Thousand Oaks, Calif. - Sean McVay's offensive creativity, and corresponding success as the youngest head coach in the NFL, produced an intriguing – albeit short-lived – trend this offseason.
Eager to replicate those facets, teams with vacancies at that position sought out candidates with similar traits to fill them. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were one of the exceptions, though, as they brought 25-year NFL coaching veteran Bruce Arians out of retirement to lead their club.
Asked about the trend when he was hired in January, Arians told the Arizona Republic "there is only one Sean McVay." Asked about that comment eight months later during a conference call with Rams beat writers this week, Arians said it's his upbringing the people around McVay that have helped McVay be successful.
"When you look at Sean (McVay) and also (49ers Head Coach) Kyle Shanahan, they grew up in the business," Arians said. "They were practicing as kids all the time and they got lucky and got under some really good coaches early in their careers and saw how a team was managed. They have quite (the) offensive minds and they hired really good defensive people."
The Los Angeles Rams return to the Coliseum this Sunday to host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
For McVay, his childhood included watching his grandfather, John, oversee five Super Bowl championship teams in various roles with the San Francisco 49ers from 1979-95, a feat which earned him an induction into the club's hall of fame in 2013. Sean broke into the league working for current Raiders coach Jon Gruden when Gruden was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where Gruden won a Super Bowl in his first season.
Two teams looked to gain some of that wisdom likely passed down from grandfather to grandson earlier this year.
Of the eight new head coaches in 2019, two worked with the younger McVay at some point during their careers. Six of those eight, including the former McVay assistants, are first-time NFL head coaches.
The Bengals' Zac Taylor served an assistant wide receivers coach during McVay's first season with Los Angeles in 2017, then was L.A.'s quarterbacks coach in 2018 before getting hired by Cincinnati. The Packers' Matt LaFluer was McVay's offensive coordinator in 2017 before taking the same position with the Titans in 2018.
As Arians pointed out in the Arizona Republic article, juggling calling plays and overseeing an entire team for the first time presents a challenge for these rookie head coaches. Those coaches have attempted to balance it out that inexperience, as well as their heavy offensive background in some cases, over the last two hiring cycles by bringing in veteran defensive coordinators – or, as the Washington Post recently wrote, a head coach of the defense.
One could make the argument that McVay ahead of the curve, in that sense, when he hired then 41-year NFL coaching vet Wade Phillips away from the Denver Broncos to be his defensive coordinator and retained 2016 interim head coach John Fassel as his special teams coordinator.
"Sean, I think, especially (hired really good defensive people)," Arians said. "He allowed himself to just focus offensively because Wade is handling them and (Special Teams Coordinator John Fassel) 'Bones' handles his special teams."
While growing up around the game of football and having an accomplished coaching staff help set up a young head coach for success, it's also important for them to connect with them.
"He's got a great staff, but I think he has a great rapport with his team, too," Arians said of McVay. "He's got a great feel for his team."