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Checking in on the Sean McVay coaching tree

The budding branches of the young Rams head coach are having success through the first quarter of the season

The Washington Redskins play the Buffalo Bills Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams hired Sean McVay in 2017, making the young offensive mind the youngest individual to earn the title of head coach in NFL history and five years later there are only seven coaches that are tenured longer than him:

Bill Belichick (New England Patriots) - 2000

Sean Payton (New Orleans Saints) - 2006

Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers) - 2007

John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens) - 2008

Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs) - 2013

Mike Zimmer (Minnesota Vikings) - 2014

Considering where LA’s boy genius ranks in terms of tenure is even more impressive when you realize he’s still the youngest head coach in the NFL - and he has four years on his former disciples Brandon Staley (Los Angeles Chargers) and Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals).

Sean McVay’s achievements with the Rams have been unprecedented for someone his age. It’s fair to wonder how many wins the young coach could accumulate over the course of a long career in Los Angeles.

Teams have been attempting to steal a piece of McVay’s magic each offseason since he arrived in LA - poaching green assistant coaches that also fit the mold of the young head coach. The 2021 offseason was the culmination of this, and the Rams lost 7 assistant coaches and 2 members of its front office. Los Angeles has been on the forefront of a changing NFL landscape over the last five seasons, and the rest of the league wants a taste of what the Rams have - simply because their system works.

Many of the assistant coaches that have left Los Angeles for larger roles have found success, particularly in the early going of the 2021 season. The Sean McVay coaching tree has been steadily growing over the course of the last five years, but this year it has truly blossomed.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

Current Coordinators

Shane Waldron; Offensive Coordinator - Seattle Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks have not had the most encouraging start to the 2021 season, winning only 1 of their first 3 games and suffering losses against the Tennessee Titans and the Minnesota Vikings. With that said, Seattle’s slow start does not seem to be the fault of Shane Waldron’s offense.

SB Nation’s Field Gulls: Waldron Watch, Week 3

The Seahawks offense lead by star quarterback Russell Wilson has been a top 10 unit in terms of DVOA through the first 3 weeks of the year. While the results have not been evident in terms of win-loss record for Seattle, Waldron certainly seems to be an upgrade over the offensive coordinator he replaced, Brian Schottenheimer.

Regardless of how the Seahawks defense performs, if the offense continues at this pace, Waldron will surely be mentioned as someone ready to take the next step into a head coaching role as the offseason approaches.

Joe Barry; Defensive Coordinator - Green Bay Packers

Green Bay Packers v Buffalo Bills Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

Joe Barry was hired as the defensive coordinator of the Green Bay Packers this offseason after being mentioned as a possible candidate for the same role at the University of Southern California (USC). This is not Barry’s first stint as a defensive coordinator, as he also served as McVay’s counterpart in Washington under head coach Jay Gruden.

The Packers defense got off to a rocky start through the first two games, but the unit showed up and caused problems for Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers in Week 3. The 49ers signal caller was under consistent pressure, which was a key factor in Green Bay coming out on top.

Zone Coverage: Joe Barry’s Defensive Scheme is Starting to Click

Liam Coen; Offensive Coordinator - University of Kentucky

The branches of the Sean McVay also extend beyond the NFL, and one of the promising lineages is found in Lexington, Kentucky.

It was reported before the end of the 2020 season that Liam Coen would become the offensive coordinator at the University of Kentucky under Mark Stoops. So far the marriage has worked, and UK’s football team has big victories over Missouri and South Carolina with the 10th ranked Florida Gators team on deck this weekend.

The Kentucky Wildcats have been following the success of McVay’s 2021 offense closely and spend Friday nights watching film of their system getting the best of NFL defenses, per John Clay of the Lexington Herald Leader:

With continued success at the college level, it could be only a matter of time until Coen earns a title change to head coach.

Current Head Coaches

Matt LaFleur - Green Bay Packers

NFL: Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers have earned a berth in the NFC Championship in each of the 2 years under Matt LaFleur’s leadership. This was a tumultuous offseason for Green Bay, as the 2020 NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers was disgruntled and tried to force his way off the team.

But winning heals all wounds, and the Packers are 2-1 to start the year. For the third year in a row, LaFleur’s team seems to be a real contender for a Super Bowl.

Zac Taylor - Cincinnati Bengals

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Zac Taylor is in his third year as head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, but unlike LaFleur he took over a team mostly devoid of talent. It took 3 years and the opportunity to draft Joe Burrow number 1 overall, but Taylor has his team off to a fast start.

At 3-1 the Bengals are a surprise success so far in 2021 and may be able to push the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens for the AFC North divisional title.

Brandon Staley - Los Angeles Chargers

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Chargers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps the former assistant coach that has left the longest lasting impression on McVay is Brandon Staley, who left for the other team in Los Angeles after bringing the Vic Fangio style of defense to the Rams. This is a classic example of the student becoming the teacher, and even though Staley left for a bigger role, McVay’s Rams have continued running the Fangio/Staley defense and are adding wrinkles under new defensive coordinator Raheem Morris.

Staley has helped revamp the Chargers defense through the team’s first 3 games, and the team is off to a 2-1 start with a key victory over the division rival Kansas City Chiefs.

The AFC West could be just as fierce of a competition as the NFC West, but Staley’s team has a legitimate shot to be crowned as champs.

Turf Show Times: Catching up on the NFC West divisional race

The Sean McVay coaching tree is far from done growing, and new branches will almost surely be added each offseason. McVay’s Rams have produced a number of young coordinators and head coaches in recent years. A number of these individuals will have long careers as leaders of NFL clubs. The McVay tree is blossoming and radiating success early in the 2021 season, though perhaps the most encouraging sign is the promise of continued accomplishment in the future.