COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Sean McVay is always looking for a new wrinkle to add to the Los Angeles Rams‘ offense.
This season, the Kansas City Chiefs (9-1) have provided plenty of content. So much, in fact, that the Chiefs might recognize a few plays Monday night when they play the Rams (9-1).
“I’d be lying if I said we have haven’t stolen some of their stuff this year,” McVay said Thursday. “They do a great job.”
Asked whether he planned to use any of the Chiefs’ plays against them, McVay said: “You’ll have to wait and see.”
McVay and his coaching staff regularly review film from across the league, but the Chiefs, who average 35.3 points per game, are a must-watch team.
“There’s so much tape and with the ability to easily access it week in and week out, it would be silly for us not to be able to look and see what the heck they’re doing,” McVay said. “Every single week they do something and you say, ‘That’s pretty good.'”
Patrick Mahomes has passed for a league-high 31 touchdowns, with 7 interceptions, as Kareem Hunt ranks third in the league with 13 touchdowns and Tyreek Hill is averaging 89 receiving yards per game. The Chiefs average 423 yards per game.
But keep in mind, the Rams’ offense is pretty good, too.
They’re averaging 448 yards per game — second in the NFL behind Tampa Bay — and Jared Goff has passed for 22 touchdowns with 6 interceptions.
Todd Gurley is at the forefront of the MVP conversation and leads the league in rushing yards, averaging 98.8 per game, and touchdowns, with 17.
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — The Los Angeles Rams and coach Sean McVay offered their condolences and support to the victims, families and community affected by the mass shooting Wednesday night at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks that killed 12 people.
The shooting took place just over 4 miles from the Rams’ practice facility, which is on the campus of California Lutheran University, and 7 miles from the team’s corporate headquarters in Agoura Hills.
“Our organization’s thoughts and prayers are with the families and the victims that were affected by this terrible act that took place in our area,” McVay said.
Many Rams players, coaches and staff members settled in the Thousand Oaks area after the team returned to Southern California from St. Louis in 2016.
“Our thoughts and prayers are obviously with the people that it happened to,” defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. “It affects everybody, our team was talking about it, our players, our staff, everybody here. It’s a sad, sad deal. And we feel for the people involved, that it happened to.”
The Rams held a team meeting to discuss the tragedy. McVay said that left tackle Andrew Whitworth and several players were proactively seeking a way to use their platform to offer support to the local community.
One of the 12 victims of the shooting was identified as Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus, who arrived at the scene of the shooting at 11:20 p.m. in response to several 911 calls, heard gunfire, went inside and immediately was shot repeatedly.
The Rams plan to honor the victims with a moment of silence on Sunday before kickoff against the Seattle Seahawks at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.
METAIRIE, La. — Sean Payton and Sean McVay will get a jump-start on their weekly film studies Sunday when they get the chance to watch each other live from the sideline.
Payton, 54, has established himself as one of the NFL’s all-time great offensive minds during his 13-year run with the New Orleans Saints and quarterback Drew Brees. And the 32-year-old McVay has quickly joined him in two years with the Los Angeles Rams and QB Jared Goff, despite being the youngest head coach in the league’s modern history.
Both have drawn comparisons to Bill Walsh and Joe Montana because of their innovation.
But both coaches also readily admit that they will shamelessly steal ideas from one another on occasion.
Payton said the 8-0 Rams have “absolutely” become one of the “must-watch” teams when he studies other offenses around the NFL for ideas.
Likewise, McVay said of the 6-1 Saints, “I’ve always studied their tape every week to see what they’re doing.”
What both of them are doing is lighting up scoreboards on a weekly basis. On Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET, the Saints (33.4 points per game) and Rams (33.0 PPG) will become the first two teams ever to meet this late in the season while averaging at least 33 points per game, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.
“I think there’s some coaches that see things through the quarterback lens. Sean Payton is certainly one of those guys … and McVay is certainly that guy,” said ESPN analyst Matt Hasselbeck, who is part of a Sunday NFL Countdown crew that is going on the road for just the third time in the program’s 33-year history to be in New Orleans for this marquee showdown.
Hasselbeck, who played quarterback for another of the NFL’s all-time great offensive minds, Mike Holmgren, said there is something special about those playcalling coaches and quarterbacks who work in tandem like these two power couples.
McVay and Goff have gotten a lot of attention over these past two seasons — justifiably, since they are leading the NFL with 30.9 points per game since the start of the 2017 season after the Rams ranked dead last in that category in 2016, before McVay arrived.
Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes are getting similar love with their prolific new partnership in Kansas City this season.
But Payton and Brees have clearly shown in 2018 that they aren’t ready to cede their title to anyone.
In fact, Payton has been throwing all-new wrinkles into his offense this season with an expanding read-option package led by third-string quarterback Taysom Hill. Just last Sunday night at Minnesota, he had three quarterbacks on the field at once — with Brees and Teddy Bridgewater spread out wide as receivers.
“Yeah, I think we like to feel over the last 13 years that we’ve kind of been at the forefront of the evolution of offensive football,” said Brees, who became the NFL’s all-time passing yardage leader last month. “Obviously with Sean and [offensive coordinator] Pete Carmichael and [quarterbacks coach] Joe Lombardi and others who have contributed to that. Kind of taking the personnel that you have and then being able to utilize it in some really unique ways.
“I’m intrigued from week to week. There’s always some wrinkles in there, that as I get the call sheet and look at it prior to meetings and everything, it’s like, ‘I can’t wait to ask him about this.’ Or maybe even saw it on film or something like that, and then all of a sudden we just create our own little variation to it.”
Although Brees has lined up as a receiver several times now this season, he still hasn’t caught a pass from anyone other than himself (on a tipped ball) since he caught two with the San Diego Chargers early in his career.
When asked if he’s going to catch one at some point, Brees quickly replied, “I hope so. I hope so. But I don’t know, we’ll see.”
McVay called Payton one of the great playcallers “arguably of all time.” And the trait that both he and Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips singled out most was Payton’s “aggressive nature” — not surprising for a coach who famously called an onside kick to start the third quarter of a Super Bowl victory.
McVay also pointed to Payton’s decision to go for it four times on fourth down during a 20-play drive to open the Saints’ victory at Baltimore in Week 7.
“I think that mindset of never being afraid to fail and always attacking success is something that we try to do here,” McVay said. “And I have a lot of respect for that approach, because I think it demonstrates a confidence and belief in your players.”
Payton and McVay do things a little differently when it comes to personnel groupings. According to ESPN Stats & Information data, the Rams have had the most frequently employed five-player combination in the NFL this season when it comes to the skill positions (RB Todd Gurley, WRs Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, and TE Tyler Higbee have played 204 snaps together). On the flip side, the Saints haven’t used any combination for more than 51 snaps.
But what both coaches like to do is mix things up to gain information from a defense — and figure out where they can attack.
Both coaches will move their personnel around, perhaps lining up tight ends or running backs outside of the receivers to see if a defense is playing man or zone.
“They’ll create a little bit of quick movement and then shift and get set and maybe get some pre-snap information relative to what they think you’re doing and then get to some advantage plays,” said Payton, who pointed out that the Rams use a lot of tight splits and rarely line up their receivers outside the numbers. “They do a good job with their formations and kind of giving you a few different looks and running maybe three different plays off a similar formation.”
Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said what really makes the Rams offense stand out is how much it can hurt you with both the run and the pass, whereas some teams excel in one area and just try to “keep you honest” in the other. And because Gurley is so dangerous, Goff leads the NFL in play-action passing yardage this season. Hasselbeck said most defenses stack the box against Los Angeles with a single-high safety, but McVay is great at using that to his advantage.
Payton said when the Saints coaches put together a highlight reel of touchdowns from around the NFL every week, “Here’s Gurley from 28 yards, here’s Gurley from 30 yards, here’s Gurley catching a screen for a touchdown.”
Another thing Payton and McVay have both been credited for is knowing how to take advantage of the NFL’s changing rules — things like outlawing hits against defenseless receivers or limiting contact down the field.
“Sean Payton stands out in that regard, big-time,” said Hasselbeck, who pointed to the seam routes Brees has been throwing since guys such as Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham were in New Orleans.
Hasselbeck said the “Sluggo seam” route has become a staple in the NFL (a slant-and-go on one side and a seam route on the other, forcing a safety to choose). But, he added, “Drew is as good as anybody has ever been at throwing that play, and Sean is as good as anybody at calling it at the right time and scheming you up formationally to be in the right coverage.”
But Brees balked a little bit at the notion that the rules have helped him and Payton lead the NFL in passing yards by nearly 30 yards per game over any other team in the league since they arrived together in 2006.
“I don’t know. I don’t play the game any different,” Brees said. “If a guy’s open, throw it to him. Be accurate with the ball, move the chains, score points.”
‘We did this’
One of the first things both Payton and Hasselbeck pointed to when praising McVay is the work he has done with Goff, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2016 who began 0-7 as a starter that season before his remarkable turnaround under McVay’s tutelage.
“Remember, there were questions whether or not he could play in this league,” Payton said. “Quickly, Sean did a great job of really looking into, ‘What are the things that he does well?’ I think they’ve done a great job with personnel. He’s put together an outstanding staff.
“And so I think his energy, his creative thinking, just his approach overall, he’s someone that obviously loves football. … I think he’s done an unbelievable job in just a short time he’s been there.”
The one thing McVay and Goff can’t approach for a while, however, is the continuity Payton and Brees have together, which Hasselbeck said is one of the NFL’s most undervalued commodities.
“I just remember when Drew Brees comes over and he hugs Sean Payton [on the sideline after Brees broke the passing yardage record] and it’s, ‘Hey, can you believe this?’ Kind of like a, ‘We did this,'” Hasselbeck said. “It’s pretty obvious that you’re almost at an unfair advantage when you have that kind of continuity at the quarterback and head coach/playcaller position.”
— ESPN Rams reporter Lindsey Thiry contributed to this report
SEATTLE — The Los Angeles Rams offense wanted to go for it. Coach Sean McVay listened.
The Rams faced third-and-1 from their 42-yard line, leading the Seattle Seahawks 33-31 with 1 minute, 52 seconds to play Sunday at CenturyLink Field. Todd Gurley took a handoff, but an official measurement determined he gained only inches — not enough for a first down, which would have effectively ended the game.
Quarterback Jared Goff and the Rams offense jogged to the sideline as the punt team took the field, ready to rely on their defense to stop Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense a final time, with 1:39 remaining in the game.
But Seattle coach Pete Carroll called a timeout, and 30 seconds later, everything changed.
Goff and McVay huddled on the sideline.
Would they dare go for it in their own territory with 1:39 remaining, knowing that Seahawks kicker Sebastian Janikowski earlier made a 52-yard field goal and could be given an opportunity to kick a game winner?
“We had a lot of time to decide and [McVay] was kind of going back and forth,” Goff said. “I was off, I thought we were punting. I went back on the field just to talk the official about something, and as I’m turning around the offense was running back on and I go, ‘All right, I guess we’re going for it.'”
Said right tackle Rob Havenstein: “We wanted to go for it. … We just kind of started moseying on back out to the field like, ‘All right, let’s do this, we’re going to go ahead and get this.'”
Earlier in the game the Rams had been stopped short of a touchdown on the 1-yard line. And in this situation, stopped short on third down.
So facing fourth-and-inches, McVay called for a quarterback keeper.
“We talk about attacking, and our guys, you can see they believe and wanted to go for it,” McVay said. “And when you have your players believe, you want to put the trust in them, and they delivered.”
Goff jumped to his feet and pumped his fist before he took a knee for the final two plays to end the game as the Rams improved to 5-0.
“It was all riding on that one play,” Goff said. “We got a really, really good jump on them up front and really just fell forward.”
Said McVay: “Everybody believes in being aggressive. It was a little bit of a whirlwind. But everybody is on the same page once we made the decision, it’s final, and fortunately you guys don’t have to kill me about it and it worked.”
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Kevin Durant, your spot on the next championship-caliber team is waiting.
Welcome to Los Angeles.
No, not the Lakers.
We’re talking about the Rams.
On Monday, a day after Durant expressed admiration in an Instagram Stories video for defensive tackle Aaron Donald and a desire to join the Los Angeles Rams, coach Sean McVay said he certainly had a role in mind for the 6-foot-9, 240-pound two-time NBA champion.
“I bet he’d be pretty dangerous in the red zone on some of those jump balls,” McVay said, smiling.
The Rams are coming off a 34-0 shutout of the Arizona Cardinals and are 2-0, as talk of a Super Bowl continues to grow louder.
The Rams feature one of the most dominant defenses in the NFL, with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Donald and All-Pro’s Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters and Ndamukong Suh. The unit has already posted six consecutive shutout quarters this season.
As for the offense, reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year Todd Gurley is tied for first in the league with four touchdowns, and the offense is averaging 33.5 points per game behind third-year quarterback Jared Goff (a lifelong Warriors fan).
But still, McVay said there’s room for one more superstar: Durant.
“If he thinks about wanting to do that, we’ll welcome him,” McVay said, chuckling. “He can come kick it with us anytime he wants.”
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay has a simple explanation for why he has a seemingly super-human ability to recall plays.
“I have no life,” he said. “Other than I love football.”
McVay’s power of recall was on full display in a recent Bleacher Report video, where he was peppered with game scenarios from past seasons and perfectly recalled what play was run, as well as its result.
He said his ability to recall these events is actually due to a process he’s “always revisiting.”
“It’s not like I’m just recalling it and that’s the only time you’ve ever done it from,” he said. “These are things that we as coaches always go back through. So, it’s kind of something that you’re always revisiting, especially when it’s relevant plays.”
Coaches and players who work with McVay, 32, said his memory should not be downplayed.
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, now in his 41st season as an NFL coach, said McVay’s recall ability was an uncommon trait among coaches.
“I think it’s a common between savants,” Phillips said. “He has got tremendous recall, but he has got great people skills, too, and that’s the difference in him and some real smart guy. He’s way above my head that’s for sure.”
When McVay’s recall ability was described to running back Todd Gurley II, he said, “Sounds about right. … He has a great memory.”
Still, McVay insisted his recall only works when it comes to football.
“It is not a joke,” McVay said, “when I say I really do not remember anything else.”
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay has been asked daily throughout training camp and the preseason about star defensive tackle Aaron Donald’s holdout.
His usual responses range between “no update” to “we’re hopeful something will get done.”
But on Tuesday, McVay’s tone struck a new chord. At times, he sounded as though he was joking, but he also expressed a newfound optimism that with the season opener looming the dispute could be nearing an end.
“Things are heating up,” McVay said when asked if he and Rams executives were considering a trip to visit Donald and his representatives in person. “You might see that sooner than later, you know? It could happen. It’s exciting. We’re very optimistic. Seriously, we are.”
When asked to clarify what he was optimistic about, a trip to visit Donald or a contract resolution, McVay said, “Could be both. Could be both. Let’s put it this way. Maybe it will happen.”
Donald is scheduled to earn $6.9 million in the final season of his five-year rookie contract, but is seeking an extension that would make him the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history and would rank his salary among quarterbacks.
Donald held out of training camp last year before reporting on the eve of the season opener, without a new deal in place. He was activated in Week 2 and was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year as the Rams won the NFC West for the first time since 2003 and made their first playoff appearance in 13 seasons.
After the season, Donald’s holdout resumed. He did not attend the offseason program, including mandatory minicamp, and did not report for training camp.
McVay said that he would like Donald to report by the end of the week so he could acclimate and prepare for the season opener on Sept. 10 against the Oakland Raiders.
If a deal is not in place when the Rams play their preseason finale against the Saints on Thursday, McVay said he and executives would take a detour either to or from New Orleans to visit with Donald.
“We’re going to do everything we can to be proactive. Whether it’s before the game or after being out in New Orleans, whatever we can do to make it work and do our part to demonstrate to Aaron how important it is for us to get him here, be a part of this team,” McVay said. “All jokes aside, there is a level of increased optimism. I’m not really kidding around with that. There are a lot of things that need to get done for it to be finalized, but we’re working in a positive direction. … Aaron: See you soon, buddy.”
The Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle will not join the team by the NFL’s Tuesday deadline for players to report to earn an accrued season for free agency, nor will he be with the team anytime soon, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Rams coach Sean McVay echoed a similar sentiment when he spoke with reporters Monday after a joint practice with the Baltimore Ravens in Owings Mills, Maryland.
“I don’t think anything is going to change with that in the near future,” McVay said when asked about Donald’s status. “I’ve had a little bit of dialogue with Aaron and we’re hopeful that we’ll get something done, but I don’t think there’s any realistic deal to August 7th being a date that changes really anything, but you never know.
“Things remain the same. I’m looking forward to trying to connect with him later on today, and we’ll see where we’re at.”
Rams teammates have expressed support for Donald, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, but defensive lineman Michael Brockers said Monday he has had no contact with Donald.
“You kind of leave him alone when he’s in the offseason,” Brockers said. “I know he’s working, I know he’s grinding. No real contact. I know he’s getting the work done, doing everything possible where he’s in shape when he comes here. That’s all I can look forward to. Whenever he gets here, he’s ready to roll.”
Donald is scheduled to earn $6.9 million in the final season of his rookie contract but is thought to be seeking a deal that would pay him in excess of $20 million per season, which would make him the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history and would rank his salary among quarterbacks.
Selected with the No. 13 overall pick in 2014, Donald sat out of training camp last season, then reported on the eve of the season opener without a new contract in place. Because of that holdout, he did not earn an accrued season toward unrestricted free agency. Now in his second consecutive holdout, Donald will not accrue the required four seasons to become an unrestricted free agent after the season and will remain a restricted free agent.
The Rams play the Ravens in a preseason game Thursday and will open the regular season on Sept. 10 against the Oakland Raiders.
COSTA MESA, Calif. — Anthony Lynn got his first taste of calling plays while serving as the offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills in 2016. And Lynn wasn’t sure he wanted to give it up.
Hired as the head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers in January of last year, Lynn debated whether to continue to call plays. Ultimately, Lynn decided an experienced playcaller in Ken Whisenhunt was a better alternative.
With defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and special-teams coordinator George Stewart also part of his coaching staff, Lynn could operate as the CEO on the field.
“I was brought here to lead,” Lynn said about his decision. “I was brought here to carry out a vision and help everyone, not just the offense.”
However, other offensive coordinators have taken a much different tack.
Of the seven new head coaches hired in the NFL this offseason, four of them are former offensive coordinators who will call their own plays in 2018. That increased the number of head coaches who will call their own plays to 14 out of 32 — nearly half the league. According to ESPN Insider Mike Sando, that number is the most head coaches who have also served as offensive playcallers in the NFL going back at least a decade.
That’s up from 11 of 32 in 2017. Traditionally, NFL owners have wanted a head coach to act as a CEO for the football side of the organization.
However, with the intense focus on the quarterback position and with playcalling being such an important part of game days, former offensive coordinators are choosing to continue doing what they are best at: calling plays.
And that includes the head of the Super Bowl champions, Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson.
Pederson offered this advice to his former offensive coordinator Frank Reich, who will — you guessed it — call plays as the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts:
“The biggest challenge is just getting your own study time in because of all the other things you have to do,” Pederson said at the NFL combine in February. “Leading the football team, meeting with doctors, meeting with [GM] Howie [Roseman], the personnel department. Meeting with the [team] president, meeting with the owner.
“Those are things that can take away your time during the week, and it’s just finding time to get your own study and preparation in and being in a position to help your team. That’s the one thing that if I ever get nervous about a game, it’s, ‘How well did I study during the week?’ I think that’s the biggest challenge for a head coach who calls plays, is being able to do that for his football team.”
Most new head coaches who continue to call plays came up as assistants under someone who operated the same way. It’s natural not wanting to give up the specific skill that resulted in them getting a head-coaching job.
Rick Neuheisel spent 12 seasons as a head coach in college at Colorado, Washington and UCLA. Neuheisel also served as an offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens in the NFL and said that during his time with the Buffaloes, he shared playcalling duties with then-offensive coordinator Karl Dorrell.
Neuheisel noted his reluctance to give up calling plays.
“It’s auto pilot as opposed to holding the stick,” Neuheisel said. “When you’re holding the stick of an airplane, there’s an adrenaline to that, rather than sitting back and letting the thing fly itself. So when your hand is on the wheel, there’s no question that feels like the real, live deal.”
Mike Holmgren led two teams to the Super Bowl in the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks, serving as a head coach who also called plays. Holmgren learned how to handle that role while working as a quarterbacks coach for former 49ers head coach Bill Walsh.
“I thought about it on occasion, just handing this to somebody, let them do it and take that responsibility off my plate,” Holmgren said. “I could probably sleep better at night. But then I started thinking, if I do that — and there’s a play out there that I don’t like — I’m going to be horrible, I’m going to be really bad on these guys. And so instead of doing it that way, I just chose to do it myself.
“And it’s fun. As a head coach, you’ve got to deal with a lot of stuff. I love coaching. I was one of the lucky ones, and I’ve said that many, many times, but sometimes you have to do things that aren’t much fun. Calling the game and the chess match of that on Sundays, that was fun. And so I used to say, ‘I’ve got to have some fun doing this.'”
The Rams’ McVay leaned on his experience working with head coaches who were also playcallers in Jon and Jay Gruden. And McVay benefits from having a veteran staff, including longtime defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and special-teams coordinator John Fassel, so he could delegate game-day duties and focus on managing the offense during the game.
McVay was responsible for engineering one of the best offensive turnarounds in recent NFL memory. The Rams went from scoring a league-low 14 points per game in 2016 to an NFL-high 30 points per contest in McVay’s first year as head coach last season.
“It’s all about surrounding yourself with great people,” McVay told reporters at the combine. “Certainly, the year provides a great opportunity to look inward and feel like, you know, there’s a lot of things that even though you might think you did a lot of things well, if you’re really being honest with yourself, you can improve.
“Just being more organized, a better playcaller, a better way of continuing to be consistent with the messaging for our players. So that’s what you’re excited about going into Year 2, is looking at how you can improve specifically as a head coach. There were definitely some challenges, but the great people kind of allow you to handle it in a manner that’s conducive for us to be able to have a little bit of success.”
Former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst Matt Hasselbeck started nine seasons for the Seahawks, where he was directed by one of the best offensive playcallers in league history in Holmgren. Hasselbeck said that in his first year in Seattle, Holmgren would give the play to quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn, who then would relay them to Hasselbeck on the field. Hasselbeck said that the next year, Holmgren switched to calling the plays directly to Hasselbeck, which the quarterback preferred.
“Having that direct line to the playcaller as the head coach, I actually liked it a lot,” Hasselbeck said. “It’s third-and-8 and he tells you that you have two chances here because we’re going to go for it on fourth down. That’s helpful.”
Neuheisel will return to the sideline next year as head coach of the Phoenix franchise in the Alliance of American Football. Like Holmgren, Neuheisel said handling the playcalling duties helps a head coach avoid second-guessing the offensive play calls on game days.
“This business is full of regret,” Neuheisel said. “If you’re going to regret something, make it be your decision rather than somebody else’s. When you are having a sleepless night, it is much easier to deal with that sort of remorse when it was your call rather than you gave that decision to someone else.
“And why would you give it to someone else when it mattered that much to you and you were going to spend sleepless hours pondering it? I’d rather just make it my call. I can live with that.”
Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy knows that too well. After a stinging loss to Seattle during the 2014 playoffs, McCarthy handed over playcalling duties to offensive coordinator Tom Clements during the offseason so he could be more involved on defense and special teams, only to take them back 12 games later during the 2015 season after the offense sputtered.
“Mike blamed himself, saying he’s giving the playcalling to his offensive coordinator,” Holmgren said. “And I go, ‘Oh, boy.’ So I bumped into him at the banquet and I said, ‘Hey, Mike, one man’s opinion and you don’t need my advice; however, I’m going to give you some: Do not give up the playcalling.
“‘Don’t do that, because you are good at [it] and you’re reacting to one game.’ That was my thought. And there will come a time during the season where you might have to take it back. And if you have to take it back, that’s hard on the guy you gave it to. It’s just hard.
“I would say to any of these young guys calling plays, stick with it.”
LOS ANGELES — The void left behind by the departures of Matt LaFleur and Greg Olson will, in some way, be filled by Sean McVay.
LaFleur left the Rams to become the Tennessee Titans‘ offensive coordinator, while Olson is now the Oakland Raiders‘ offensive coordinator, which means that — for the fourth consecutive year — the voices surrounding Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff will be different. But the continuity will lie in McVay, who plans to spend a lot more time with Goff in his second year as the Rams’ head coach.
McVay described it as “being more present.”
“Not only the head coach-quarterback relationship, but the playcaller-quarterback relationship is paramount for us moving forward, to continue to improve on the rapport that we’ve already developed and the relationship that we have,” McVay said in a phone conversation from the scouting combine in Indianapolis earlier this week.
“It’s just being intentional about connecting with your guy. Year 2, when you don’t have the amount of things that you’re not necessarily accustomed to doing — I think just getting a more comfortable rhythm will allow you to kind of project being around a little bit more, but still also letting your coaches coach.”
One of the central reasons McVay landed the job as the Rams’ coach when he was still only 30 years old stemmed from the growth Kirk Cousins made at quarterback under his watch. McVay was able to build a close relationship with Cousins while serving as the Washington Redskins‘ offensive coordinator from 2014 to 2016. But his first year as the Rams’ head coach and offensive playcaller pulled him in an assortment of different directions that didn’t allow him to build a close enough bond with Goff.
This year will be different.
“That’s what I’m excited about,” McVay said, “with the offseason and not having to do a bunch of different things, but just kind of fine-tune going into Year 2.”
McVay no longer has to assemble an entire coaching staff, or map out an offseason program from scratch, or familiarize himself with a new organization, or grow accustomed to the rigors of a more demanding position. Everything should be a little bit easier now, which is why the plan was always to be more involved with Goff in his second year. It’s even more crucial with LaFleur (the Rams’ offensive coordinator last season) and Olson (their former quarterbacks coach) elsewhere.
But McVay expressed confidence in Shane Waldron and Zac Taylor, who will essentially replace them. The Rams will not have an official offensive coordinator this season; the duties will be split between offensive line coach Aaron Kromer, who will be the running game coordinator, and Waldron, the tight ends coach who will double as the passing-game coordinator. Taylor, who worked closely with Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill from 2012 to 2015, will move from assistant wide receivers coach to quarterbacks coach.
“It’s a fine line because you want to be able to give Shane and Zac their time,” McVay said of being more hands-on with Goff. “You don’t want to be overbearing. The biggest thing is our ability to communicate and be on the same page. There will be more opportunities than maybe there were last year. I think that’s just with any experience as you get more comfortable with your rhythm.”
After adjusting to the pro game in his rookie season in 2016, Goff made tremendous strides when he transitioned from Jeff Fisher’s staff to McVay’s staff in 2017. The 2016 No. 1 overall pick made significant improvements in completion percentage (54.6 to 62.1), yards per attempt (5.3 to 8.0), touchdown-to-interception ratio (0.7 to 4.0) and passer rating (63.6 to 100.5). Goff passed for 3,804 yards with 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 15 regular-season games, making the Pro Bowl after guiding a team that won 11 games and led the NFL in points.
“As good as he played,” McVay said, “and as many good things as we felt like we did offensively, there’s a lot we can improve on, and that’s what’s exciting about it.”
McVay’s increased involvement will play out gradually, in organized team activities, during training camp and throughout the regular season. He wants Goff to keep improving on “the fundamentals, the techniques, the ownership of our offense.”
“And really,” McVay said, “that’s a give-and-take, where it’s him being able to communicate, me understanding that. I don’t think you can ever have a great enough mastery just of your decision-making and what that entails.”
McVay also mentioned consistency with Goff’s throwing motion, something he will once again work on at the 3DQB academy during the window when NFL rules don’t allow coaches to communicate with their players.
Most important for Goff, however, is “understanding the intent of all the playcalls — what are the mechanics, what are the problems that could arise, and what are the ways that I can fix it based on my mastery of the offense?” McVay said. “It’s kind of a never-ending process on always focusing on improving.”