This season New Orleans became the first team to sweep all teams in the NFC West since the Kansas City Chiefs in 2010. Prior to that you need to go back to Mannings 2009 Colts and the 2006 Chargers for the last time a non-division team won all 3 games in the West in a season. Since the arrival of Pete Carroll in Seattle, the consistently great play of the Arizona Cardinals, the Jim Harbaugh era in San Francisco….. and the Rams played too…… the NFL West has been one of, if not the dominant division in football.
In 2011 the Seattle Seahawks won the division with a 7 and 9 record, this year was the last time a team from the NFC West was not at least in the Championship game. They have given the NFC representative at 3 of the last 4 Superbowls. Since then teams have been trying to build a defence like the Seahawks, find a receiver like Larry Fitzgerald and draft a dominant linebacker pairing like Navarro Bowman and Patrick Willis.
It could be argued that one man is responsible for the resurgence of the San Francisco 49ers during the time of Jim Harbaugh and the creation of the Legion of Boom – Scot McCloughan.
In 2005 the San Francisco 49ers had just finished the season 2 and 14 and hired Scot McCloughan to be their Vice President of Player Personnel, and shortly after the General Manager. The 49ers drafted Frank Gore and famously passed on Aaron Rodgers in favour of Alex Smith. Smith had a torrid time with the 49ers but eventually realised his potential with the Chiefs.
In his time with the 49ers they also drafted Patrick Willis, Joe Staley and Pro Bowler Dashon Goldson, and had a nucleus of a top side either in or just outside the playoffs. When Jim Harbaugh took over in 2011 he utilised a lot of the team which was put together in the time of Scot McCloughan, which also included the likes of Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis on offence and Justin Smith on defence. Harbaugh’s team made it to the Superbowl in 2011, with Conference Championship games the years either side of that.
As McCloughan’s players moved on, be it through age, injury or simply being too expensive to keep within the roster cap, the 49ers have taken a trip down the standings and now find themselves 1 and 1 and 13 without a win since the open week of the season.
Prior to his time at the 49ers McCloughan spent 4 years as the Director of College Scouting with the Seattle Seahawks. During his time the Seahawks drafted many key parts of the team which made it to the 2005 Superbowl including Pro Bowlers Ken Hamlin and Alex Bannister, Steve Hutchinson, Marcus Trufant and Shaun Alexander who in 2005, ran for over 2000 yards.
He returned to the Seahawks for a 3 year stint in 2010 as the teams Senior Personnel Executive. He was employed as part of a huge overhaul of staff after a 5-11 season which included John Schneider replacing Tim Ruskell as President of Football Operations, and Pete Carroll taking over from Jim Mora Jr as Head Coach.
The NFC West had earned itself a new nickname as the NFC Worst. When Schnieder, McCloughan and Carroll arrived the Seahawks drafted the first few pieces of a side which would go on to win and then appear in consecutive Superbowls in 2014 and 2015. They chose Russell Okung and Earl Thomas in the first round, as well as Golden Tate, Walter Thurmond and Kam Chancellor in the later rounds. The following year’s draft saw more future All Pro’s picked up in late rounds such as Bobby Wagner, Russell Wilson, KJ Wright and Richard Sherman, as well as Superbowl 48 MVP Malcolm Smith in the 7th round.
The Seahawks, Cardinals, 49ers and even the resurgent Rams had some close entertaining and somewhat violent tussles in the 2010’s, The West had taken over in the NFC and it was largely thanks to the scouting and recruiting talents of the man in the background – Scot McCloughan.
McCloughan eventually left the NFC West and is now the General Manager of the Washington Redskins. Having already put together a very competitive team McCloughan has drafted some key offensive parts to replace the likely to be outgoing DeShaun Jackson and Pierre Garcon. Quarterback Kirk Cousins, running back Robert Kelley and receivers Josh Doctson and Jamieson Crowder could be the next big offensive skill players to make their mark on the league. Other players showing huge potential include Brandon Scherff, Preston Smith and Su’a Cravens.
With McCloughan now in Washington the Seahawks have drafted 28 players between 2013 and 2015, and only 9 of them remain on the roster. The Offensive line is a mess with no lineman having his first contract renewed since Max Unger. The Seahawks draft is met by fans with both slight confusion but also a “Trust in Pete (Carroll) and John (Schneider)” philosophy, I would suggest based on everything we have explored today, that although clearly not the only one responsible for the building of rosters, the trust should also have been with Scot McCloughan – the man that built the West.
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