Welcome to the full breakdown of the NFL Coaching Systems for the NFC West. This division brings us some of the strongest football acumen among coaches and shows you just how important possessing this knowledge  gives you a clear-cut advantage in fantasy football. Most people just look over whatever fantasy football player rankings and fantasy football ADP they find and select their team based on that order. There is no thought put in whatsoever. As a result, many people missed out on some of the things we've seen over the years, from Sean McVay's in-season adjustments to his offense to the development of Seattle's system and the resurrection of Geno Smith's career. We teach you this stuff and offer you things like the Dynamic Tier Rankings in an effort to help you make the best possible decisions, not just during your fantasy football draft, but in-season as well with your fantasy football waiver wire. So let's just get to it. 

In case you missed the previous divisions:



NFC West Coaching Systems

Arizona Cardinals

Head CoachJonathan Gannon1st year
Offensive CoordinatorDrew Petzing1st year
Defensive CoordinatorNick Rallis1st year
Offensive SystemWest Coast Offense 
Blocking SchemeWide Zone  
Jonathan Gannon -- HC    Drew Petzing -- OC   
Category2020 (IND)2021 (PHI)2022 (PHI) Category2020 (CLE)2021 (CLE)2022 (CLE)

Offensive Breakdown

The Cardinals got a full makeover here in the offseason and it starts with former Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon taking over as head coach. Gannon is obviously a defensive-minded guy so he will entrust Drew Petzing to build a new offensive scheme. Petzing has spent the last several years with Kevin Stefanski and even moved with him from Minnesota to Cleveland back in 2020. He spent last year as the quarterbacks coach and the two previous seasons coaching the tight ends. As you might expect, we are going to see a lot of elements of Stefanski’s west coast offense.

We can start with the ground game in which Petzing will move from an almost exclusive power-blocking scheme to a wide zone system. This scheme works well when mixed with more RPO, something we expect to see more of this season, and with offensive linemen who can move laterally, we should see wider running lanes open up. This offense will use the run to set up the pass and James Conner suddenly becomes a much more appealing fantasy asset. He is going to see heavy run volume and also more check-downs in this system, so while the rest of your league lets him fall because they are unsure about the quarterback to open the season, you know that he will see a substantial workload no matter who is under center.

As for the passing, you can expect typical west coast style passing which means shorter routes for the receivers, but also routes that favor more opportunities for yards after the catch. Yes, the shorter routes and reliance on the ground game will help set up play-action and the Cardinals will take their shots downfield, but this offense is expected to be a lot more conservative than we’ve seen in years past. Marquise Brown will help stretch the field, but follow the underneath work more, especially in full-point PPR formats.

Players Who Best Fit the System: James Conner, Rondale Moore, Zach Ertz

Defensive System: 3-4 with press-man coverage

Defensive Breakdown: 

The defense is Ganon’s baby and this is likely where he makes his more immediate mark. Sort of. Gannon usually ran a 4-3 base in Philadelphia, but given the personnel and the fact that they’ve been running 3-4 over the last few years, he isn’t going to reinvent the wheel. He wants his defenders to feel comfortable in this scheme and as he evaluated each player when he walked through the doors, he realized he need to make some of his own personal adjustments.

The front-seven is going to be heavily-tasked with stopping the run. Leki Fotu is a big body that can stuff the run, but Rashard Lawrence, though in his fourth season, is still a wild card as injuries have kept him off the field a fair amount. Gannon brought in former Eagles middle linebacker Kyzir White to help plug the middle and that should help the likes of Zaven Collins and Jonathan Ledbetter pressure the quarterback. Gannon has never been blitz-crazy, but this is going to be an evolving front seven so keep an open mind.

In the secondary, Gannon likes for his corners to be physical and will leave them in press-man coverage to allow for the safeties to be more versatile. You will see two-high safeties initially, but then he’ll drop linebackers into coverage to free one of them up to confuse the quarterback. This is where Isaiah Simmons will be utilized best and shine brightest as he plays more of a hybrid safety/linebacker role.    

Players Who Best Fit the System: Zaven Collins, Isaiah Simmions, Budda Baker

Los Angeles Rams

Head CoachSean McVay7th year
Offensive CoordinatorMike LaFleur1st year
Defensive CoordinatorRaheem Morris3rd year
Offensive SystemWest Coast Offense 
Blocking SchemeWide Zone/Power Hybrid 
Sean McVay -- HC    Mike LaFLeur -- OC   
Category202020212022 Category2020 (SF PGC)20212022
Points23821 Points212829
Pace161128 Pace2573
Pass Attempts121024 Pass Attempts16136
Passing Yards13527 Passing Yards122015
Rushing Attempts72326 Rushing Attempts143226
Rushing Yards102527 Rushing Yards152726

Offensive Breakdown

Some might criticize Sean McVay or make comments that we put him too high on a pedestal, but the evolution of this Rams offense since he took over has been amazing to watch. Most coaches get stuck in their ways. McVay is about adjustments and innovation. The scheme has always been based in the west coast system, but each year, we see tweaks made that keep defenses guessing and offer fantasy owners an edge if they understand what is going on. 

On Day 1, McVay was all about the west coast offense and 11-personnel formations which spread out the defense and improve the running lanes in a power-blocking scheme. In Year 2, coaches started to learn that it was Mcvay, not Jared Goff, reading the defenses, so they disguised coverage until the last minute. Knowing he also couldn’t rely on Todd Gurley, whose arthritic knee became too much of a problem, McVay made some changes, got to the line much quicker and the short-passing game grew with the demand for Goff to release the ball in seconds. That helped move the chains, but he knew future adjustments were necessary. 

We saw more of that in Year 3, but with Gurley being handled with kid gloves, McVay made the change to more 12-personnel formations which utilized two tight ends and didn’t spread the offense out nearly as much. What we saw from that was more passing to Tyler Higbee and less work for Cooper Kupp due to no slot receiver in the formation.

Then in 2020, McVay finally opted to bring in an offensive coordinator, something he’d been going without for the first few seasons. Kevin O’Connell worked closely with McVay and they continued to switch between 11 and 12-personnel formations. The lack of a true training camp put a strain on the team’s running plans, but as we saw late in the season, Cam Akers was finally utilized more and the Rams offense became significantly more balanced. 

In 2021, we saw more of the same in the beginning of the year, but there was a lot more trust between McVay and Matthew Stafford than there ever was with Goff. Stafford’s pocket presence was stronger, his instincts better, and when defenses started to take away the outside against the Rams wide zone formation, Stafford had the presence of mind to adjust on the fly and make the necessary plays. However, as the season went on and defenses began to take away the outside and still hold enough players back in coverage, the team adjusted to use more inside zone runs. Remember when Sony Michel became a thing? Yeah, that’s what it was. 

We were looking at more of the same last year, but Stafford’s injury clearly wiped out any real hope. We also saw a major rift between the coach and Cam Akers, though that was eventually settled and Akers was leaned on much more in the latter part of the season. It’s difficult to understand what changes McVay believes he should make this year, but we are not reinventing the wheel by any means. We should see a balanced offense again with a return to some more 12-personnel and a fairly string ground presence. McVay is going to continue to lean on the west coast style of passing, so while we will see those deep shots get opened up, the shorter routes are going to be more prevalent. New offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur also likes to work at a quicker pace so expect that, which usually leads to more plays per game.

Players Who Best Fit the System: Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp

Defensive System: 3-4 base with multi-front looks and match-zone coverage

Defensive Breakdown: 

The defense will continue to look the same, schematic wise, as defensive coordinator Raheem Morris has been running this system since before he joined the Rams coaching staff. We are looking at a 3-4 bases with multi-front looks. Having Aaron Donald in the middle affords the Rams with a number of other options without concern they will be burned by the run. The linebackers are also versatile enough to join in either the pass-rush or the coverage.

The match-zone coverage is largely Cover-2 but switches around with whatever changes the offense makes at the line. If a receiver goes in motion or a TE moves off the line, the defense will counter with an adjustment of the zones to ensure there is no missed coverage among all the pre-snap motion many offenses employ. The personnel in the secondary is not what it once was, so let’s not get our hopes up too much if you’re playing in an IDP league. In fact, the personnel up front, save for Donald, isn’t what it used to be either.

Players Who Best Fit the System: Aaron Donald, Byron Young, Ernest Jones

San Francisco 49ers

Head CoachKyle Shanahan7th year
Offensive Coordinatornone 
Defensive CoordinatorSteve Wilks1st year
Offensive SystemWest Coast Offense 
Blocking SchemeOutside Zone 
Kyle Shanahan -- HC   
Pass Attempts162926
Passing Yards121213
Rushing Attempts1469
Rushing Yards1578

Offensive Breakdown

Last season was an interesting one for Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers as the change at quarterback to Trey Lance meant a complete upheaval of the traditional west coast scheme Shanahan ran. Instead, he changed back to a scheme he and his father ran back in Washington when they had Robert Griffin under center. That scheme was tailored to mobile quarterbacks and had a lot more RPO involved. But when Lance got hurt and the team switched to Brock Purdy under center, Shanahan went back to the basics. This season, with Purdy expected to be the starter in Week 1 (could be Sam Darnold depending on the healthy of Purdy’s arm, but he was given the green light as training camp was getting underway), we expect Shanahan to run his usual system.

It all starts with the ground game. Shanahan’s outside zone blocking scheme and rotation of running backs has not only proven successful, but is the staple to how he wants things to run. Though it’s been revamped over time, the offensive line’s ability to move laterally and run-block has opened some strong running lanes. But the speed of the running backs is also key as their ability to turn a wider corner and move up the field is paramount. Christian McCaffrey gives them an outstanding weapon in both the running and passing game and he can be spelled by Elijah Mitchell and Jordan Mason, both very capable of handling rushing and receiving work as well. We may see some gimmick plays using Deebo Samuel as a runner again, but not likely too often anymore with this healthy stable. 

As for the passing attack, we’ll see a lot of the short, high-percentage passing throughout the game which will feature Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and tight end George Kittle. Deebo and the running backs will likely be the most featured in the underneath routes while Aiyuk stretches the field. Kittle will be mixed into both, but anyone who has watched Shanahan in San Francisco knows how much he favors that tight end drag route where Kittle mirrors the quarterback’s movements so when the defense commits to the runners or other receivers, Kittle is often left in single-coverage downfield.

Players Who Best Fit the System: Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle

Defensive System: 4-3 with Cover-3 and Cover-4 zones

Defensive Breakdown: 

The 49ers lose yet another great defensive coordinator as DeMeco Ryans landed the head coaching job in Houston after another successful season running this defense. Ryans is a player’s coach, maintained the scheme from when he took over for Robert Saleh and got the most out of his players. Yes, the unit is loaded with strong personnel, but Ryans was very much a big part of their success. To replace him, Shanahan turned to veteran coach Steve Wilks who spent last season managing the mess that was the Carolina Panthers.

Wilks will maintain the 4-3 base, but with how much he likes to run a nickel defense, we’ll likely see more 4-2-5 so he can have that extra defensive back. He does this because he loves to blitz and having Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead on the defensive line gives him added pressure whether he blitzes or not. With Fred Warner in the middle, Wilks has a solid field general helping to direct the traffic.

Wilks likes a Cover-3 zone though he also mixes in Cover-4 in an effort to fend off the deep shots downfield and limit the opposition to shorter routes. That containment will work if the pass-rush is fierce and the quarterback is forced into making quick strikes before the play actually has a chance to develop. The personnel isn’t quite the same for San Francisco’s secondary so it will be a work in progress early on.

Players Who Best Fit the System: Nick Bosa, Fred Warner, Arik Armstead

Seattle Seahawks

Head CoachPete Carroll14th year
Offensive CoordinatorShane Waldron3rd year
Defensive CoordinatorClint Hurtt2nd year
Offensive SystemWest Coast 
Blocking SchemeOutside Zone 
Pete Carroll -- HC    Shane Waldron -- OC   
Category202020212022 Category2020 (LAR PGC)20212022
Points8169 Points23169
Pace19614 Pace16614
Pass Attempts173115 Pass Attempts123115
Passing Yards162311 Passing Yards132311
Rushing Attempts192722 Rushing Attempts72722
Rushing Yards121118 Rushing Yards101118

Offensive Breakdown

The development of the Seahawks’ current offensive scheme is another great lesson in why you should be learning about every coach, coordinator and offensive system. If you didn’t, then you probably missed out on some things. Head coach Pete Carroll always favored an Air Coryell style with a power-running game and Russell Wilson had settled into a routine while often being allowed to do his thing – extend plays with his legs and make something happen downfield. But they brought in former Rams passing-game coordinator Shane Waldron who wanted to implement a more west coast style of passing and run a much more up-tempo scheme. Carroll eventually came around. Wilson did not and as we all know, he got the boot and suffered in Denver. Waldron was able to fully implement exactly what he wanted and while no one was confident in Geno Smith, the quarterback thrived in the new system. 

Carroll still demands an effective ground game and Waldron happily obliged. His offensive line was weak for the power-running the Seahawks were used to, but Waldron implemented an outside zone blocking scheme with wide zone mixed in and really got the most out of his runners, at least until the injury to Kenneth Walker. The reason the wide zone helped so much was because it allowed the runner to cut back inside, a skill of Walker’s and now also that of Zach Charbonnet. Both should be featured with a slight lean towards Walker if he’s healthy, but Charbonnet will also have some standalone value.

The passing scheme fits Smith to a tee because, with getting to the line quicker, Smith has more time to read the situation, he still has Waldron in his ear helping out and the focus is on a quick release. Smith can handle the three-step drop, get rid of the ball quickly and hit his receivers on the short, high-percentage passes. He’s not a great quarterback, but the scheme does seem to fit him well, hence the reason he managed to have the sixth-most pass attempts last season and be successful even after all the running back injuries.

Players Who Best Fit the System: Geno Smith, Kenneth Walker, Zach Charbonnet

Defensive System: 3-4 with Cover-3 zone

Defensive Breakdown: 

Carroll promoted defensive line coach Clint Hurtt to defensive coordinator and Seattle has immediately flipped to a 3-4 base as Hurtt believed you can be much more versatile when you don’t have four guys with their hands in the dirt. He believed it will help disguise a lot of the blitzing he and Carroll preferred as they moved linebackers and edge rushers back and forth between pressuring the quarterback and clogging up passing lanes. 

We will still see a lot of Cover-3 zone with a mix of some Cover-2 in which the defensive backs will fall into their zones by identifying the routes being run as opposed to patrolling the zone and watching the quarterback. We saw more ball-hawking which helped lead to Seattle ranking ninth in forced turnovers last year, so expect a similar approach and aggressiveness. This is a far cry from the old Legion of Boom, but it is a work in progress that has already seen some advancements. 

Players Who Best Fit the System: Jamal Adams, Uchenna Nwosu, Devon Witherspoon

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Don't forget to check out the Quick Outs Fantasy Football Podcast as Andrew Cooper & Jon Impemba break down the NFC West