The rise of the NFC West is pretty much the rise of both the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers. Two teams that are in a similar situation: They were young and relatively cheap up until now, but success breeds egos and a desire to make more money. Colin Kaepernick got his extension. Richard Sherman did as well. Russell Wilson is next. Keeping it all together from falling apart is the important question for the people running the teams.
And while there’s a big difference in how each team is perceived, the level of success has been similar. The Seattle Seahawks are the defending Super Bowl champions, and were one good drive away from making the NFC Championship game a year before. The 49ers have done extremely well under Jim Harbaugh for the past three seasons, going to the NFC Championship game three times and making the Super Bowl 16 months ago.
There always comes a point when your quarterback starts eating a big piece of the salary cap pie (which keeps growing by the way). Just look at the Baltimore Ravens, who had to give Joe Flacco a massive extension a year after they could have signed him for around $5 million less. They won the Super Bowl, but it forced them into rebuilding somewhat, giving up too many key pieces that might have been old but had a big role to play in terms of leadership and experience.
The New England Patriots are probably the best example of how to keep things running. But Bill Belichick is a rare breed. There is no loyalty or sentimentality with him, nor there should be. No one is overpaid except for Tom Brady, but even he takes less money because there’s a team to cater and make thrive. The Patriots might have not found that fourth Super Bowl ring they’re looking for, but they are in contention each and every season, which is something very rare in the current NFL.
But not all teams see it like that. Some teams are about all or bust. Winning now, knowing that eventually they’ll hit that fork in the road which forces them to start giving up on certain players and start a rebuild. Other teams, like the Dallas Cowboys, seem to be stuck in the wrong kind of cycle, as they are successful enough to be close to the playoffs with a huge payroll but haven’t been able to get that one extra win. They’re chasing the dream in the wrong way.
This is going to be yet another season in which both the Seahawks and the 49ers go head to head in the NFC West and the entire nation shakes from the hatred and intensity. However, these things don’t last forever, and the decisions that will have to be made about players that want their share and won’t be getting it will eventually lead to a relative demise of one or maybe both of these franchises, at least for a little while.