A sizable chunk of discussion this week, and really for much of the last two years, has been about the rivalry between Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll. I think most people get it as a "rivalry", but there are some who have decided these two hate each other. Most discussions don't go that far, but there are some folks in the media that have decided this relationship is built on mutual distaste.
I could not more strongly disagree with that. While I do think Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll get annoyed at times with the actions of the other, I think it is important to recognize the different between fighting for every inch as competitors, and actually hating each other.
I think Tim Kawakami nailed it perfectly with his most recent article discussing the rivalry. I strongly recommend reading the entire article, but I figured I'd pull out a few of the more pertinent parts.
This became the best adversarial relationship in sports because they both embraced the tension and both targeted each other.
Rick Neuheisel might have summed it up best:
"My own take on it is they're both kind of like the guy with the battery on their shoulder, ‘Go ahead knock that off,' you know?" said Rick Neuheisel, who coached against both in the Pac-10 conference.
"It's just kind of their persona. And it shows during the game, it shows every press conference they do. It's all about them. And I don't mean that as an egotistical thing; it's about them in terms of their team.
"I think it's bull elk and bull elk."
"I think deep down that there's mutual respect amongst the two guys. But they're not going to give any quarter, just will not. It's just not who they are."
Pete Carroll spoke with 49ers media earlier this week (audio here) and he had a chance to compare the two teams. He discussed how both teams are built around a strong rushing attack, special teams and defense. That got him a follow-up question in which someone asked him if that meant there were similarities between himself and Harbaugh. Carroll's response?
What do you think? You guys can figure that one out. I think that's a good question for you guys to answer, not me.
While they have different exteriors, there are a lot of similarities between Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll. It adds to what is developing into the best rivalry in the NFL today. It helps having a pair of winning teams, but adding in the competitive tension between Harbaugh and Carroll only helps. It should make for a thoroughly entertaining matchup in the coming years.