It's 10:55 a.m. on April 20 — the day of the NFL's schedule release. The entire 17-week, 256-game slate is set to be announced at 5 o'clock pacific on NFL Network. But in five minutes, NFL senior director of broadcasting, Michael North, is expected to call the Rams' brass to inform the club of its 16-game schedule.
The draft room at the Rams facility has been turned into a makeshift schedule center. Two of the four big-screen televisions at the front of the room are tuned to a program allowing the club to fill in the blanks for each week's opponent, location, day, and time. A third has a graphic listing all the Rams opponents — home and away. And a fourth has USC's schedule to see when there will be any back-to-back games at the shared Coliseum.
At this point, general manager Les Snead and head coach Sean McVay enter and stand up front. Rams C.O.O. and EVP of football operations Kevin Demoff takes his seat by the phone, waiting for North to call. Senior assistant Tony Pastoors sits beside Demoff, ready to fill in each game from the program on his laptop, which is connected to the two screens in the front of the room. And Rams director of operations, Bruce Warwick, sits a few seats away, noting the date and location of each away game in particular. He's got the hardest job once the schedule comes out — securing travel and lodging for all of the team's away trips.
As the clock strikes 11, McVay and Snead chat in front of the TVs, discussing what really constitutes a good schedule. They appear to come to the conclusion that the best thing is to get into a rhythm week-to-week. Whatever brings the club that consistency, Snead and McVay agree, that's what they want.
"What time does this 11 o'clock meeting start?" McVay asks the room at 11:02.
The answer is apparently 11:05, as that's when the phone rings. Demoff answers — "Greetings, Mike!" — and lets North know he's on speaker with the head coach and GM of the L.A. Rams.
North wishes the room good morning, prompting Snead to quip, "Time will tell how good it is."
The men exchange pleasantries, with North saying he has about four more teams left to call, and then he'll call the TV network partners before the public finds out the schedule in a few hours.
And then it's time to begin.
"The Los Angeles Rams will open the season on Sunday, September 10, at home against the Indianapolis Colts," North announces.
The room nods, and there's a "Nice" or two at the news of beginning the season with a home game. But North gets right back to it.
"The following week — home on Sunday, September 17 against the Washington Redskins," North says.
"That's exciting," McVay says upon hearing the news. The Rams head coach, of course, spent 2010-2016 coaching with the franchise. "That'll be a good game, man. Looking forward to that."
"Four days later, Thursday, September 21, on the road at the San Francisco 49ers. That'll be part of our Thursday Night Football package — 5:25 p.m. pacific time on the NFL Network," North says.
"An early Thursday night game," Snead remarks.
And on it goes, with the head coach and GM making periodic comments on the schedule. For instance, when North says the league fit Los Angeles' matchup at Jacksonville in the four o'clock Eastern window, Snead chimes in with, "Mike, that should be the rule." He means for West Coast teams playing on the other side of the country. "Can't y'all have an algorithm to figure that out?"
"We are well aware of the western teams' preference for later starts," North wryly replies.
The Rams had requested the matchup in Jacksonville come before the London trip to ease the travel burden. The club will likely spend time in Florida before heading across the Atlantic to play Arizona at Twickenham Stadium.
But then it becomes a game to start naming all the contests. Week 2 is retroactively called, "The McVay Bowl." Week 10 against Houston, "The Wade Phillips Bowl."
"Does every game have a nickname?" North asks.
"Keep rolling — we'll tell you," McVay says back.
Once North reaches Week 14 — versus the Eagles at home — Demoff says, "It looks like your computer algorithm has re-figured out to send us to Seattle at the end of the year." And he's right — the 2017 season will mark the eighth year in a row the Rams have played at Seattle in the last four weeks of the season.
"Week 15, Sunday, December 17, on the road at Seattle," North announces.
That means it's Tennessee for Christmas Eve and then back home to finish off the year against the 49ers on New Year's Eve.
"That's good," McVay says, as the group in the room assess the schedule. "There's really no terrible turnarounds."
The whole process takes about 13 minutes before North hangs up to move on to the next team.
"Coach McVay, you get to open up at home," Demoff says.
"I like it," McVay replies. "It'll be great."
Check out the Los Angeles Rams 2017 opponents and matchups.