After sitting by and watching Jeff Fisher destroy the franchise year after year, finally, the Rams owner did something about it at the end of last season – dumping Fisher before the season even ended. Surprisingly, the owner did not send the general manager (Les Snead) packing along with him.
To correct their prior head coaching mistake, the Rams hired the youngest person to ever coach in the NFL – Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay. Those that are ‘for’ this hiring are probably just glad Jeff Fisher is gone. They also point to McVay’s time with the Redskins as being pretty successful. Those looking at McVay’s hiring with a furrowed brow are likely in a kerfuffle by the hiring of such a young coach. Because when does that ever work out…a really young coach? My retort would be – I’m not so sure hiring middle-aged or elder statesman coaches has a sensational track record either.
For fantasy football purposes, we are all wondering three things with McVay’s hiring…
1: What impact will he have on Todd Gurley’s output?
2: Is Jared Goff salvageable? I love how everyone has written off Jared Goff after a half a season of starts behind the worst offensive line in history with the worst pass-game head coach (Fisher) in recent history.
3: Will this one-time promising Rams defense take a step forward…or will they take a step back minus supposed defensive gurus Gregg Williams and Jeff Fisher?
We’ll get all those questions, but let’s first hone in on who Sean McVay is and whether there is hope with him as a head man for an NFL team…
It really has been a meteoric rise for McVay. He was a wide receiver of no particular note at Miami, Ohio. Cerebral, but not overly athletic. A little over five years after his graduation McVay would find himself the offensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins. That’s stunning.
Anytime coaching moves do not make a lot of sense on the surface there’s likely nepotism or ‘connections’ at play… and we have that here. Fairly or unfairly, we have to look at it. McVay’s family has been involved in football for decades and his grandfather was well-connected rising among the NFL ranks — and ultimately becoming the general manager for the dominant 49ers teams. The McVay family and the Gruden family have been connected for decades. Fairly or unfairly, Sean McVay has skids that have been greased – family connections along with close ties to the Grudens, especially to Jon…who also seems to be directing a lot of NFL traffic/is highly respected around the league. Having Jon Gruden on your side is gold in the NFL. McVay worked for Gruden in Tampa Bay for a year, along with Jon’s brother Jay…thus their connection to Washington.
Looking over McVay’s history and combing through his press conferences – it’s hard for me to tell if he is just a ‘good’ football coaching prospect who has an arsenal of mentors and connections with which to rise up the ranks quickly or if he’s a sensational coaching prospect who happens to have all of those blessings. I’m sure there are just as good or better football minds out there in the world that will never sniff the NFL because they don’t have a family history of connections like McVay. It’s hard to say if McVay’s pedigree is promoting him faster and higher that he is capable…or just a perfect storm of talent + connections.
After reviewing all the data and the press conferences/interviews, my leaning is that McVay is more a coaching/executive talent than not. I’m not sure he’ll take the Rams to the Super Bowl within three seasons and go down as one of the all-time great’s right away – most coaches are going to fail no matter how smart they are. However, I see hope here with McVay. I think it was worth the gamble for the Rams…could they do any worse by hiring a Norv Turner or some other retread?
It’s not like McVay is all mentors and connections either. The opportunity he has been graced with has a legit track record of success as well. In fact, when you step back and look at it – McVay may be credited with turning a lot of water into wine in his short time in the NFL. I never scouted Kirk Cousins to be a ‘good’ quarterback in the NFL. Cousins failed right away and almost had his career flushed early. His early numbers were awful. His tape was terrible. I wrote him off. He was about to get benched mid-2015 for Colt McCoy and then things turned around and Cousins went on to become a second-half of 2015 star. Washington still doesn’t believe it was true – as they have not committed a contract to Cousins. McVay was the offensive coordinator during the Cousins rise to prominence.
McVay was a tight end coach for Washington initially before becoming an offensive coordinator. In 2017, the football world looks for Jordan Reed-type tight ends. Football people will describe TE prospects as ‘Jordan Reed like‘. It was during McVay’s tenure as offensive coordinator that Jordan Reed became a great football player and a scouting label/term. You have to give McVay some credit for that, no?
McVay also quickly jumped on the trend of utilizing speedy third down-type backs in the passing game as more weapons…not just occasional gadgets. Chris Thompson went from obscurity to an actual NFL weapon under McVay. Either McVay is the luckiest person in the world or he had a hand in creating all of this. I lean more that you can ‘blame’ McVay for this success. I also wonder if this means Jay Gruden’s perceived label of offensive genius…did the real genius just walk out the door? That’s a question for another day.
When I watched McVay in his introductory press conference and subsequent interviews, I’ve been impressed. Very impressed. It’s not because he’s so well spoken for his age and so energetic. Anybody can see that. I’m impressed with the words and understanding of things he discussed. I can’t tell you how many times I watched a new head coach press conference and they can barely speak about players besides the one or two high profile players. Newly hired head coaches typically cop out and say something like — I have to look at the tape before I comment (on whatever player). I’m always sitting there wondering how these new hires could not know more about the players they’ve just been given millions of dollars to coach. I would’ve been studying tape 24/7 before my interview and then definitely when I got the job…and hopefully, I’d have been studying while I was coaching elsewhere to keep a tab on such things. Then, when I was asked in a press conference I would flex my muscle of understanding…to show I’m on top of player assessments. It’s not usually what happens in a new head coach press conference. I love that McVay went into some detail about scouting Jared Goff at Cal and also mentioning several Rams players with proper understanding – it may seem odd, but when McVay discussed knowing Lance Kendricks from studying him at Wisconsin (5+ years ago)…that caught my attention. You rarely/never hear that type of detail about the second or third tier players from a new head coach. McVay makes me feel like he takes this seriously and is retaining the information.
What’s not to love about McVay, really? Besides whining about his age? He was a tremendous success as an offensive coordinator for Washington – on a team no one saw as a potential offensive juggernaut a few years ago. One of his first acts as a new head coach – hiring the league’s best defensive coordinator, currently, when Denver inexplicably let Wade Phillips go. If McVay’s comfort level and success have been on the offensive side of the ball then it’s wise beyond his years to land Wade Phillips. It also says something that Phillips is willing to come to work for someone he doesn’t know, in a big city, and a boss that is less than half his age. McVay must have something that attracted the veteran coach. Phillips could’ve gone to any number of places.
In general, if I were a Rams fan, I would be wildly optimistic. I would hope that the team would be patient as well as McVay is inheriting a team with a gigantic problem on the offensive line that needs to be fixed. He has a young backfield and a great defensive foundation that is beholden to the previous regime. This is not necessarily a one-year turnaround project.
As far as the fantasy impact goes…
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If you look at McVay’s history and believe that he has skills and understanding on how to run a productive offense – then you have to love this for Todd Gurley. McVay does not strike me as stupid enough to waste Gurley, nor will he be a coach that runs Gurley straight up the middle on first and second down every time. McVay comes from a pretty open offense where the talents were utilized successfully. You have to assume there’s a ton of hope for Gurley having a quick turnaround. The downside is the offensive line, currently, but McVay should open things up with his play calling and schemes to not allow opposing defenses to know exactly what the plan is like last season where everyone knew Gurley was getting the ball all the time.
McVay should be good for Jared Goff as well. Goff is inherently more talented than Kirk Cousins was coming out of college. If Goff does not succeed under McVay – he’s probably not going to succeed in the NFL. Any of us that have held on to Jared Goff in dynasty leagues as a hopeful franchise quarterback – Sean McVay could be the best thing that ever happened for us.
In addition to a renewed hope in Gurley and Goff, I think the Rams DST goes back on to sleeper alert. There’s a ton of individual talent on that Rams defense, and Wade Phillips is a magician with defenders – especially right off the bat. He doesn’t necessarily need three years for a turnaround program for his scheme. He took Denver’s defense from middle of the pack/good/no one caring one way or the other about them — to one of the all-time best defenses in the NFL his very first year.
I would also keep a sharp eye out for McVay drafting a Jordan Reed-type tight end in this year’s draft – most notably Mississippi’s Evan Engram. If the Rams do not draft a Reed clone, then Lance Kendricks becomes a deep sleeper in that role for 2017.
I think the Sean McVay hiring is a positive for the Rams…and is, more importantly, a positive for all of us that hold Rams-based assets in dynasty-fantasy.