The Sean McVay Soap Opera did not run for a second week.
Saturday the Los Angeles Rams announced that McVay had committed to returning as head coach after a week of speculation on his future and an insightful – and unprecedented – press conference where McVay explained his thought process.
Before Super Wild Card Saturday, NFL on Fox commentator Jay Glazer said he had talked to McVay and just so coincidentally McVay had given him a quote to tell the NFL world.
“I wanted to take some time to really know I could restore and renew the passion and zest I need after leaning on family and friends and taking time to reflect it became clear to me. I don’t want to run away from adversity, I want to run through it.”
This quote sounds like it was written by a PR firm, or Glazer himself (trust me, media people put words in people’s mouths all the time to make them sound good), but it gets the point across. McVay is coming back to the sidelines.
McVay is going to get a little bit more cash from the Rams now, but can he win this team back? Here are the things he needs to do.
Win The Press Conference
It’s only a matter of time before McVay has to face the assembled media again and talk about his decision to return. Glazer can’t feed him the quote then.
McVay’s honesty throughout this ordeal has been refreshing. This is really how smart, determined people make decisions. They analyze. They think. McVay recognized that his decision would impact his family, it would impact his assistant coaches and his obviously everyone on the Rams.
This is where it gets hard.
Any sign of weakness, or a lack of commitment by one of your leaders can have detrimental effects on your NFL franchise.
Everyone in the NFL is good. We just saw that again in the playoffs this past weekend, with four close games out of five.
What separates the loser from the winner is that belief in one another and the support system around you. NFL players need to believe that the play coming in from the head coach on fourth-and-one is going to work. The Rams need to believe that McVay is in this for the long haul.
Do they now? Sunday Twitter briefly caught fire when Aaron Donald changed his bio to former Ram (he changed it back). Was that a shot at McVay?
McVay has to have another press conference – it’s going to happen sooner or later and sooner is better – to answer questions and affirm his commitment to the Rams.
Mix Up The Staff
If McVay is going to stay the lead voice in the Rams locker room, that’s fine, but that doesn’t mean that the players couldn’t use some new direction in their position groups.
Messages get stale over time, that’s why you usually see a churn of NFL assistant coaches every year. It’s because NFL players – just like you and me – respond to different learning methods. Some learn from doing out on the practice field. Some learn from watching film, others through verbal exultation.
Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris may have one foot out the door already, depending on how he does in his head coaching interviews. Hey, former Rams DC Brandon Staley could be looking for work after the Chargers collapse Saturday night. And, Kliff Kingsbury anyone?
Perhaps one thing McVay learned through his ‘beautiful torment’ is that he needs to shift into more of a CEO role as head coach and let his assistant coaches do more of the work. Bringing in fresh faces on the staff, and experienced ones, serves two purposes, it can free McVay and can also give his team someone new to respond to.
McVay is clearly loyal to his players, especially after they won a Super Bowl for him last year, but at some point if they aren’t producing on the field you have to make the decision to move on.
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford made it clear that he plans on returning to the field next season even after a disappointing year and a spinal cord injury that caused him to miss the last half of the year.
But McVay has to recognize that if Stafford can no longer perform at a high level then the Rams need to find an alternative.
I’m not saying Stafford is bad or think he’s going to be bad in 2023, but there were some Rams who underperformed in 2022 and McVay can’t be blinded by the Super Bowl rings they earned together. It’s about winning a Super Bowl and being in contention now.
Could you turn the quarterback job into a two-man competition between Stafford and Baker Mayfield in the pre-season? Mayfield may be moving on, but the market for him may not be great (I still say Houston is perfect for him). Competition is the way to make that happen.
It’s a tired narrative that the Rams don’t have draft picks and can’t be good again in 2023. They can. The NFL is the greatest league in the world where teams rise up every year out of the ashes. If the Rams can fix their offensive line, get a couple of starters in the draft, they’ll be right back in it.
McVay said (maybe) that he wants to run through adversity, and a big part of it will be letting go of the past. That’s the best way for the Rams to ensure a brighter future.