Sean McVay's first offseason program as the Rams' head coach was over. Surprising the players with a reward for their hard work throughout the offseason, McVay heard roars of an overjoyed team by announcing the end of minicamp a day early.
But meeting with reporters last Thursday, McVay admitted he was still amped from everything that had gone on over the past few months.
"I told my girlfriend last night, I said, "You know I canceled the last day of minicamp and I'm still waking up at freaking 4 in the morning. She says, 'You are…What's wrong with you, spaz?' I said, 'You're right I am,'" McVay recalled with a laugh.
It's been an eventful 2017 for McVay, who was hired as the Rams' 23rd full-time head coach in January. From the day he was introduced, McVay made it clear how much he was looking forward to having players back in the building on April 10. And now that the team has dispersed for summer break, the head coach said he was pleased with all that was accomplished over the last 10 weeks.
"The interesting thing about that is you always want to be mindful about having goals, having kind of an emphasis for both the coaches and the players," McVay said. "When you break the offseason program up into three phases, Phase 1 was really, 'Let's establish our identity, and let's learn our systems.' And we felt like we were able to do that. And then Phase 2, when you can actually get onto the field, start to do some drill work, we said, 'It's about improving our technique and mastering our systems.' And then really, Phase 3, when you get out on the football field, when you're going through the OTAs, the minicamps — now we said it's about coming together as a team. And that's competing against each other, making each other better, but all understanding that it's about coming together as a team. And the nice thing about it is we feel like we were able to accomplish that.
"By no means are we where we need to be for what we're striving to accomplish," McVay continued, "but I think in terms of what we were trying to get done in the offseason program, we felt like it was a successful offseason program — came out of it relatively healthy, where the guys that we're really counting on, they're all expected to be ready to roll by the time training camp hits."
McVay's positivity extended to the members of his coaching staff, many of whom have extensive experience. He specifically pointed out defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, assistant head coach/linebackers Joe Barry, special teams coordinator John Fassel, and offensive line coach Aaron Kromer as individuals he leaned o0, being a first time head coach.
"They've kind of help shape the way we've been able to do things and give that advice on, 'Hey, here's how we've seen it done when it's been right,'" McVay said. "That allows you to adjust and tweak things. And I think the players were great, in terms of being coachable — being receptive to some of the new things that we're asking them to do on the offensive and defensive side of the ball, and doing a couple things differently with just the way we meet and practice."
One of the most important aspects of this first offseason program for McVay was beginning to build relationships with the players. The head coach said himself that process is inherently tilted toward the offense, since that's where he spends much of his time teaching the playbook. But McVay made a conscious effort to ensure he was forming bonds the defense, too.
"Anytime that you got 90 players on your roster, you want to make sure that you have that interaction with all of them," McVay said. "I think, as a whole, the guys have done a great job of being receptive, really, not just to me, but to our coaches. But it's an on-going process. I look forward to staying in touch with them, but leaving them alone a little bit over this break and continuing to get to know them as we get back together.
"Just like anything else, that experience helps develop a foundation for those relationships that I think is really important to be able to sustain when you do go through some adversity, which is inevitable in an NFL season," McVay added. "And that's ultimately when you're really tested because things are great right now. Everybody asks, 'How's it going?' I say, 'It's great man. We're still undefeated. We'll see on Week 6.'"
Check out photos from the Los Angeles Rams second minicamp practice. Photos by Hiro Ueno.
So what will the Rams look like midseason? Clearly, it's too early to tell. And that's why McVay is doing his best to alleviate the pressure of expectations from the club.
"It sounds cliché — I think the expectation is that we're just going to continue to try to get better every single day. I know this, in terms of the predictions, things like that, we don't really talk about it. But when you talk about the time, the effort that you put into each week, your expectation is to try to win that game.
"But I think when you look at what's been done in the past, we're optimistic that we're improving as a team. And as long as we're mindful of that, I think if we get better, then we'll give ourselves a chance to compete. And that's what we expect to do."
Before any 2017 on-field success, McVay and the Rams have a much needed break. The head coach said he will unplug by going on a couple of trips. But because he loves football, his mind will never be too far away from the game.
"It will be nice to get away and then kind of just work on football a couple hours every now and then, and that's what I'm looking forward to," McVay said. "And being able to live out here and kind of enjoy the area is really nice too because you feel like you're living on vacation."
Check out photos from the Los Angeles Rams Fundamental Football Camp presented by Cedars Sinai at Redondo Union High School.