As the NFL’s regular season came to a close, the annual purge of head coaches led to a unified search for the eight teams looking for a replacement: find the next Sean McVay. In the most simplified way, these teams may see themselves as the 2016 Los Angeles Rams team, a poorly-coached group with remarkable under-performance and an abysmal record to boot. Their goal is to be more like the 2017 Rams club, who saw one of the greatest single-season offensive turnaround the league has ever seen, as well as winning seven more games than the prior season.
And while the Kliff Kingsbury’s and Matt LaFleur’s of the world were getting hired to “be the next Sean McVay,” the sharpest point of criticism was that the prototype himself hadn’t even won a playoff game. A few weeks later, McVay is looking to be the youngest Super Bowl-winning head coach, all while beating some of the most experienced head coaches in the league.
A head coaching job in the NFL is a hard job to keep. Twenty of the current thirty-two head coaches have been hired in the last three offseasons. Coaches have a remarkably short leash for a league that doesn’t boast a lot of season-long parity.
Say what you wan’t about Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett. Despite having the constant vote of confidence from owner Jerry Jones, Garret has had his share of ups-and-downs since taking over in 2010. He’s the 5th-longest tenured head coach in the league today (tied with Seattle Seahawks’ Pete Carroll) and the 2nd-longest in the NFC (again, tied with Carroll). McVay and the Rams beat Garrett and the Cowboys 30-22. This was McVay’s first playoff win as a head coach, and the first Rams playoff win in 15 years.
For the NFC Championship, McVay and the Rams took on the New Orleans Saints, coached by Sean Payton. Payton was hired back in 2006, making him the longest-tenured coach in the NFC and 2nd-longest in the NFL. For reference, the top song on Billboard at the time of his hire was Laffy Taffy by D4L, soon to be replaced by Grillz by Nelly and the other half-dozen people who were featured in that song. Payton’s resume boasts a Coach of the Year Award, several division titles, as well as a Super Bowl. Again, McVay and the Rams came out on top, erasing a 13-0 deficit and winning, 26-23.
Sean McVay has already accomplished a lot in his second season as a head coach. His sharpest criticism, which was that he hadn’t won in the playoffs, has been put to bed. But for his final act, to hoist the Lombardi Trophy as the confetti flies inside the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, he has to face his toughest test. Bill Belichick and the Patriots are like the final boss of North American sports. In the 19 years of the Belichick era, the Patriots have made it to the Super Bowl 9 times. He has an entire hand’s worth of Super Bowl rings. He’s been named Coach of the Year 3 times, though it’s easy to argue that hes often overlooked, seeing as his bar is his own past accomplishments. While some instances may skirt the rules, Belichick’s gameplanning is the stuff of legends. Countless times over the years, we’ve heard stories about the Patriots isolating and shutting down their opponents’ greatest offensive threat and exploiting defensive weaknesses. And with the extra week to prepare, it would be fair to assume that both coaches will be operating at their best. That’s exactly what McVay needs to be if he is going to become a Super Bowl-winning head coach.