Lack of ex­pe­ri­ence could help Rams

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Sports - By Kent Babb

AT­LANTA — Here comes Sean McVay with his big ideas and lus­trous skin and good hair, onto the big­gest stage in pro­fes­sional sports.

So many ques­tions and lights and pos­si­bil­i­ties. So much pres­sure.

“Su­per Bowl 53 hasn’t been played. No­body has ex­pe­ri­ence in that game,” McVay said early in the run-up to the Su­per Bowl, and the way he says things like this with his quick-fire sen­tences and in­no­va­tive way of call­ing plays and phras­ing things - it’s a lit­tle hard to ar­gue.

The Los An­ge­les Rams’ coach is, quite fa­mously by now, young. He got the job at 30. Coached in his first play­off game at 31. Will at­tempt to win his first Su­per Bowl at 33. This week he wasn’t just def­er­en­tial to New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots coach Bill Belichick, who is twice McVay’s age. He was fawn­ing over the abil­i­ties of Lady Gaga, ed­u­cated on the sta­tus of Travis Scott’s re­la­tion­ship with Kylie Jen­ner, self-dep­re­cat­ing when asked — again and again — about his age.

“My dad might have to go buy a pack of beer for me,” he said, and the NFL’s mil­len­nial boy won­der isn’t just an odd­ity in a world tra­di­tion­ally oc­cu­pied by men in their 50s and 60s.

He is, ac­cord­ing to star run­ning back Todd Gur­ley II, a “ge­nius,” and more than just win­ning three­quar­ters of his games as a head coach, he’s lead­ing a youth move­ment in a league fiercely re­sis­tant to change. His el­e­va­tion in 2017 and ar­rival in the cham­pi­onship game come at a time when the halls of For­tune 500 com­pa­nies, the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try and even the U.S. Capi­tol are in­creas­ingly pop­u­lated with lead­ers younger than 40.

It raises an in­ter­est­ing ques­tion: Is ex­pe­ri­ence, that long-val­ued trait earned and de­vel­oped across decades, ac­tu­ally over­rated?

Late last month, as McVay was lead­ing the Rams through the NFC play­offs, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, In­di­ana, an­nounced he was form­ing an ex­ploratory com­mit­tee to con­sider run­ning for pres­i­dent in 2020. Pete But­tigieg’s an­nounce­ment came a lit­tle more than two months af­ter more than two dozen peo­ple in their 20s and 30s were elected to Congress. Wal­mart, Gen­eral Mo­tors and Gold­mach Sachs have se­nior ex­ec­u­tives who haven’t yet cel­e­brated their 40th birthdays.

“In no point in the last 100 years, or in the his­tory of the repub­lic, would some­body like me be taken se­ri­ously in this con­ver­sa­tion,” But­tigieg said in an in­ter­view this week. “That means some­thing, and it’s not just about me be­ing spe­cial, but maybe this is a mo­ment we’re in where there’s more open­ness.”

That mo­ment cer­tainly ap­pears to have ar­rived in the NFL. Largely a byprod­uct of McVay’s suc­cess, fran­chises seem far more open­minded about turn­ing over their for­tunes to young lead­ers. Of the eight teams that changed coaches, four se­lected — or, con­sid­er­ing that two teams will of­fi­cially an­nounce hir­ings af­ter the Su­per Bowl, are ex­pected to se­lect — a coach 40 or younger. Matt LaFleur, McVay’s 39-year-old for­mer as­sis­tant, has been named coach of the Green Bay Pack­ers; Rams as­sis­tant Zac Tay­lor, 35, and New Eng­land lineback­ers coach Brian Flores, 37, are ex­pected to be named coaches of Cincin­nati and Miami, re­spec­tively, shortly af­ter the Su­per Bowl.

Re­gard­less of what hap­pens Sun­day, youth and a gen­eral fresh­ness of ideas are be­ing pur­sued with such fe­roc­ity, lead­er­ship in­ex­pe­ri­ence sud­denly ig­nored with such reg­u­lar­ity, that in­deed by kick­off of the 2019 sea­son, the av­er­age age of the NFL’s 32 head coaches will have dropped by nearly a full year com­pared with

2018.

“I’m by no means an ex­pert,” McVay ad­mit­ted this week, and as his most im­por­tant mo­ment — so far — draws closer, this in­flux of young eyes and thoughts seems to be the story of a chang­ing NFL.

And, per­haps, a far broader land­scape than that.

“You al­most have to ar­rive with a cer­tain au­dac­ity,” But­tigieg said, “and maybe even ben­e­fit­ing from know­ing what you don’t know.”

Nearly two years ago, Andy Dunn found him­self in an in­ter­est­ing place: cash in or stand pat? Bono­bos, the pop­u­lar menswear brand he’d co-founded a decade ear­lier, had an of­fer to sell from — of all cor­po­ra­tions — Wal­mart, and it led him to a ques­tion: Is it bet­ter to be rich or cool?

Maybe 30-year-old Andy would’ve an­swered in a dif­fer­ent way, but mid­dle-aged Andy made his choice: $310 mil­lion and a job as a se­nior vice pres­i­dent in the mega-re­tailer’s e-com­merce di­vi­sion. As tends to hap­pen, Dunn had out­grown his youth; he was no longer the young dis­rupter, though even as he aged and some of his com­pany’s fans com­plained that Bono­bos had sold out, Dunn at­tempted to hold his grip on one thing 30-year-old Andy had plenty of.

“What you don’t want to lose,” he said a few weeks be­fore turn­ing

40, “is the same au­dac­ity.”

JOHN BAZEMORE/AP

Los An­ge­les Rams coach Sean McVay hud­dles with his play­ers dur­ing prac­tice Fri­day ahead of the Su­per Bowl in At­lanta.

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