How Much Blame Does Sean McVay Deserve For The Rams Down Year?

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It’s about to be Black Monday in the NFL.

Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay won’t get fired, but does he at least deserve more criticism?

Black Monday is the term used for the Monday after the last day of the regular season when multiple head coaches – some you see coming, some you don’t – get fired/released or “make a mutual decision” not to return to the sidelines. (That’s code for we fired him, but we’re being nice).

For sure, there will be some coaches let go on Monday. Kliff Kingsbury is a dead man walking with the Cardinals (once there’s a big story saying you might quit, it’s all over). There also may be changes in Houston (Lovie Smith), Indianapolis (Jeff Saturday)…maybe Washington (Ron Rivera)?

Mike Vrabel and the Tennessee Titans are sinking, and I am curious to see about the Dolphins and this collapse and first-year coach Mike McDaniel. He’s probably safe, but you never know. The Dolphins are the 2021 Cardinals, hot start, then epic collapse.

And then there is a bunch you just won’t see coming. If Dallas (Mike McCarthy) fades in the playoffs, don’t they have to make a move? Has John Harbaugh outlived his time in Baltimore?

I have another one, would Andy Reid retire if the Chiefs win the Super Bowl?

When I was watching the Rams go through the motions against the Chargers Sunday, it made me wonder, why is McVay getting a pass here? The Rams are going to finish with the worst record for a defending Super Bowl champion ever with a loss to Seattle. This isn’t just bad. This is historically bad.

How much blame should McVay get for the Rams debacle?

Holding McVay Accountable

McVay was hired by the Rams in 2017, one of six new NFL coaches that season. He’s one of three still standing. Kyle Shanahan (Niners) and Sean McDermott (Bills) are the other two. McVay is the only one of the six who has won a Super Bowl.

NFL head coaches are some of most focused, talented people walking planet Earth. They must build a staff of smart leaders for the alpha athletes in the locker room to follow. They, themselves, must be an alpha dog.

McVay, about to turn 37, gets a lot of credit for his enthusiasm, offensive scheme and ability to relate to his players. But I wonder….

Did winning a Super Bowl curtail some of his focus on the job? We can rehash a lot of what went wrong with the Rams this season – and have – injuries are a big part. But every NFL team has injuries. I saw a stat the other day that only two teams started the same offensive line each week this season. So yes, the Rams had injuries, but so did everyone else. The Rams and McVay didn’t handle their injuries well.

There was chatter in February that McVay was being considered for broadcasting jobs by Amazon and ESPN. It’s a natural fit. He’s good-looking and well-spoken. Those stories never get posted unless there’s something to it.

McVay got married in June. I don’t know about you, but being married is certainly a distraction. It changes your focus in a hurry.

Man, We Got Issues

McVay’s offense looked unimaginative for the first time. How many wide receiver screens to Cooper Kupp can one team throw?

That one play…and the pick six interception by Talanoa Hufanga of the Niners in the Monday Night game in Week 4 is the defining moment of the Rams season. Everything went south from there.

I’m not saying the Rams have quit, because they’re NFL players and they have pride and they get paid a lot of money, but it didn’t seem like their hearts were really in it against the Chargers. Tackling was poor, the play calling was iffy. Those are all signs of effort and they were lacking.

Plus the whole Cam Akers thing is just strange. What were the Rams and McVay hoping to prove? Were they really trying to trade him? I guess every NFL player is tradeable, but announcing they wanted to trade Akers rendered his trade value meaningless. Now the last three weeks he has been the best thing about the Rams offense. At the very least, McVay and the Rams mismanaged the Akers situation.

McVay also messed up when Kupp got hurt, throwing him a pass at the end of a game that was lost, and I find the Aaron Donald injury situation curious, because if the Rams were 11-5, wouldn’t Donald be back playing you think? NFL players aren’t dumb. If one player has basically said he’s out for the rest of the season, the other guys don’t have a lot of resolve to jump back in.

McVay Isn’t Going Anywhere….Probably

Just before the season opener against the Bills (a lopsided loss) the Rams announced they had extended the contracts of McVay and GM Les Snead through 2026.

It’s a nice story and everyone says the right thing. “We believe in each other.”

Guess what? On Black Monday, those contracts are just paper about to be put in the shredder – or bought out.

McVay has won 60 games in six years, which is impressive. This is his first losing season as head coach, but in the NFL, things change quickly. This is about to be a crucial off-season for the Rams. They don’t have a lot of tools to use to rebuild the roster and add some depth, but players still want to come play for McVay and the Rams.

The first question is what to do at quarterback. Is Matthew Stafford healthy enough to come back? Do the Rams let Baker Mayfield walk? How can they beef up the offensive line?

McVay has built up enough equity in the Rams that he’ll be fine on Black Monday, unless he makes the decision to move on himself.