#5: The Sean McVay Era hits Year 2
A year ago, the Rams limped out of their 2016 season embarrassed. Having returned to LA amid wild fanfare and intrigue for the country’s second-biggest market after more than 20 years without NFL football, the Rams responded with a 4-12 season that saw 2016 NFL Draft #1 overall pick QB Jared Goff go 0-7 with despicable statistical output, star RB Todd Gurley average less than 60 yards a game and a 4-12 record on the back of firing then-Head Coach Jeff Fisher.
Enter Sean McVay. Nobody expected immediate results. Nobody predicted on-field success. Nobody saw a division championship in the making.
But it all happened.
The offense. The division championship. A playoff game at the Coliseum.
To a majority of observers, the Rams’ 2017 season was a success in turning a franchise around after 13 consecutive seasons without winning football.
This year is different though. And thus, McVay’s job is different.
A year ago, his job was to get the Rams to buy in. To get players to buy in to the idea that a head coach as young and inexperienced as McVay is could work. To get players to buy into the idea that they were capable of producing winning football, players like LG Rodger Saffold whose seven seasons saw him play for teams that collectively went 40-71-1. To get players to buy into “We, Not Me.”
And yes, it worked. But none of that matters this year.
We know his age and inexperience aren’t hurdles that can’t be overcome. We know that this roster is capable of winning games. And cute, hashtag-ready slogans won’t suffice this season.
This year, the Rams have to get back to the postseason and win amid the highest expectations the team has operated under in a decade and a half. McVay’s job this year is to make sure they haven’t bought into their success before the football gets played.
The Rams did just that a few months before the Lakers were able to corral LeBron James. But headlines aren’t worth as much as wins. And the stakes for the Rams are simply higher.
The conundrum for McVay in his second year is pretty simple.
Last year, the Rams’ offense was good. The team was good. Things were good.
But this year, good isn’t good enough.
If Jared Goff has the exact same season as last year, it’ll be a disappointment. If the offense doesn’t change quantifiably this year, it won’t meet the bar. If the defense doesn’t improve, questions will be asked.
The 2018 Rams could go 11-5, win the NFC West and make the playoffs and lose in the first round again. That output for 2017? A celebrated success. For 2018? An unmitigated failure.
That’s the challenge for McVay that begins next week. Somehow, he’s got to turn it up. If he gave 100% of himself last year and put forth his best effort, somehow he has to give more. And do more. And win more.
And all of that starts next week.