The NFC West was the worst division in our final Divisional BES Rankings. Consequently, no other division in the NFL had a more transformative offseason. Disappointing results across the board provided the framework for each team’s offseason plan of attack.
The Seahawks (10-5-1) had built strong momentum with an 8-3-1 record after 13 weeks of regular season action. However, that stretch culminated with the devastating loss of free safety Earl Thomas (broken leg) in Week 13 against the Panthers. The effect of Thomas’ season-ending injury resulted in the Seahawks fall from No. 5 in our Week 13 report to No. 12 in our final report of the season.
Likewise, injuries where a major factor in the Cardinals (7-8-1) 2016 season. Quarterback Carson Palmer (concussion, hamstring), safety Tyrann Mathieu (shoulder) and linebacker Deone Bucannon (ankle) highlighted critical losses throughout the season. Overall, the team fell far short of the Super Bowl expectations that fueled its preseason.
Meanwhile, the Rams (4-12) inaugural season in Los Angeles was disastrous, leading to the firing of former head coach Jeff Fisher. Under Fisher, the Rams never finished any better than 3rd in the division and managed a 31-45-1 record from 2012-2016.
Similarly, the 49ers (2-14), who swept the Rams last season, were abysmal. The team spent the season as the backdrop for former quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his silent protest against police brutality. Kaepernick’s kneeling during the National Anthem divided the country on issues of race, justice and patriotism. Unfortunately, it didn’t equate to wins and led 49ers CEO Jed York to fire head coach Chip Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke.
Here’s a closer look at how the NFC West finished in our final Week 17 report of 2016:
HOW THEY FINISHED
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The 49ers hired future Hall of Fame safety John Lynch as general manager. The unorthodox move was initially met with skepticism given Lynch’s lack of front office experience.
Nonetheless, Lynch navigated the offseason smoothly, hiring former Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan as head coach. Under Shanahan, the Falcons fielded one of the most prolific offenses in the history of the NFL.
The Rams, meanwhile, hired former Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay as their head coach. He will also handle offensive playcalling duties, working closely with quarterback Jared Goff whom the Rams drafted No. 1 overall in 2016.
On the other side of the ball, McVay enlisted the help of Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator. Phillips was previously with the Broncos in 2015-2016 where he crafted one of the NFL’s most historically dominant defenses.
NOTABLE PLAYER TRANSACTIONS
We’ve maintained that our data can provide a framework of how teams might approach the draft and address needs. Here are the rookies we feel will have the most impact on each team’s weakest area(s) in BES performance:
NFC WEST BALANCE OF POWER
The Rams and 49ers are moving in the right direction from an organizational standpoint. The future for both teams look positive. They should be more competitive, especially within the division. However, neither team looks like a viable contender.
The Cardinals suffered some serious losses in free agency, particularly on defense. Meanwhile, the Seahawks kept their talent core intact while adding quality depth across the board. This gives them the edge in successfully defending their NFC West title.