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NFL Combine Notebook: Gruden Praises McVay, Looks Forward to Rams' Matchup

The 2018 NFL Combine's on-field action won't officially kick off until Friday, but there was still plenty of excitement surrounding Wednesday's media sessions.

NFL coaches and general managers from across the league's 32 clubs took to the podium, leading up to one of the biggest offseason weeks in pro football. Here are a few notes from Day 1:

1) Gruden Sounds Off on Facing His Mentee

Having serious flashbacks to the 2008 Combine? You are not alone. Jon Gruden made his grand return to the annual event on Wednesday — this time as the new head coach of the Raiders.

The last time Gruden attended the Combine as a coach was in 2008, as the leader of the Buccaneers. Also on his coaching staff at the time was Rams head coach Sean McVay, who served as an offensive assistant.

Gruden hired McVay right out of college and became one of the coach's most promising pupils. As McVay worked his way up the NFL coaching ladder and onto the Rams, many outside of the building have referred to him as a "Mini Gruden" — known for his bright offensive mind and football IQ.

This season, McVay led the Rams to 11 wins and their first division title since 2003.

"His first season, Coach of the Year — I mean you can't do much better than that," Gruden said Wednesday. "He turned that franchise around. He energized them, got the young quarterback to play well, [running back Todd] Gurley had a fantastic season and the offensive line stayed healthy."

Looking forward to the 2018 season, mentor will square off against mentee when the Rams take on the Raiders in Oakland. And while McVay said he "hates the fact that we'll have to go against him next year," Gruden is highly anticipating the matchup.

"I think everything he did, everything he touched worked," Gruden said. "It's a great credit to him and I'm looking forward to competing with him for sure."

2) The Middle Seat Diaries: Baker Mayfield Edition

It's a commonly accepted fact that no one prefers the middle seat on a crowded airplane. But on Tuesday, former Oklahoma quarterback and Heisman Trophy Winner Baker Mayfield braved the middle seat, all for the chance to sit next to McVay on the flight to Indianapolis.

While there is no reason to speculate that the Rams are interested in bringing Mayfield onto their roster, McVay did say the two got the chance to talk quite a bit about along the way.  McVay first met the college football standout in Minnesota at the Super Bowl, and had plenty to say about the quarterback's abilities. 

"He's got a presence and a swag that I respect, in terms of just a competitor," McVay said. "You can see he's a likable guy. I bet his teammates love him. Comfortable swag where it's not a cockiness, it's just a confidence and I enjoyed it."

"I don't know what I can really say what we talked about if I'm going to get myself in trouble," he continued. "But it was fun. He's a likable guy."

Check out photos of Los Angeles Rams players at the NFL Combine through the years. (Credit: Associated Press)

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