- Paul Gutierrez, ESPN Staff Writer
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Harbaugh’s reaction, after laughing out loud?
“I feel the same way about him,” said the coach of the San Francisco 49ers.
Wait, that Carroll is a stud, too?
"Yeah," Harbaugh said with a grin.
What’s the deal, indeed?
Carroll and Harbaugh establishing a seeming mutual admiration society is only one of several storylines to follow before, during and after the Niners put their playoff lives on the line Sunday in Seattle. But it’s definitely one of the most intriguing.
As noted earlier in the week, the coaching career paths of the two first crossed when Harbaugh attempted to recruit Carroll’s son to play for him at the University of San Diego. It intensified in the then-Pac 10 when Harbaugh took over at Stanford after Carroll had won parts of three national titles at USC. And that’s where Carroll uttered the infamous, “What’s your deal?” line to Harbaugh after the Cardinal seemingly ran up the score on the Trojans in a 55-21 victory.
But it’s taken on a different vibe in the NFC West, the rivalry between the Seahawks and Niners echoing the apparent antagonism between the two.
“All the other stuff you guys have always thought was going on [between them], there ain’t much to it,” Carroll said. “This is two football guys going at it, two guys that love to compete and battle and there’s nobody I’d rather play. I love playing against him and that’s the way it’s been since the beginning.”
And this from Harbaugh: “He’s a great competitor. He’s a great football coach. Been in a lot of big games. Very much look forward to playing against their team because they’re such a good football team. Always well prepared. At the highest level every time you play against them.”
How tight is this coaching rivalry? If Carroll’s Seahawks defeat Harbaugh’s 49ers – Seattle is a double-digit favorite – the all-time series between the two will be tied at six victories apiece.