The division was formed in 1967 as the National Football League Coastal Division, keeping with the theme of having all of the league's divisions starting with the letter "C." The division was so named because its teams were fairly close to the coasts of the United States, although they were on opposite coasts, making for long travel between division rivals. The NFL Coastal Division had four members: Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Colts, Los Angeles Rams, and San Francisco 49ers. Los Angeles and San Francisco occupied the West Coast, while Baltimore and Atlanta occupied the East Coast.
After the AFL-NFL Merger in 1970, the division was renamed the NFC West. The Baltimore Colts moved to the AFC East and were replaced by the New Orleans Saints. In 1976, the newly formed Seattle Seahawks spent one season in this division before moving to the AFC West. Except for that one year, the division remained the same until 1995 with the addition of the new Carolina Panthers team. And even though the Rams moved to St. Louis that same year, they remained in this division (despite the Dallas Cowboys of the NFC East being located further west), leaving just one team on the West Coast.
The 2002 re-alignment changed the entire look of the NFC West. The Falcons, Panthers, and Saints moved into the NFC South, while the Cardinals and Seahawks moved in. The Rams remained in the West, preserving the historical rivalry with the 49ers that has existed since 1950, and thus are currently the only team in the division that is located east of the Rocky Mountains (the Rams had played in Los Angeles from 1946–1994, thus contributing to the rivalry with the 49ers).
In 2010, the NFC West became the first division in NFL history to have a champion with a losing record, after the 2010 Seattle Seahawks won the division title with a record of 7-9.
Entering 2014 the 49ers lead the division with a record of 547-432-16 with five Super Bowl titles and an overall playoff record of 31-21. The Rams hold a record of 527-523-21 with three Super Bowl appearances and one win to go with a 19-24 overall playoff record. The Cardinals hold an 80-144 record since joining the NFC West (511-716-39 overall) and a loss in Super Bowl XLIII with a 6-7 playoff record. The Seahawks hold a record of 105-87 since joining the NFC West (293-303 overall), with two Super Bowl appearances, winning Super Bowl XLVIII to go with a playoff record of 12-12; they are 9-7 in the playoffs as a member of the NFC West, having gone 3-5 while in the AFC West.
Team not in division Division Won Super Bowl Division Won NFC Championship Division Won NFL Championship, Lost Super Bowl III
A The Western Conference was divided into the Coastal and Central divisions. Atlanta moved in from the Eastern Conference. Also joining the Coastal Division were Baltimore, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
B The Coastal Division is renamed the National Football Conference West division (or NFC West for short), due to the AFL-NFL Merger. Baltimore moved to the AFC East division. New Orleans moved in from Capitol Division (now the NFC East)
C Seattle was enfranchised in 1976. Moved to the AFC West in 1977.
D In 1995, Carolina is enfranchised and the Rams move to St. Louis
E For the 2002 season, the league realigns to have 8 four-team divisions. Seattle returns to the NFC West. Arizona joins the West. Atlanta, Carolina, and New Orleans moved to the new NFC South.
*A players' strike in 1982 reduced the regular season to nine games. Thus, the league used a special sixteen-team playoff tournament for that year only. Division standings were ignored, and Atlanta had the best record of the division teams.