You look at what the Los Angeles Rams are doing this offseason, and you look at what the San Francisco 49ers are doing. Then you look at what Seattle and Arizona are doing, and the conclusion is inescapable.
The NFC West looks like a tug of war between the Rams and 49ers.
In fact, with the two — especially L.A. — loading up prior to this month’s draft, the Rams-49ers rivalry is beginning to resemble more than just the L.A.-San Francisco rivalry of the 1980s. It looks like the start of Baltimore-Pittsburgh West.
At least that’s the view from here. But from L.A.? Well, let Rams’ GM Les Snead explain what he thinks … and he did on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast, cautioning outsiders that the NFC West is more than L.A. vs. San Francisco.
“I give (San Francisco’s) Jed York, their owner, and (GM) John Lynch and Kyle (coach Kyle Shanahan) all the credit in the world,” Snead said of the 49ers. “You call tell they’re making a run. They’re doing things the right way. They’re being aggressive. They’re trying to improve their team … and maybe quicker than a rival GM would like. So I give them all the kudos in the world and look forward to battling those guys.
“But I do want to say that the team that’s the most north of us … Seattle … they still have that home-field (advantage), and they still have Russell Wilson. So guess what? For us to truly become … if you want to call it … the kings of the West, we want to do that. And we want to repeat, and we want to do it consistently.
“(But) you still have to go up there and take care of those guys. They’re still going to be a good team and like anything, Arizona hired a really good head coach and they have a good GM who knows what he’s doing. And he’s going to try to … let’s call it … repair that thing sooner rather than later. I don’t want to make it a two-team race just yet. We’ve definitely got some formidable foes.”
Maybe. But the Rams went into Seattle in December and destroyed the Seahawks, 42-7, in a beatdown so bad it was the Seahawks’ worst home loss since 1997. Plus, they swept the Cards by a combined score of 65-16. But San Francisco? They were 1-1 against the 49ers, with their victory a 41-39 decision.
Nevertheless, the Rams are the favorite to repeat as division champions — mostly because they just added an all-star cast in cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and wide receiver Brandin Cooks to a club that was 11-5 a year ago.
The 49ers weren’t as active, but they did address some needs with the additions of center Weston Richburg, cornerback Richard Sherman and running back Jerick McKinnon. More important, they locked down quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a five-year deal, and he’s a guy who hasn’t lost — including his last five starts a year ago — and appears to be on the verge of stardom.
So, for the moment, they’re considered the biggest threat to L.A. within the division. But within the NFC, the Rams are considered the biggest threat to Super Bowl-champion Philadelphia — mostly because of the talent that Snead just imported via offseason moves, with L.A. somehow keeping the entire team under the salary cap.
“We have a strategy to be able to do this,” said Snead. “To be able to lock our young core up and plan for the years leading up to what would be on paper right now an extension for Jared Goff. But I do think we’re able to do some things with a quarterback still on his rookie deal.
“And let’s call it what it is. We have a team that played well with a quarterback still in his rookie deal. And anytime you can be in that window … and by that I mean playing well with a quarterback on his rookie deal … you can do some things now that you might not be able to do down the line. And I think that was a little bit a part of the strategy to what we’ve done recently.”