For years, the San Francisco 49ers chief rival in the NFC West has been the Seattle Seahawks. And then suddenly, everything changed. The Seahawks are in shambles, after dispatching all their best defenders. They’re not really rebuilding or reloading, so much as just resigning and going home to the cellar they once knew so well. The Arizona Cardinals? Somehow they’re even sadder.
Meanwhile, the Niners and the Los Angeles Rams are squaring off for a new, long-term battle for supremacy in the West. Two young innovative offensively minded coaches who worked together in Washington for four years. Two of the most talented young quarterbacks in the league. Two talented defensive lines. Two fledgling but unproven wide receivers corps. The two great cities of America’s greatest state.
The Rams emerged suddenly last year after Sean McVay took over as the youngest head coach in NFL history. He immediately turned Goff from a rookie disaster to a second year phenom, and quickly shrugged off the oppressive mediocrity of the Jeff Fisher era. McVay won the coach of the year award as the team went 11-5 (before choking in the playoffs) and perhaps more impressively, jumped from the worst offense in 2016 to the best in 2017.
Even so, San Francisco played them tough. In Week 3, LA barely beat the Brian Hoyer-led Niners, 41-39, needing a bunch of breaks (including a short week for SF, a missed extra point and a bogus offensive pass interference penalty on Trent Taylor) to avoid blowing a 15-point late lead.
Then, in Week 17, the Rams chickened out in the face of the surging Garoppoliners and sat their starters, “to rest for the playoffs” (which they lost anyway). The 49ers rolled, 34-13.
Longtime GM Les Snead, famous for the haul he negotiated for RGIII ( (and then wasted), has apparently decided that the time is now for his team, trading draft picks for 30-something veterans and bulking up in free agency. He’s mortgaging the future to gamble on a Super Bowl in 2018 or 2019.
It’s all good news for 49ers fans. The Rams will be very tough to beat this year, and maybe next year, making any wins epic victories for the scrappy underdogs.
But in the long run, it’s a young core developed by the draft and led by a ridiculously good looking and experienced quarterback, against cocky, selfish free agents and a wispy, small-handed kid QB. It’s Los Angeles vs. San Francisco, jaded celebrities versus hard core fans, evil against all that is good and right.
And after a couple of tough years, the good guys are going to dominate for a long time.