The NFC West is entering a new era. Three of the coaches in the division are entering their first or second season with their respective franchises. Two coaches in the division are the youngest two in the NFL. And then there’s Pete Carroll.
It’s a fascinating division on a number of levels. Each franchise has reason for optimism. Even Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks — a coach and franchise near the end of a spectacular run — are still hanging on because of Russell Wilson’s unique ability.
All four teams in the NFC West are capable of making the playoffs this season. Coaching will play a big role in the fortunes of each team. Throughout the month of June, we are ranking the coaches in each division. We started with the NFC East and NFC South. At the end of the month, we will rank the top five coaches in the NFL.
NFC West Coach Rankings
- Steve Wilks, Arizona Cardinals
This is the first head coaching job of Wilks’ career, and he is inheriting a squad that finished 8-8 a season ago. Carson Palmer retired after the season, and the Cardinals selected Josh Rosen in the draft. The roster has some holes on both sides of the ball, but they were a very tough, competitive team last year.
Wilks spent the last several seasons as a defensive assistant under Ron Rivera in Carolina. He has some playmakers on defense — especially Chandler Jones and Patrick Peterson — and the always reliable Larry Fitzgerald will help Rosen or Sam Bradford on offense. Overall, the upside for this roster isn’t particularly great, but Wilks should have a few seasons to prove himself.
- Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers didn’t make the playoffs in 2017, but they were the hottest team in the league over the last half of the season. Once the 49ers acquired Jimmy Garoppolo, the offense started clicking. Shanahan is a terrific offensive mind, and the team is starting to acquire the talent needed to become an elite offense.
Shanahan’s success in his first year was overshadowed by Sean McVay’s debut season with the Los Angeles Rams. McVay has the advantage now, but it appears the two young coaches are headed for a fantastic rivalry over the next several years.
- Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams
The 32-year-old McVay had an outstanding debut season as a head coach. Before McVay took over, analysts were already claiming quarterback Jared Goff to be a bust. However, McVay steered Goff in the right direction, and the future of the Rams looks very promising.
Like Shanahan, McVay is a superb play-caller. McVay does have the luxury of having Wade Phillips on his staff, and Phillips has complete control over the defense. That freedom allows McVay to focus strictly on the offense, and his obvious gift for dissecting defenses was on full display last season.
Not many expected Los Angeles to win the NFC West last season. Now, the pressure will be on the Rams. The spotlight will be on McVay in 2018. As a result, he’ll have an opportunity to establish himself as one of the best coaches in the league.
- Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks
Seattle’s run is coming to an end sooner rather than later, and despite Carroll’s youthful personality, he probably doesn’t have many years left in coaching. Carroll’s tenure in Seattle hasn’t been without some missteps, but overall he’s had an overwhelmingly successful eight seasons with the Seahawks.
There aren’t many coaches in the NFL who have accomplished more than the 66-year-old Carroll. He is 79-48-1 in Seattle.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) June 11, 2018
Through eight years with the Seahawks, Carroll has won a Super Bowl, nine playoff games, two NFC championships and four division titles with the Seahawks. He also won a division title with the New England Patriots.
Carroll lets his players be themselves, and it’s worked for the most part. He built a fantastic culture and defense in Seattle. The team is aging, but they will still be competitive as long as they have Carroll and Russell Wilson.
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