There’s almost no connection to the 2014 team, but the 49ers are still wearing red and gold — the fans are still, for the most part, the same — and Sunday could be the day where San Francisco repays the favor to Seattle and sends them into the NFL’s abyss.
The Niners deserve this opportunity to exorcise some serious demons.
Let’s see them take it.