While team general manager Les Snead and COO Kevin Demoff wrangle with unrestricted free agents this off season, head coach Jeff Fisher needs to find a way to protect his solid gold coaching staff from being pilfered by other NFL teams. Quiet and unsung, there's one coach Fisher hopes will go unnoticed after the carnage of Black Monday: Dave McGinnis
Brought in as the Rams assistant head coach, McGinnis played a key role in managing the coaching staff. While teams focus on the "Xs" and "Os", they look for marque names to fill coaching vacancies. They want the guys who got the credit for doing this or that, not the guy who made it possible for them to succeed.
I've studied the Rams coaching staff from afar all season. When Fisher began to announce his coaching staff, it appeared he was building an army of top notch position coaches with an eye toward layered depth. When he hired McGinnis, and announced his position would be "Assistant Head Coach", my mind began to dissect the reason for the move with an experienced Gregg Williams on his staff. The move proved both brilliant and prescient after Williams received his "Bounty" inspired vacation. Don't get me wrong, I think the Rams need a defensive coordinator to be named, but look at how the staff seemed to adjust to a key coaching position being vacant. McGinnis is one of many former defensive coordinators on the Rams staff, but his head coaching experience played a key role in how the defense began it's amazing transition without Williams.
I've come to believe Fisher may be a genius at the intricacies of building an NFL team. He focuses on not just the resume of coaches, but how they will fit into a complimentary flow within his organizational structure. He hired McGinnis to be the guy who constantly monitors and adjusts, dialing in areas of need. His coaching C.V. enables him to step into any area of the team and contribute. McGinnis is the ultimate "right hand man", but it doesn't stop there. After spending 12 years coaching at the college level - where he learned more about a player at the NCAA level than any other Rams coach - he headed to the NFL. The next nine years were spent coaching at the linebacker Sorbonne - The Chicago Bears. He moved on to that coaching middle ground every coach seems to have in their history with the Arizona Cardinals, after almost landing the head coaching job in Chicago. McGinnis became the defensive coordinator for the Cardinals, and rose to head coach after Denny Green's exit. He learned first hand what it was like to take over another coach's mess. In a make shift Doctoral stint that saw him leave Arizona after three years, he headed to Tennessee to reunite with former Bears' player Jeff Fisher. The next seven years, he coached the Titans' linebackers. When Fisher left in 2011, McGinnis headed for the door too.
What the NFL teams, who are scrambling to fill coaching and GM vacancies, are failing to see is who Fisher grabbed first out of all the coaches on his lengthy list of possible candidates when he came to St. Louis: Dave McGinnis. Think about that for a second. Fisher had more than a year away from the NFL, and when he decided to come back and build a successful team, McGinnis was named as assistant head coach. Hmm?
If Jeff Fisher reads this article, he may grumble a whispered profanity. I have little doubt he's hoping coach hungry NFL teams will overlook his staff. I think they will too, and they'll miss out of the hidden gold in St. Louis. NFL owners will have a shopping list that won't feature guys like McGinnis. They want to make a splash with a "name", while forgetting what goes into making a solid coaching staff work. To me, it's all about the coaching STAFF, and not just the head coach. McGinnis has studied under one of the best NFL coaches, and he's one of the reasons the Rams are turning a corner as a franchise. His ability to handle raw talent in rookies, and coach every phase of the NFL puts him light years ahead of many flashy names we'll see being hired by NFL teams over the next month or so. When the hiring frenzy is over, and McGinnis has been passed over for a head coaching or general manager position, Jeff Fisher will breathe a sigh of relief. Dave McGinnis will play a key role for the Rams, and Fisher's solid gold asset will remain safely tucked away in St. Louis.
To say some NFL owners are selectively blind or ignorant of McGinnis may be harsh, but it's true...