Bruce Arians says NFC West 'in great shape right now,' but doesn't miss tense rivalries


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Between 2010 and 2017, the NFC West transformed from one of the worst divisions in NFL history — with a 7-9 Seahawks squad taking the crown via tiebreaker — to perhaps the most competitive of its era.

The Seahawks, 49ers, Cardinals and Rams each claimed at least one division title and combined to record 12 seasons of at least 10 wins.

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As a result, tension between NFC West foes increased, often leading to barbs from the coaching trio of Jim Harbaugh, Pete Carroll and Bruce Arians. Harbaugh was accused of honking at Seattle players to mock them after a 13-6 win, and he later called out the Seahawks over a series of PED suspensions. Arians, whose Cardinals won four of five games at CenturyLink Field during his tenure, labelled Seattle “our home field” and predicted a blowout victory there in 2017.

But with Arians following Harbaugh out of the league this offseason, the NFC West is evolving again. Arians retired from coaching to become a TV broadcaster for CBS. He now keeps tabs on the division from afar, admiring how coaches Sean McVay, Kyle Shanahan and Steve Wilks are maintaining the NFC West intensity he fell in love with.

“The division is in great shape right now,” Arians told Sporting News. “Sean [McVay] has done a great job in terms of what he’s done in LA with Jared [Goff], because Jared was struggling. Now he’s a Pro Bowler.

“Same thing with Kyle [Shanahan]. Kyle has been an innovative offensive mind. … Steve [Wilks] is the defensive guy of the group.”

While the 5-0 Rams are the only NFC West team with a winning record, a collection of promising quarterbacks offer long-term hope. The 49ers are confident in Jimmy Garoppolo — though he’s out for the season with a torn ACL — while the Cardinals are already leaning on rookie signal caller Josh Rosen.

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Seattle, of course, possesses an unquestioned franchise quarterback in Russell Wilson.

“As the quarterbacks grow, the West is gonna get stronger,” Arians said. “Right now, Arizona’s offense just needs to catch up with those other guys. … [Rosen] has shown a lot already, and the more they can get [running back] David Johnson involved, the be

tter [Rosen] is going to play.”

Indeed, the one-win Cardinals, who went 40-27-1 under Arians, likely have the most to prove. But if Rosen develops into a quality quarterback, Arizona could soon join the NFC West fray Arians said “was always fun” to be a part of.

Not that he misses it too much.

Without the pressure of those rivalry games, it’s been a much calmer year, except the rare moments Arians gets too excited and forgets he’s on live television. He can tend to his own health. He can spend time with his family.

But surely the thought of a December clash with Harbaugh or Carroll creeps back occasionally, right? Even to linger there for only a split-second?

“Not one minute,” Arians said. “This is giving me all the connection to the game I need. I [can] see the coaches, see the players, be in the production meetings and stay involved that way. It’s good to be on the dark side, interview them for a change.”