Are hiring young coaches the new wildcat?
The Ringer’s Robert Mays wrote a fantastic piece on the NFL’s great Sean McVay experiment that dives deep in the current avalanche of coaching hires that are a direct response to McVay’s success with the Los Angeles Rams.
That could be the question that defines this NFL season. If this latest crop of play-calling hires flourishes in the same way as their predecessors, the leaguewide pursuit of McVay clones will continue. If not, team brass will be forced to go back to the drawing board. The NFL’s post-McVay generation has arrived. And this class may determine whether it’s here to stay.
Fair enough, but I believe that what separates Sean McVay from his clones is something that can’t be quantified. In short, McVay is a unicorn.
McVay has charisma with his players that you can’t learn. People want to listen to him, and, luckily, he has something smart and inspired to say. He remembers everything. And this is key: McVay is working for an organization that wants him to succeed and knows how to help him. That seems simple on the surface, but one only needs to watch HBO’s Hard Knocks to see how difficult it is to run a NFL franchise.
McVay has been in the news recently for good reason. He has a story people can relate to. Sean McVay was out-coached in the Super Bowl. Everyone saw it. Hell, McVay probably watched that tape more times this offseason than anybody. But what did he learn?
Boston’s very own NESN reported on quotes from McVay in which he addressed the Super Bowl and what he learned from the preparation by Coach Bill Belichick and the rest of the New England Patriots coaching staff:
The Patriots’ core strategies will remain intact, but their gameplan will be unique to each opponent. It’s not uncommon in New England to see Brady throw the ball 50 times one game and proceed to heavily lean on the run the week after. In the case of the Rams, they clearly were caught off guard by the Patriots’ zone concepts after seeing New England play a man-to-man style of defense for the bulk of the season.
That’s the thing with all these young coaches — we can’t put them in boxes like we do with old coaches like Andy Reid, Pete Carroll and Jeff Fisher. We know how those crusty dudes think and react. They have good years and bad years, but they’re football coaches — they don’t enjoy life, they enjoy football. But how is McVay going to respond the next time a coach “figures out a fix” for his offensive scheme?
McVay isn’t like most normal coaches. Yes, he watches tape like a robot, but it’s his personal style and swagger that separates him. Throughout history, the football coach has been been many things, but rarely has a football coach been effortlessly cool. McVay is engaged to Ukrainian model Veronika Khomyn. That’s different, right?
Beyond being compared to his colleagues, there is a larger narrative that will present itself soon enough: can McVay outsmart his hero/adversary/Boogieman, Bill Belichick?
Coach McVay was humbled as a playcaller in the Super Bowl and has been very clear that he wants to learn from his mistakes and get better.
How this manifests is unclear, but if history has taught us anything about McVay’s time in the NFL, it will be unconventional.