When the Los Angeles Rams decided to hire the youngest head coach in NFL history and signed Sean McVay, they were taking a big chance. Sure, he was bright, innovative and personable, but now he would be tasked with full control over players who were not only older than him, they had more NFL seasons under their belt.
The big chance has paid off, big time. After his first five seasons, at 68.13 percent, McVay is the winningest Rams coach in their storied history. In total wins, he only trails John Robinson (79) and Chuck Knox (72) and could pass them both this season, certainly Knox.
McVay’s current contract, valued at a reported $8.5 mil per year, is set to run through 2023. But what about after that? After the Rams Super Bowl victory, his brand and its potential is white hot. He was reported to be in line for a sportscasting job at Amazon for a potential $100 mil. He is also reported to be in negotiations for a contract extension that would make him one of the highest paid coaches in the NFL. Even if he gets his big Rams payday, how long can he ignore the money being thrown around by sports media?
How does Sean McVay’s record stack up against the best in Rams history?
Sean McVay- 2017 to date 62-29, made playoffs in four of five seasons, lost Super Bowl LII and won Super Bowl LVI
His youth and success are unprecedented. McVay has fused motion, formations, the play-action pass and outside zone run scheme to create space and lanes for his playmakers. He has allowed his defensive coaches the freedom to make their own mark on the 3-4 base.
McVay has a 7-3 playoff record. In his only season to miss the playoffs, a year of numerous injuries, it was a missed chip shot field goal that sealed the Rams exclusion. With his playoff record, his only peer is Dick Vermeil and that 3-0 magical 1999-00 post season.
Before McVay’s ascension, the Rams had been muddled in the second division for a decade, not recording a winning season or playoff berth for 13 years.
1999 to 2005- Lightning-in-a bottle
It’s very hard not to link Dick Vermeil’s success with Mike Martz and Kurt Warner. Vermeil’s first two seasons with the Rams were utterly forgettable at 9-23. Then in ‘99, Martz was hired as offensive coordinator and due to a preseason injury to penciled-in starter Trent Green, the unknown Warner was pressed into a starting role. And thus, “the Greatest Show on Turf” (GSOT) was born.
The GSOT was arguably only a three year run. The out-of-nowhere 1999 season Super Bowl win, the stunning offense of 2000, and the return to the Super Bowl in 2001. Things got off the track in 2002, missing the post season with injuries to Warner and star running back Marshall Faulk. There was a flicker of life in 2003, Marc Bulger took over at quarterback and the Rams finished 12-4, but a playoff overtime loss snuffed out the flame.
Dick Vermeil- 1997 through 1999 25-26, won Super Bowl XXXIV over the Tennessee Titans 23-16
Vermeil’s first two seasons in St. Louis were completely forgettable and ended at 9-23, But, when it counted, Vermeil’s Rams went 3-0 on their way to a Lombardi Trophy. He retired after the Super Bowl win but returned to the coaching ranks in 2005 with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Mike Martz- 2000 through 2004, left the Rams after five games in 2005 due to illness 48-36, went to the playoffs four times and lost Super Bowl XXXVI to New England Patriots
The GSOT was Martz’s second term with the Rams, he was quarterbacks coach from 1992 to 1994 and wide receivers coach in 1995 and ‘96. Martz was widely renowned for his uptempo and wide open offensive schemes. In 2005, Martz was diagnosed with heart ailment and took a leave of absence, but GSOT was over and He was fired at the end of the season. He later became the offensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers, and Chicago Bears.
1973 to 1991- The (blue and) golden years
During this era, things started out great with eight straight trips to the playoffs and a berth in the Super Bowl but eventually eroded into nine straight seasons of post season futility during the mid-90’s.
There was plenty of drama in these years. Just to name a few.
- Rams owner Carrol Rosenbloom made plans to move the team to Anaheim in 1980, but didn’t live long enough to see its fruition, dying in a swimming accident in 1979.
- Rosenbloom hired George Allen as coach in 1978, but there were numerous hostilities from day one and fired him after two preseason games. He also fueded with Chuck Knox, leading him to step down.
- Ray Malavasi, who as college football player, had been thrown out of the U.S. Military Academy in a cheating scandal, resigned from his previous team, the Oakland Raiders to become the Rams head coach. There were accusations of tampering, but no charges were filed.
- The Rams had a number of high-profile players who went through contentious and public salary negotiations. The list of stars that left LA early deserves a story of its own.
Chuck Knox- 1973 through 1977 57-20-1, five straight years in playoffs
Ground Chuck won 73.08 percent of regular season games and five straight West Division crowns by averaging over 2500 rushing yards per season. Even with five different starting quarterbacks, John Hadl, James Harris, Pat Haden, Ron Jaworski, and Joe Namath.
The playoffs were a completely different story, the Rams were 3-5 under Knox and lost three consecutive Conference Championship tries. Even with all his success, he stepped down after the ‘77 season and would eventually return to the Rams in 1992 for a three year stint. He could not recapture his past success and was fired after a 15-33 record and no post season trips.
Ray Malavasi -1978 through 1982 40-33, three straight playoff berths from ‘78 to ‘80 and lost in Super Bowl XIV
Malavasi was Knox’s defensive coordinator and stayed on after he resigned. George Allen was originally brought back to fill the coaching void, but only lasted the first two exhibition games before Rams ownership fired him. Malavasi took over as the Rams head coach.
Inheriting a solid roster, Malavasi took LA to the NFC Championship in his first year and the Super Bowl in his second, losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-19. The Rams fell off track in his final two years to 8-17, and after finishing dead last in strike-shortened 1982 season, Malavasi was fired. He would never work again in the NFL.
John Robinson- 1983 through 1991 79-74, five wild card playoff berths, West division champs in 1985, and two NFC Championship game losses in ‘85 and ‘89.
With the rise of the San Francisco 49ers in the eighties, Robinson and the Rams rode the legs of Eric Dickerson and later, the arm of Jim Everett to five second place West Division finishes. Breaking through in ‘85 to win the division and go on to the NFC Chapionsip Game, losing to the Chicago Bears.
Robinson was a erudite and well-spoken hire, he had won four Rose Bowl’s and a National Championship at the University of Southern California. He was 4-6 in playoff games and his overall record was marred by the 1987 strike shortened/replacement players season (6-9) and the Rams overall lack of talent in his final two years (8-24).
1967 to 1970- If you can remember the late sixties, you didn’t really enjoy them
George Allen- 1967 through 1970 50-17-4, lost conference playoffs in ‘67 and ‘69
The Rams had gone 39-63-4 prior to Allen’s hire. Over his first stint in LA, he won 70.42 percent of regular season games. But in the post season he was on 0-2 in playoff games and 2-0 in the strange, but true 3rd place games.
Allen’ tenure was not without its melodrama. When hired by the Rams, he was sued for breach of contract by his former team, the Chicago Bears. Even though the Chibears prevailed, they allowed Allen to stay in LA. After the 1968 season, Rams ownership did not re-up Allen’s contract, effectively letting him go. When most of the Rams players went on the record to ask for a trade and/or threaten to retire if Allen was not re-signed, ownership inked to another two year deal.
1944 to 1955- Who says today’s NFL owners don’t give coaches enough time build a winner?
Covering the years after the leagues World War II suspension of play in 1943, the transition from Cleveland to Los Angeles in 1945, and their first ten years on the West Coast, the Rams went through seven coaches. During this era, their was substantial coaching turnover, but LA made five trips to the NFL Championship and won twice.
Aldo Donelli (1944) and Bob Snyder (1947) also led the Rams, for a year each, during this period and neither were able to secure a winning record. Sid Gillman took over in 1955 and won the Western Conference before losing in the Championship game. After his winning first season, the team dropped off and Gillman finished at 28-32-1.
Adam Walsh- 1945-46 16-5-1 overall and won 1945 NFL Championship
In the Rams last season in Cleveland, they brought in Walsh from Bowdoin College in Maine. He was originally a high school star from Hollywood, Ca. and is the center on Notre Dame’s all-time team. Walsh didn’t stay in LA very long, after the 1946 season he returned to Bowdoin and was eventually named to the College Football Hall of Fame.
Clark Shaughnessy- 1948 and 49 14-8-3 and lost in 1949 NFL Championship
Often called the father of the modern T-formation and the forward pass, Shaughnessy was a football innovator who also was the first NFL coach to use three wide receivers. He did this with LA to utilize Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch as a flanker with wide outs Tom Fears and Bob Shaw, creating mismatches and getting his playmakers into space. He only lasted two seasons in LA, with reports that his playbook was too big being a reason for his demise.
Joe Stydahar- 1950 to 1952, fired after one game in ‘52 19-9, lost the 1950 NFL Championship and turned around and won it all in 1951.
Two years leading the Rams to the title game and Stydahar was gone. Undone by a beef with his (Hamp Pool) offensive coordinator. After leaving, he knocked around, but wasn’t able to recapture his success with LA until being hired as the offensive line coach for the Chicago Bears in 1963. He is a member of both the NFL and College Hall of Fame.
Hamp Pool- 1952 through 1954 23-12-2, lost 1952 conference playoff
After taking over after the first game in ‘52, Hamp led the Rams to a National Conference tie with the Detroit Lions. The Rams fell in the tiebreaker conference game 31-21. In 1953, three losses by a combined eight points left LA at 8-3-1 and out of the playoffs. The Rams fell off in 1954 and like his predecessor, behind-the-scenes drama and discord did Hamp in. After knocking around a few years, Pool was re-united with the Rams as an assistant in 1960 and finished his LA career as a scout.
“Win now” mode
Sean McVay has made the Rams relevant again and no matter what his future decisions may be, he has the team on the right track for the near future. The “win now” label fits McVay and the whole Rams organization. Give it all, get paid for it, and don't leave any opportunities for progress on the table.