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The Packers Rivalry with the 49ers Enters a New Chapter

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The Packers Rivalry with the 49ers Enters a New Chapter

Rivalries help make sports entertaining. They provide story lines and drama; become a rallying cry for fans and players. Provide extra motivation, and at times become overwhelming.

During the 1990s, the rivalry between the Cowboys and the Packers was a lopsided affair. The Packers traveled to Dallas eight times and lost all eight contests. They were crushing defeats. Games that made Packer fans despise everything Cowboys, defeats that caused the Cowboys and their home stadium to take up residence as the annual monkey on the Packers’ back.

On a Monday night in 1996, the rivalry boiled over when the usually even keeled Reggie White led a group of players into a shoving match at Dallas.

Flashes of this frustration, this refusal to go down without swinging, and this bad blood between two teams was present last Sunday in San Francisco.

The San Francisco Forty-Niners crushed the Packers defense, Super Bowl hopes and nearly an entire fan base’s morale last January. It wasn’t the first time the Packers season was brought to an abrupt end at the hands of the Niners, and it might not be the last, but it ranks high among the most crushing.

The best rivalries exist when both parties are in their prime and playing in meaningful, important games.

Therefore leading into the rematch in San Francisco, the game already had all it needed – trash talking, a team looking for revenge, and an opening day match up – to exist as another piece in the San Francisco/Green Bay rivalry.

And then the game, and the shoving match on the Inners sideline, happened.

The basic rundown: Clay Matthews launched and hit Colin Kaepernick out of bounds. Upset over the hit/game/life in general, San Francisco offensive lineman, Joe Staley got in Matthews face and there was some shoving and punching and slapping. Both Staley and Matthews received penalties, for the melee and for the late hit respectively, and the game went on as it should with an extra down for the Niners.

Matthews was out of line, how far out of line depends on how you viewed the play, but he took his intensity too far. It was a response, in part, to the rivalry, the pregame talk. Not wanting to be run over again, Matthews spent the week leading up to the game talking about how he was going to hit Kaepernick. San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh liking his quarterback and the sound of his own voice, spent the week talking about how Kaepernick should not be hit.

So when the shoving match and ensuing officiating controversy occurred it seemed only natural in a rivalry that the players would continue the story line after game clock hit zero.

Flash forward to Monday afternoon, and perhaps the strangest quote but also new best part of this rivalry.

Jim Harbaugh offered a critique of Matthews’s hit and melee participation. Outside of the usual ‘that was a dirty hit’ bit was an interesting and random piece of advice.

"If you're going to go to the face, come with some knuckles, not an open slap," Harbaugh said. "That young man works very hard on being a tough guy. He'll have some repairing to do to his image after the slap."

That’s right, in an odd combination of calling for punching in an NFL game and encouraging stronger hits to the head, in today’s era of player safety and concussion law suits, a current NFL coach called out a player on an opposing team, questioned his toughness and gave him punching advice.

In the same breath of calling Matthews a dirty player, Harbaugh – in effect – called him weak.

The story became even more entertaining when on Monday night Deadspin uncovered a 1997 LA Times story where after Jim Kelley questioned Harbaugh’s toughness, Harbaugh took the only logical step and punched Kelley in the head.

Yes. Jim Harbaugh punched Jim Kelley in the head.

At the time Harbaugh was “The Comeback Kid” quarterback in Indianapolis and with that punch, he broke a bone in his throwing hand and was subsequently sidelined without pay.

Jim Harbaugh is a fiery personality. Besides his affinity for punching people in the head and yelling on the sideline, Harbaugh is what every good rivalry needs, a villain.

The rivalry between San Francisco and Green Bay has entered a new chapter. Both teams look to be in annual hunt for Super Bowl berths. And with the emergence of a clear person to hate or dislike, this rivalry is far from dying. Hopefully, though, this one does not include eight straight losses like the one with the Cowboys in the 1990s.

There’s a very real chance that the teams will face each other again in the post season this year. Hopefully there will be no head punches, just football.

Jayme Snowden is a writer at CheeseheadTV and Today’s TMJ4. She also co-hosts CheeseheadRadio, part of the Packers Talk Radio Network at You can contact her via twitter at @jaymelee1 or email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (47) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

xuyee's picture

I want it now! I want cake now! I want it now!

Chad Toporski's picture

Hah! Love that vid. Although, I think Harbaugh was ACTUALLY saying that...

VApackerfan's picture


Adam's picture

I have to disagree with the beginning of the article. The Packers/Cowboys in the 90's was never a rivalry in my mind. A great rivalry involves 2 teams and their fan bases getting amped up to play each other. I don't think the Cowboys would have ever considered the Packers a rivalry in the early 90's. The Packers were just another team that they beat up on... they beat up on most teams in the league during that time. The rival team during that time for the Cowboys was the 49ers, maybe the Giants or Bills as well.
I doubt that the Cowboys or their fans ever circled the Packer games on their calendar with excitement. That rivalry was all in the minds of us Packer fans.

TommyG's picture

'the monkey on our back' is far more accurate. There was so much potential on our team back then and Dallas kept getting in the way.

Cow42's picture

1. 49'ers - Packers is a rivalry as much as Hammer - Nail is a rivalry.

2. I would take Harbaugh over McCarthy 100 times out of 100. Screw "class". Imagine having a creative, imaginative, hard nosed, motivational coach. If the coaches switched teams, Harbaugh would still beat McCarthy... Even with the lesser talent.

3. I do not want to see the 49'ers again.

4. I won't because the Packers' 6 wins won't be enough to get them into the playoffs.

5. I'm done talking about the 49'ers. I'm even annoying myself , now. I just can't shake how angry I am that they've sprinted past the Packers so quickly. After '10 I really thought we were in for something special. Instead... Slow, methodical, regression.

VApackerfan's picture

You also stated you would rather have Kaepernick over Rodgers. So yes, no one takes you seriously. You are not only annoying yourself, but everyone else.

Cow42's picture

I believe others may feel the same by the end of the season.

VApackerfan's picture

Cow, I specifically remember you coming on here at the end of last season and stating you were being negative all year b/c it was a superstition of yours. You said it seemed to work for most of the season, and how it was becoming hard to keep up your negative rhetoric etc. I'm calling you out. Are you still trying to be superstitious? If so, give it up. Thanks

Jamie's picture

Also called "trolling".

Glad someone else remembers that. Though anyone that would/could do that for so long should be considered disingenuous, and this true motivations should be taken with a grain is salt (i.e. not a Packer fan at all).

Cow42's picture

Yep. That was me. I did say that. Guess I started to realize that all of the carp I was spewing was actually true.

Anyhow... I won't be commenting on this site (or any others) any longer.

I guess I've just determined that I've made my point pretty clear.

No need to continue.

Have a wonderful season, everyone.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

"Yep. That was me. I did say that. Guess I started to realize that all of the carp I was spewing was actually true.

Anyhow… I won’t be commenting on this site (or any others) any longer.

I guess I’ve just determined that I’ve made my point pretty clear.

No need to continue.

Have a wonderful season, everyone."

We've heard it before... I'll set the O/U @ 24 hrs... I'll take the under.

Kg's picture

Cow lol while on a break from my job which I'm assuming you don't have, I realized that people like you generally are a sad group of people. I really feel sorry for you. Sitting at home in your moms basement constently trolling packers forums trying to get someone to care about you :(. I really feel awful that you have to live a life of forum trolling. I can send you a Christmas card if you wanna feel important just keep off this forum because nobody genuinely cares about your thoughts of negativity. Ps just remember to tell your mom that when the Christmas card comes to her house that it's from a dear friend so she can sleep at night knowing her loser son has a friend :). Your welcome.

Cow42's picture

Thanks for thinking of my mom, but she doesn't really like me that much, either.

P.S. your anger is misdirected. It's not my fault that the Packers are wasting Rodgers.

Beep's picture

Seriously Cow, no one cares for your trolling. There's a difference between being critical of the team and the crap you type day in and day out. Its almost to the point that I skip the comments section now because I don't wan't to even read your gibberish.

Sir Cheese's picture

Cow claims he will never post on packer forums again! Is it because everyone knows he's a troll and not a Packer fan? Is it because his mom grounded him from his computer? Or is he afraid he will lose our 6-10 bet and have to leave anyways? I'm assuming this means no more JakeK either. Hooray!

JakeK's picture

No chance ... The only connection cow & I have is that we agree on a few items. .. It doesn't bother either one of us to view the Packers objectively while most of you clowns are so emotional about the Pack that your brains are incapable of correctly analyzing anything football.

Besides I spend very little time here anymore. ... There are many, many, many more places with people who have much more insight than the "social kids" that hang out here.

UP-Packer's picture

What you said.--- I don't always agree with everything everyone posts but this place has lost it big time. Where's the football? Seems like most only want to see their IDs on screen anymore.

Should be a rule like "Talk football or leave".

BTW, the Pack over the Skins by 10+ this Sunday.

Evan's picture

Hey UP - talk football or leave! the edit in too quick. Ha.

UP-Packer's picture

I've never made a post here unless it involved football.

"BTW, the Pack over the Skins by 10+ this Sunday."

RC Packer Fan's picture

KG that is hilarious...

Do you also have that image of John Clayton's commercial with his long hair, pumping the music, yelling to his mom that he's done with his segment?

PackerPete's picture

I've never liked Harbaugh. It has nothing to do with him being the 49ers coach as I in general don't have anything against that organization, the guy is just a colossal jack-you-know-what. I find it interesting that he wants to define toughness, but after every play is whining into the refs ears himself.
There are only 3 coaches I despise in the NFL, and those are Harbaugh, that cheap-short coaching guy in Detroit, and the cheater who coaches the Patriots. All others I am fine with, and no, for me it is not all about winning.
I am not the biggest fan of McCarthy and still contend to this day that the Packers won the SB despite of Mike, but at least he is a very decent human being and I'd rather see him coach the Packers than any of the 3 guys I listed above.

Evan's picture

Yeah, Harbaugh is a serious d-bag. Some people would like to win at all costs, even if it means a dickbag of a head coach (SF) or a team full of PED users (Seattle). I'll never get behind that thought process.

PackerPete's picture

I know enough people who define their own success or big parts of their life on whether their team wins on the weekend (or the rival team loses, as sad as that sounds). Doesn't even matter what sport it is. I guess they have nothing else going for them. While I have to admit that I like my team winning more than losing, and admit getting worked up if the same player makes the same mistakes over and over again and the coaches do nothing about it (seemingly, one never knows what goes on behind closed doors), I am still fortunate enough to realize it is just a game and doesn't define my life. Well, even if my team should win the SB, I still have to go to work the day after. So nothing changes for me personally, except I may have a big smile on my face...

WangDaYe's picture

I couldn't go to work the last time the Pack won the Super Bowl. I called in sick and nursed the hangover on the couch while sportscenter reruns flashed highlights of the game while i dozed in and out of sleep. It was like a dream.

DGB454's picture

I would love to have Belichick instead of MM. Harbaugh on the otherhand would get on my nerves so bad I'd have to stop watching football.

PackerPete's picture

I don't know. Just heard and read too many things beyond the taping scandal about Belichick. While people may have issues with McCarthy the coach, I've yet to hear anybody saying anything negative about McCarthy the human being. The same cannot be said about Belichick or Harbaugh or Schwartz.
Pro athletes and coaches are intensely competitive, and one should cut them some slack, but there is a fine line and some people just cross them without thinking or even caring.

packsmack25's picture

I used to think of MM the same way until I was asked to name 5 head coaches I'd rather have right now. Go ahead, try it.

PackerPete's picture

ok, my personal list would be:
Mike Smith, John Fox, Andy Reid, Mike McCoy, and Bruce Arians. And that is restricting myself to coaches who are currently NFL head coaches. I think as football coaches each of them would do better with the Packers talent than Mike McCarthy. Just IMHO of course.

Evan's picture

I feel like if you take every single bad habit of McCarthy and multiply it by 10, you get Andy Reid.

PackerPete's picture

i always thought he did a good job with the talent he had. but i will admit that he abandoned the run even earlier than McCarthy and it was throw throw throw every down. i wished the Packers had hired him instead of Ray Rhodes though...

VApackerfan's picture

IMO, Mike Smith and Andy Reid are great coaches. John Fox had some up and down years in Carolina. I think his recent success relies heavily on P. Manning. He is that good. Mike McCoy and Bruce Arians seem like coaches on the rise, but they're too young in the industry to be crowned elite.

packsmack25's picture

See for me it was Tomlin, Emperor Palpatine, and John Harbaugh and that's it. All coaches have their warts, but MM has a proven record of winning football now. Reid has never won it all despite some VERY talented rosters, Fox and Smith are the same story. McCoy and Arians may not have what it takes to be head coaches, as evidenced by their teams collapsing with big 4th quarter leads this week. I'll take the 4th best head coach out there all day every day.

Evan's picture

As far as coaches I'd rather have... I'd probably take Sean Payton, John Harbaugh (good coach without any of his brother's BS), Tom Coughlin and Mike Tomlin. That's probably about it.

PackerPete's picture

Tomlin I was debating putting on the list and he would be number 6, but I think the Steelers have regressed a little the last 2 years. could be due to rebuilding as they need to replace a bunch of aging guys. but Tomlin is a good coach I think. Better than McC I don't know.

Evan's picture

Oh, I think their regression is 100% due to age/salary cap hell. They've consistently been one of the oldest teams in the NFL in recent years (8th oldest this year, 10th in 2012, 1st in 2011).

As you say, whether or not he's actually better than MM is debatable. But I do like him a lot as a coach and would be more than happy to have him.

packsmack25's picture

Yeah Tomlin is playing a 2-7 offsuit hand in a division with 2 teams that have pocket queens. Just nothing to work with right now. Still cobbling together a solid defense though.

packsmack25's picture

Ooh forgot about Payton. I'd take him too, so bump MM down to 5th. Still not bad.

Jamie's picture

Lil Jimmy Harbaugh could have never been born and the world and the NFL would be a better place for it.

Marlow's picture

...or we could just ignore him. The view is lovely from the moral high ground.

Kg's picture

Haha yes rc packer fan that was the image that kept playing in my head lol.

Mr_Fastbucks's picture

It's worse than that with the Cowboys. The Packers beat a 6-1 Cowboys team in 1974. We didn't beat a Cowboys team with a winning record for nearly 25 years after that. They owned us. The same is true for the Niners only in reverse. With the exception of the infamous "Jerry Rice fumbled" game, we owned them for about the same amount of time.

bomdad's picture

I thought it was Jeff George and Jim Kelly that had the incident. Anyway, Harbaugh has always been the enemy - Michigan, Bears, Niners.

4thand1's picture

Harbaugh whines almost as much as Cow. He's liked a little more though. Wish Suh would get a crack at the 9ers. Would be fun to watch.

madtown9er's picture

Bottom line. Clay was out of line. He was the one throwing slaps and whatever. Jim can be arrogant, and sarcastic. This is football. Fact is both parties need to class it up a bit. No way should clay act like a school yard bully. It doesn't help that Clay talked smack all week! Jim is only trying to get under his skin and frustrate him further. Childish... I'm glad my Niners are finally beating the Packers! 3 times in 1 year is so nice!

VApackerfan's picture

What else did Clay say, other than they will be making hits on the QB in reference to the league rules with option QB's? His opinion is exactly what everyone said the Ravens did in the Superbowl to contain CK. They tried to hit him on every play, even if the ball was handed to Gore. I took it as a Clay saying they were going to be physical. I agree his hit went too far. However, Harbaugh was the one who introduced the whole bounty thing. He took it to a new level, and the media ran with it.

Bugeater's picture

Punching with the fist = broken knuckles.

CMIII has been doing MMA training so he knows better than to do that. Just another reason he is a smart player. The play wasn't smart. But the player is.

BTW, did the league fine him for that hit? Guess it wasn't THAT dirty.

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