MCVAY EAGER TO LEARN ON JOB WITH RAMS
At 31, coach realizes he’s under scrutiny
IRVINE, CALIF. Sean McVay seems to have figured out so much about the monumental task he has embarked on with the Los Angeles Rams.
At 31, he’s the youngest coach in modern NFL history — and younger than his new left tackle and the journeyman backup quarterback the Rams just signed. But McVay is old enough to know he must establish a winning culture for a franchise sorely in need of one.
“You can talk about things and say it, but you’ve got to live it,” McVay told USA TODAY Sports on Thursday as he awaited the arrival of veterans to training camp Friday.
What an opportunity. After serving as Washington’s offensive coordinator for three years and doing much to help Kirk Cousins emerge as a franchise quarterback, McVay’s meteoric rise up the coaching ladder has put him in Los Angeles with a chance to grow with a relocated franchise while grooming young quarterback Jared Goff.
The high-stakes expectation is obvious. Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who dumped Jeff Fisher last year amid a 4-12 campaign, is betting on a coach with zero head coaching experience because he envisions McVay as the league’s next great coach and a person suited to get the most out of Goff, whom the Rams are so heavily invested in.
Maybe McVay can duplicate the success of Mike Tomlin and Sean Payton, Super Bowl-winning examples who knocked it out of the park with their first head coaching shots. Maybe not. One thing is certain: McVay is on a steep learning curve.
“Everybody asks, ‘How’s it going?’ ” McVay said. “I say, ‘It’s great. We’re still undefeated.’ When we go through some adversity, that’s when you’re really tested.”
McVay quickly gained respect in NFL circles as a sharp mind on the rise. But until Friday he hadn’t given his first team speech to kick off training camp, never had to make tough decisions such as disciplining a player. He’s as green as they come.
And he knows. Everyone — players and team staffers in the building on the inside, critics and fans on the outside — will be watching his every move.
“The one thing you feel,” McVay says, “is that you can never have a bad day.”
He can lean on a wise in-house mentor in new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. But challenges lie ahead.
McVay must usher Goff, drafted No. 1 overall last year after an expensive pre-draft trade, to a better level after a disappointing rookie year. He’ll have to manage the game while still running the offense and calling the plays.
And there’s uncertainty around the team’s best player, all-pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who wants a new contract.
There’s no NFL Head Coaching 101 manual. “If there were one,” McVay said, “it’s probably Bill (Walsh)’s book, that he wrote with Brian Billick.”
McVay’s football roots trace back to Walsh, the Hall of Fame architect of the San Francisco 49ers’ Super Bowl teams of the 1980s. McVay’s grandfather, John McVay, had a stint as coach of the New York Giants before landing in the 49ers front office with Walsh. John McVay ultimately became San Francisco’s general manager. Now retired, he’s a valuable resource for his grandson.
It’s easy to sense why McVay has ascended so quickly. Besides the X’s and O’s, he’s a ball of positive energy. He’s an effective communicator who carries himself with a certain humility.
The best advice? A constant theme emerged from several coaches that McVay tapped.
“It’s kind of a cliché, but it’s true: There are a lot of ways to do it,” he said. “But you’ve got to be true to your beliefs — what you feel is the right way to do it — because it resonates with the players and it comes off as authentic.
“There’s different personalities, but don’t try to be something that you’re not.”
“You’ve got to be true to your beliefs — what you feel is the right way,” Sean McVay says.