Today’s edition of Football Morning in America over at Pro Football Talk is an absolutely fascinating read. It’s also a reminder of how far football media has come in the last decade.
You’ve got an established media member, Peter King, with a running blog on a major blog site, PFT, that he’s giving out to be guest-hosted by an advanced analytics site in PFF. This would have been unimaginable a decade ago.
PFF founder Neil Hornsby even addressed this in the middle of the piece:
Back then we were in a time when establishing the best middle linebacker was a matter of counting tackles, and an era in which people were trying to determine the best offensive line based on how many times its quarterback was sacked and how many yards the offense gained.
We’re just operating in an entirely new era.
And part of that era includes the offensive creativity of Los Angeles Rams Head Coach Sean McVay.
McVay took the top spot on the Rams’ coaching staff in 2017 and immediately turned around the franchise. In doing so, he made the rest of his staff attractive options on the coaching hiring market.
Greg Olson, the Rams’ quarterbacks coach in 2017, was picked up first to become the offensive coordinator for Oakland Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden last season. Matt LaFleur, the Rams’ offensive coordinator two years ago, headed to the Tennessee Titans to become their OC albeit with greater responsibilities; that move led to his hiring by the Green Bay Packers to become their new head coach for 2019. And this offseason, we saw a third McVay underling climb to the top of the ladder as Zac Taylor, who replaced Olson as the Rams’ QB coach last year, became the Cincinnati Bengals’ newest head coach.
I mention that if only to point out that whatever secret sauce McVay has cooked up in his young career, he’s had other sous chefs working with him. They’re now branching out into their own kitchens. And while they’re going to be facing pressure of their own, it also puts pressure on McVay to continually refine his own outputs as the PFF crew points out in the “10 things I think I think” section:
9. We think this is a big year for Sean McVay’s offense and, by extension, the teams that went on a binge of hiring away anybody who had ever been in contact with it to experience the same Midas touch. Late last year teams began to take away what McVay wants to do on offense, forcing the Rams to adjust, and Plan B never really looked like it existed, let alone was as effective. Successful systems have died quickly in the NFL in the past if they haven’t evolved, so 2019 is the year McVay needs to show evolution of his scheme.
It’s hardly a hot taek, but it’s something we’re going to be reiterating throughout the offseason as we head toward Week 1. Whether it was the drama surrounding RB Todd Gurley or the absence of WR Cooper Kupp or intermittent offensive line play, we saw a vulnerability last year pique up. All three factors are at play this year with Gurley’s role likely reduced, injuries always playing a major factor for NFL teams and an offensive line introducing two extremely inexperienced starters with LT Andrew Whitworth living out his last hurrah. McVay, as all coaches generally must on an annual basis, has to adjust.
Beyond that, there’s a near certainty that the Rams coaching staff yet again proves fertile for other teams next offseason.
Pass Game Coordinator/QB Coach/Co-Offensive Coordinator Shane Waldron is on the precipice of following LaFleur either into a promotion at OC elsewhere or directly into a head coaching gig himself having been interviewed by the Cincinnati Bengals for the spot Taylor ultimately landed. It seems as if Assistant Offensive Coordinator Jedd Fisch, who was promoted into that role this offseason, is being groomed to become McVay’s #2 on the offensive coaching staff. That’s certainly going to make him an attractive target. Elsewhere, Special Teams Coordinator John Fassel has been so good that teams are going to have to start needling. And while Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips might well be on his last ride, Cornerbacks Coach Aubrey Pleasant is highly thought of both within the Rams’ staff but also across the league. Should Grandpa Wade continue to oversee things beyond 2019 (and that’s no certainty), Pleasant might become an option that teams look into on the defensive side. And don’t dismiss the ascendancy of Taylor. If he can post one year as an assistant wide receivers coach and then one year as the quarterbacks coach before landing a head coaching gig, don’t dismiss the hiring of Zac Robinson to be the Rams’ newest assistant quarterbacks coach. Robinson was the former quarterback at Oklahoma State. His previous employer? PFF.
So give today’s FMIA a read. It’s a fascinating read that covers a ton of inside knowledge that the NFL has just recently begun to incorporate but also the kind of thinking that’s going to reshape the NFL in the coming years.
And as their blurb on McVay underlines, it’s the kind of ahead-of-the-curve thinking that McVay himself will need to take advantage of to be anywhere near as successful as he has been in his first two years as head coach of the Rams if only because so much change is coming to his team on the field and on the sidelines.