SANTA CLARA As the 49ers go through their final Super Bowl preparations next Saturday, their former general manager will be figuring out ways to knock them from their perch.
Scot McCloughan, now a member of the Seahawks scouting department, said Seattle will hold its first predraft meeting the day before the big game. The underlying theme to everything the Seahawks do is figuring out ways to supplant the 49ers as the top team in the NFC West division.
When he watches the Super Bowl the next day, however, there will be no mixed feelings. He wants his former team to win.
"There's no animosity whatsoever," said McCloughan, who was let go in 2010. "It's the same as last year I'm pulling for them. I have relationships up and down that organization, from the ownership on down to the players."
Indeed, when McCloughan turns on the TV on Feb. 3, he'll find a lot of familiar faces.
There is no understating the work McCloughan's successor, Trent Baalke, has done in building a Super Bowl contender. Baalke's 2011 draft produced, in order, linebacker Aldon Smith, quarterback Colin Kaepernick, cornerback Chris Culliver, running back Kendall Hunter and fullback Bruce Miller. It's comparable to the team's celebrated 1981 and 1986 drafts that helped produce, and then sustain, San Francisco's former dynasty.
Still, 11 of the team's 22 starters were acquired when McCloughan ran the personnel department, including five of the 49ers' nine Pro Bowl selections this year: Dashon Goldson, Frank Gore, Justin Smith, Joe Staley and Patrick Willis.
McCloughan said he has no favorites among his former finds, but that two of the heroes from Sunday's NFC Championship game, Gore and Ahmad Brooks, stand out because he had to fight for both.
During the 2005 draft, detractors said Gore, who had had ACL surgeries on both knees in college, would be lucky to last three years in the NFL. Gore is approaching the end of his eighth season, and he rushed for a game-high 90 yards and two touchdowns in Atlanta.
Brooks, an outside linebacker, had two big pass deflections, including one that helped thwart the Falcons' late drive deep in 49ers territory.
McCloughan said the 49ers nearly took Brooks in the 2006 supplemental draft but Cincinnati beat them to him.
Even when the 49ers acquired Brooks two years later, his roster spot was tenuous.
"We had many discussions about cutting him. Would he ever get it?" McCloughan said. "But I kept battling for him because he had the ability. I'm just proud for him because he's been through so much in his life, both good and bad."
McCloughan is busy helping assemble the Seahawks' roster. He's an assistant to general manager John Schneider, who has been praised for his 2012 draft that included defensive end Bruce Irvin, linebacker Bobby Wagner and, in the third round, quarterback Russell Wilson.
McCloughan and Schneider got their NFL starts under former Green Bay Packers general manager Ron Wolf, and it's no coincidence that the 49ers and Seahawks are among the most physical and ferocious teams in the league.
McCloughan also said he thinks the St. Louis Rams are an ascendant squad, and that the NFC West is likely to become the league's top division in coming years.
Step one for the Seahawks, he said, is toppling his old team.
"I wouldn't call them arch enemies," McCloughan said of the 49ers. "They're considered enemies because it's two years in a row that they've won the division. But no one around here thinks of them as cheap-shot artists or anything like that. They're the NFC champions. And I think that's great for the division."