A new era of Rams football is beginning to take shape, with the franchise formally introducing Sean McVay as its head coach on Friday afternoon.
“It’s a great day for the Los Angeles Rams to be sitting here to announce Sean McVay as our next head coach for the franchise,” Rams C.O.O. and E.V.P. of Football Operations Kevin Demoff said.
“I’m very excited to be here as the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams,” McVay said. “It’s humbling, but I’m excited to get going.”
At just 30 years old — turning 31 on Jan. 24 — McVay instantly becomes the youngest head coach in the history of the NFL. Nevertheless, he’s packed plenty of experience into his eight years in the league, which is part of his appeal. From meeting with numerous consultants — like Hall of Famers Tony Dungy and Bill Polian along with Super Bowl winning head coach Jon Gruden — Demoff said the organization prioritized three characteristics for its next head coach.
“The first, that they be a skilled communicator,” Demoff said. “They could reach today’s players, they could get them to perform at their best, and that they could really set the tone for the organization. The second, an innovate [tactician] — somebody that could play with today’s schemes, that we could make sure that we always had a competitive edge on the field, that we were on the forefront of where the NFL is headed. And I think, finally, for us, it was an energetic presence to help bring this team to where it needs to be.
“I think, when we did our homework, when we talked to a lot of mentors and people around the league,” Demoff continued, “the perfect fit for this job was Sean McVay.”
Demoff, general manager Les Snead, and Rams senior assistant Tony Pastoors were the frontmen on the search, with each coming away particularly impressed with McVay from the time of his first interview last week.
“When he left, I remember Les standing up — he said, ‘That’s going to be a successful head coach. I’m buying stock in Sean McVay,’” Demoff said. “And really, from there, after that first interview, we knew we had our guy.
“It was great to go through the rest of the process to meet a number of terrific coaches — many of whom are becoming head coaches in the NFL right now,” Demoff added. “We felt confident last Wednesday, once we met Sean, that he would be the perfect fit to lead the Los Angeles Rams.”
McVay’s NFL experience began with the Buccaneers as an offensive assistant in 2008 under Gruden. McVay explained Friday his family has a long history with the Grudens that’s continued to this day, as McVay spent the last three years as offensive coordinator in Washington under Jon’s younger brother, Jay. But the history between the two families is a significant part of how McVay was able to break into the NFL just after graduating Miami University in Ohio.
“My grandfather, [former 49ers vice president John McVay], and Jim Gruden Sr., they coached and worked together at Dayton, when my grandfather was a coach there,” the Rams’ head coach said. “So, our family connections go way back. There’s a very familiar comfort level with the Gruden/McVay family connections. That opportunity on that role, in a coaching assistant position opened up and it was one that I was fortunate enough to take advantage of and coach Gruden gave me an opportunity to get on staff and get right into this thing.”
Demoff and Sean McVay also crossed paths in 2008, as the Rams’ C.O.O. was then the Buccaneers’ senior assistant. While the two may not have interacted much that year, McVay still made an impression.
“I’d be lying if I said when I met Sean for the first time that I think he’d be the head coach of the L.A. Rams and here,” Demoff said. “I think the thing that stood out was the passion and the energy. Obviously, you expect that at 22. But it was someone who, even in the small role he had on that coaching staff, stood out to all of us in the organization — just a bright spot.”
While McVay has had plenty of mentors in football — and took time to thank them in his opening statement — Jon Gruden was one of the first he mentioned.
Photographer Jeff Lewis captures all the images from Sean McVay's first day as head coach of the Los Angeles Rams.
“What a great mentor he’s been to me,” McVay said. “He’s a guy that taught me the foundation of what I know about this game, truly taught me to look as the game from a 22-man perspective. You talk about a tireless and consistent and relentless work ethic, he is the standard. He’s something that you always strive to match.”
The Gruden influence from both Jon and Jay are evident on McVay. From the tone in McVay’s voice to the cadence with which he speaks, there’s certainly a resemblance.
“There are times when I close my eyes and hear Jon Gruden,” Demoff said.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff met with Jon Gruden in the pre-draft process for his quarterback camp television show, and he also noted the similarities between Gruden and McVay.
“The way they talk — the way they talk football in particular is very striking,” Goff said. “I think he might get a little tired of that comparison, probably wants to be his own coach. I think he’s got a lot of experience from those guys and a lot of knowledge from those guys, but I think he’s going to have his own twist on everything, as every coach does.”
The relationship between Goff and McVay is one of the most important for the Rams’ success, particularly because McVay will call the Rams' plays. And by all accounts the two hit it off. McVay has received high marks from around the league for his work with quarterback Kirk Cousins in Washington, which Goff noted was a quarterback-friendly system. And so when the club arranged for Goff and McVay to meet and watch film in the interview process, Goff said he came away quite impressed.
“I was able to spend some time with him and it was really, really positive,” Goff said. “I didn’t know at the time who they were going to decide on, but coming out of that meeting, I was like, ‘If they pick him, I’m going to be really excited,’ and ultimately they did.”
For his part, McVay said he sees some similarities in the traits and skill sets of Goff and Cousins.
“When you have a guy that is committed to the process and you see the abilities, which both of these players do have, that’s when you give yourself a chance to have success,” McVay said. “Talking with Les and Kevin — this is a guy that we believe in. We’re encouraged and excited about developing him, and working on achieving some goals together.”
But when it comes to players, McVay didn’t just earn the respect of the Rams’ current quarterback. Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk — known for his strong offensive mind — also played a role in McVay’s hiring with his endorsement.
The franchise’s interviewing contingent asked Faulk to be a part of the process, joining them for dinner with McVay. Faulk told therams.com he went into it skeptical, in part because of McVay’s age.
“I said, ‘Les, I just think it’s hard when you have a young quarterback to put a young playcaller or young head coach in with him,’” Faulk said of his mindset coming in. “That’s just the belief that you have about the game. You’ve been around the game long enough, you know things.
“And then you really get to meet Sean, and you sit down and talk to him, and you hear his passion, you understand kind of the work ethic and how [the climb happened] so fast, because in this business, a lot of things aren’t given to you. Coaches are clawing to get to the top, and for you as a young coach, to rise, you have to do some special things,” Faulk continued. “And so, after dinner I called Les, and I said, ‘Les, I’m a big enough man to tell you when I’m wrong. I think that this could work — that this guy, if you don’t let age hinder you, then this process, it could be a perfect marriage.’”
But for Demoff and Snead, if there was anything that confirmed they had made the right choice, it was the way Washington players reacted upon hearing the news McVay would be departing for L.A.
“But there were a few phone calls that came in, and one of them was DeSean Jackson,” Snead said. “DeAngelo Hall reached out to him. Then, there was a call from Josh Norman, defensive back, reached out to him.”
“The phone calls yesterday speak for themselves and the research we did before, because it’s those 21, 22, 23, 24 year old players — that were once Marshall Faulks — that are buying in to what he’s presenting them and his vision to want those guys to be the best,” Snead later added. “I think that’s what I got form the players.”
It all factors in for why the club believes McVay is primed to be a successful head coach in the NFL. He appears to have the maturity of someone who is beyond his years, and wants to foster a collective environment. Several times, McVay mentioned having a philosophy of “we not me.”
“It’s about figuring out a way to be great communicators on all levels of our organization, everybody working in the same direction,” McVay said. “And that’s when we succeed, everyone feels a part in it, and when we don’t succeed, everybody feels — I’ve got to figure out what I can do within the framework of my role to get it fixed.
“That culture of ‘we’ that you’ll hear us consistently talk about is what’s going to allow us to achieve goals,” McVay added. “‘It’s not about me, it’s about we,’ and our whole entire L.A. Rams organization. That’s kind of what I would hope to embody, and how I would hope to be described.”
And so now the job begins of turning that vision into reality. McVay is already hard at work assembling his coaching staff — Wade Phillips has agreed to terms to become the club’s defensive coordinator, and John Fassel will stay as special teams coordinator — that will create a team that attacks on both sides of the ball, but stays fundamentally sound.
“When we look at what makes up great coaches, we’re looking for leaders, teachers and motivators of men to help develop our players and help them reach their highest potential,” McVay said. “That’s what we feel makes a great coach and that’s what we’re looking for for L.A. Ram coaches.
“But it’s an exciting time to be an L.A. Ram,” McVay continued, “and we can’t wait to go to work, roll our sleeves up and figure out a way to consistently give this fan base and this great city of L.A. a winner and a team that they can be proud of week-in and week-out.”