The Los Angeles Rams are in the playoffs. That means their Week 18 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers does not have as much weight as it would if this were a “win and get in” situation. Sean McVay expresses that his team will take the type of approach that will allow them to rest certain guys, but he still expects an excellent week of preperation with the team’s focus being about getting ready for the wild card round.
The five resting players I notice McVay name were Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Kyren Williams, Aaron Donald and Ernest Jones. Other players may be out due to injury and other players may be on a snap count. One can assume this is fluid situation, and it’s an interesting one.
Let’s see what McVay had to say about his team preparing for this week, while also keeping their eye on the main goal, the upcoming playoff matchup.
McVay knows his team is in a good spot. They can’t be eliminated this week and for the first time all season LA knows they are playing past Week 18. How should the team prepare?
“The fortunate thing for us...because we kinda know...we’re already in the playoffs...feel like it does offer an opportunity to be able to rest some guys...we’ll hold Matthew, we’ll hold Kyren, we’ll hold Cooper on offense...on defense Aaron and Ernest Jones.”
With Stafford out, Carson Wetnz will come in and the head coach seems to be looking forward to what Wentz can do on gameday.
“I’m excited about Carson’s opportunity. Obvioulsy a guy that’s had a lot of success in this league...just excited to be able to seem go compete, do his thing.”
McVay doesn’t answer with certainty whether or not Wentz will play the whole game. (Correction this question may have actually been about Puca Nakua breaking the rookie receptions/yardage record but I can be wrong, the questions are hard to hear sometimes).
“I think you’d like to see him get an opportunity to do something special, and then be smart with him.”
LA’s head coach appears to be asked what made him decide to rest some key players this week. McVay basically expresses that win or lose it shouldn’t affect the Rams that much, but also says that it could. You just never know in the NFL, but at this time he feels he is making the best decision for the team, and that is all he can do.
“You think you know, and you just don’t, right?..Taking all that into consideration, didn’t really feel like the other side of it, do try to do something to maintain the 6th or know you could be the 7th...was best for our team.”
The coach is aware that some players may want to play to fulfill contract incentives. For example maybe a player gets 100 tackles over the course of the season, and gets some extra cash for doing so. The head coach says he does want to try and give those players the chance to earn if they can.
“Our any of these guys potentially affected from some incentives.”
I’ve been thinking about McVay’s first year as LA’s head coach, when he rested key players before going on to lose against the Atlanta Falcons in his first playoff game as a Ram. The Rams were eliminated that year, and I always wondered if McVay would’ve done things differently knowing the outcome. The head coach says that he doesn’t regret resting players as he thinks that was the right decision, but he does seem to regret not getting Todd Gurley the rushing title for that season.
Kareem Hunt, at the time with the Kansas City Chiefs, won the title after surpassing Gurley’s rushing total in the last regular season game of the year.
The coach also talks about the importance of his players buying into whatever decision the team makes.
“Going back to even 2017, my first year here...might be the three or the four, you know, and we felt like resting some guys, you know, the thing that was unfortunate is Todd was the leading rusher in the league, Kareem Hunt gets one carry, they get him out...so you’re cognisant of all those things and you try to manage it the best that you can...Matthew was great about it. He understood...these guys all want to play, and that’s the best thing about it. I think when you explain to them what my thought process and our thought process as coaches was...they’re totally supportive, and we gotta still have a really good week of preperation. This isn’t like a preseason game...we gotta take steps in the right direction.”
The coach expresses that whether a player plays or not, they all need to be ready to go for the upcoming wild card round all the same. How has this team gone from a 3-6 record to winning six games since their bye week while clinching a playoff spot?
The head coach praises the foundation of the team and gives credit to players adapting quickly.
“Starts with the veteran leadership, them modeling the way, but I think what they’vde done a great job of is really maturing faster than probably a lot of people thought, other than the people that we have in this building.”
Raheem Morris earlier this year acknowledged that some of the players picked up playing at the NFL level faster than many expected. It’s been really impressive how quickly the rookies and young players have developed. It’s also promising for LA that they’ve shown they can more or less reset the roster and still find success.
“It’s a great example of team football...the first part of the season we may have not been getting the results, but you could see these guys were consistent in their approach.”
Again, this team was 3-6 at one point and their future for this year looked more about preparing for next year. Then LA won six out of seven games, and changed their whole narrative. McVay describes it as a fun journey.
“It hasn’t been perfect...it’s been as much fun as I’ve had in term of the journey that this team’s been on throughout the season.”
He says it’s fun, I find it exhausting! Cheering for your team week in and week out, living and dying by whether your team wins or loses. I have a hard time as a fan, so good thing McVay is the man in charge and and not me.
The head coach is asked if this week is different than other weeks. McVay explains that his main focus is always best decisions for his team, and ultimately winning football games. This week is still about winning football games, but the reality is that no one will remember this game (in theory) as long as LA goes and earns a win (or more) in the playoffs. He again expresses how fun and rewarding this season has been.
“I’ll tell you what was different about it is: In your mind you’re always preparing, after we were able to handle our business against the (New York) Giants, hey it’s gonna take 10 to get in, and that was the focus and concentration, and you knew what a great challenge it was gonna be, and you still wanna do a good job of preparing this week and putting these guys in a position to succeed, but the narrative and the approach does change a little bit. Because of that luxery of knowing that you’ve already punched your ticket, and so, I don’t think you ever want to count on anything else other than what you can control because this league is crazy, I mean you look at it last week there was a lot of things that occurred that led to us punching a ticket, the Niners...end up punching their number one seed. There was a lot of things that went in alignment for this game to be this kind of situation for us, but it was a fun thing...I think the journey that we’ve been on...has made it pretty rewarding for this group, and I’m really proud of them.”
Jourdan Rodrigue asks McVay (I think she or someone asked a simliar question earlier) what allowed McVay to make a decision on which players to start, and or which players to rest. He gives a matter of fact answer.
“What I always try to do, Jordan, is what I think is best.”
The coach follows up and says more, but in the end the coach really just talks about weighing risk vs. reward. Having players rested, and healthy for the playoffs seems more important at the moment than winning this final regular season game.
“What is to be gained? What could potentially be at risk?”
McVay is asked again about his decisions in the 2017-2018 season and the head coach expresses standing by his choices. He also says again that where possible they will try to get players the chance to achieve personal incentives.
“I did still feel like it was the best approach, going back to ‘17, but the main thing I learned is you want to be cognisant of who’s affected by possible things contractually and our their ways of accomoadating that so they’re not penalized for a big picture approach for the team...we’re aware of those things...then you can handle it the right way...the way that a good orgainziation would.”
LA’s coach is questioned about the upcoming Pro Bowl and he won’t share which Rams will be represneinting LA or not (that announcement has since come out), but he does admit that there should be some players representing the team at the upcoming event.
I am guessing McVay and his team would rather still be playing in a different type of Bowl when the Pro Bowl rolls around.
“The guys that do get recognized, I think football’s the greatest team sport that there is, and I think it’s awesome, you know that we do have some guys that will be represented...I think they deserve it and I’m really happy and proud of them but I also think it’s a reflection of their teammates and this team.”
McVay is finally asked about how impressed he is with Stafford, and the head coach/offensive coordinator showers praise on his Super Bowl winning quarterback. He also reflects that he’s lucky to be around a number of players, not just Stafford.
“I think what you just continue to learn is that you’re lucky to be around people like that.”
McVay has been lucky to be around players like Stafford and Donald. I would guess they’d say they are lucky to be around McVay as well. McVay is having fun coaching, and the team must be having fun playing, LA will see how long they can keep the fun going. This season is not a failure regardless of the outcomes of the next two games. However, we still don’t know yet how successful this season has been, and we’re going to be finding out. That is guaranteed.