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Would Rams’ head coach opening be attractive if Sean McVay moves on?

Aaron Donald is also contemplating retirement. Matthew Stafford turns 35 this year.

Los Angeles Rams v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

Since Sean McVay joined the Los Angeles Rams in 2017 and helped the team reach heights it had not seen in over 15 years. Two Super Bowl appearances and a world championship, five winning seasons in six tries, a complete turnaround from one of a historically bad Jeff Fisher offense within a calendar year, and a fast growing coaching tree are all hallmarks of McVay’s relatively short tenure in Los Angeles.

But after winning Super Bowl LVI, the young head coach contemplated an early retirement and flirted with a new career in broadcasting. Even if McVay returns to the Rams in 2023, we will hear these rumors on an annual basis until he inevitably decides to take a step back and spend time with his wife and future family.

It’s reasonable that the Rams’ first losing season under McVay and a year filled with constant adversity and change pushed the coach to his limits - and he will reportedly take time to step back and decide whether he will return to the team. Jay Glazer reported Sunday morning on FOX that there are some within the Rams organization that would be surprised if McVay does not retire ahead of 2023.

Retirement and/or starting a career in broadcasting is McVay’s decision to make, but it would certainly leave the Rams franchise in a tough spot. After leveraging draft capital and salary cap resources to its outer limits, it’s a fair criticism to say that McVay mortgaged the future and is jumping ship just before everyone else realized there’s a hole in the bottom of the boat.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. While this Rams team is just a year removed from it’s first Super Bowl win in over twenty years, to some the cupboard will seem bare.

If Sean McVay does indeed retire, just how attractive would the Rams’ head coach opening be for the top talent in the NFL?

Matthew Stafford, QB

If you were starting a team today, Matthew Stafford would probably rank in the bottom half of quarterbacks in the NFL that you’d choose. It’s not necessarily a performance issue - his relative down year in 2021 can be reasonably attributed to a poor supporting cast on offense - it’s that he missed most of last offseason nursing a lingering elbow issue, missed several games with multiple stints in the NFL’s concussion protocol, and his season ended with a spinal cord contusion that should not be taken lightly. Stafford will also be 35 for the 2023 season, and then there’s the question of everything else around him (which we will get to).

The Rams are likely committed to Stafford through the 2024 season - is that a selling point or a potential deal breaker for the Sean Payton’s or Jim Harbaugh’s of the world?

Attractive or Unattractive: UNATTRACTIVE

City of Los Angeles & SoFi Stadium

Stan Kroenke’s stadium is a world class venue and provides a gameday experience that is only suitable for the entertainment capital of the world. SoFi Stadium in the next few years will host some of the biggest sporting events such as the College Football National Championship, World Cup, and Olympics.

Attractive or Unattractive: ATTRACTIVE

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 04 CFP National Championship Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The defense is top-heavy and old

Star defensive tackle Aaron Donald also contemplated retirement after the 2021 championship season. His public comments since returning to the team have suggested that he will play as long as the roster is capable of competing for a Super Bowl, and in some ways his future may be tied to that of McVay.

Bobby Wagner has played admirably during his first season in Los Angeles, and he’s been the team’s MVP despite almost everything else falling apart. But the veteran linebacker will be 33 years old next season.

Then there’s the future of the stars that are younger in age but have still been around the league for quite a quite a while - Jalen Ramsey and Leonard Floyd. Both Ramsey and Floyd had up-and-down individual performances this season, and there futures in LA are questionable. Ramsey is under contract through the 2025 season, but he may seek more money from the team similar to what Cooper Kupp and Donald did last season - could such a move end his time with the Rams? Floyd will be 31 for next season and has a cap hit of $22M. His play the last couple of seasons has not warranted such an investment, and it’s fair to question whether he can still be a productive player without Donald taking up a lot of attention on the interior.

The rest of the defense is extremely young and mostly unheralded. Ignoring players such as Nick Scott, Taylor Rapp, Troy Hill, Greg Gaines, and A’Shawn Robinson that are slated to hit unrestricted free agency, this is what the Rams are left with:

The defensive line is strung together with late round draft picks and undrafted free agents - Bobby Brown (4th round), Earnest Brown (5th round), Marquise Copeland (UDFA), Michael Hoecht (UDFA), Jonah Williams (UDFA). Aside from Ramsey, the secondary is one of the youngest position groups on the roster with Cobie Durant (4th round), Robert Rochell (4th round), Derion Kendrick (6th round), Quentin Lake (6th round), and Russ Yeast (7th round). The future of Jordan Fuller (6th round), who is in a contract year after 2023, is a complete unknown after he has struggled to stay healthy over the last two seasons.

Attractive or Unattractive: UNATTRACTIVE

Front Office & Ownership

Kroenke isn’t the most wealthy owner in the NFL, but he certainly has deep pockets and has been willing to open them to help the Rams make non-traditional moves and stay competitive - the decision to trade Jared Goff and take on his large dead money number and acquire/extend Stafford is front of mind when considering this topic.

Kevin Demoff, COO, has been with the Rams even since their days in St. Louis and was hired in 2009. He’s provided steady, hands-off leadership and is willing to handle the business side of the organization so the general manager and head coach can focus on football.

While Les Snead should be considered among the top general managers in football, his presence may scare off some head coaching candidates that seek total control over football decisions. Would Sean Payton want to join the Rams if it means he has to collaborate with someone like Snead, or would the team have to seek out younger head coaches like they did with McVay in 2017?

Attractive or Unattractive: MIXED BAG

Los Angeles Rams SoFi Stadium Tour
Kevin Demoff, COO of Los Angeles Rams
Photo by Scott Varley/MediaNews Group/Torrance Daily Breeze via Getty Images

State of the salary cap

The Rams will technically start the 2023 offseason with an estimated $1.7M of salary cap space, though they will make moves to make more room and possibly push money into the future.

The bigger concern is the number of players set to hit unrestricted free agency and how you decide which you are able and want to retain. Matt Gay alone could command $5-6M as a kicker. The team likely has to decide between Greg Gaines and A’Shawn Robinson. Troy Hill and Nick Scott have been veteran leaders in the secondary. And that’s not all of the names either.

Attractive or Unattractive: UNATTRACTIVE

Stable of draft picks

It’s been well documented that the Rams do not own their first round selection in 2023, which is the last of two they sent to the Detroit Lions in exchange for Stafford. No sane mind within the football world would disagree with the results of the Stafford trade - the Super Bowl win alone is enough to justify the compensation sent to Detroit. Things will go back to normal in 2024.

The Rams also game the compensatory formula as well as anyone, and they will likely continue to do so as long as Snead is in the building. With the group of free agents set to hit the market after this season, LA should expect to get another slew of picks back for next year’s draft.

Against popular opinion, but...

Attractive or Unattractive: ATTRACTIVE