The day after the Seattle Seahawks beat the St. Louis Rams to win the NFC West (however unimpressively) and extend their season into the playoffs, I asked Seahawks coach Pete Carroll what he thought of then-Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh's possible journey back to the NFL after finding tremendous success as a college coach; something Carroll might know a thing or two about. I first asked if Carroll had any advice about the transition; Carroll assured the media that Harbaugh didn't need any hints.
"I don't mind saying, he's a fantastic football coach. He came in and took over a program and got it going, which he did at San Diego as well. I didn't know the factor that he was, but I thought he did a fantastic job. And wherever he winds up going, they're getting a terrific coach. He brings attitude and personality and toughness and all of the right stuff. Probably the farther away, the better (laughs). He's really good. Michigan's looking pretty good - how far away can we get him?
"But it sounds like something's happening, and he deserves it. He's earned the opportunity. If he stays at Stanford, that's a fantastic coup for their university. He's made his choices come to life, because he's been so effective. He's done it with class and style, and he's really on the mark right now.
And then, to uproarious laughter from the media in the auditorium, "He'll be shocked that I said that."
And why would that be? Well, you'd have to go back to 2009, when the Stanford Cardinal beat Carroll's USC Trojans, 55-21. Harbaugh went for a two-point conversion when he was already up, 48-21. The conversion failed, but the shot stuck with Carroll, and he had a few words to say about it after the game.
With Harbaugh taking the San Francisco 49ers job, it's safe to say that Carroll did not get his wish of having Harbaugh as far away as possible. "What's your deal?" may now become the slogan of the NFC West. In a perfect world that includes a full 2011 NFL season, the two coaches will face each other twice a year in division matchups, and the setup looks pretty good for a rivalry.
Carroll's words this week were full of respect, but you could tell that he remembered what happened in 2009.