When Kyle Shanahan interviewed Sean McVay to be an offensive quality control coach for Washington several years ago, the two hadn't previously met.
Shanahan said he was familiar with McVay's background because it was similar to his own. Jon Gruden had hired Shanahan as an offensive quality control coach for the Buccaneers in 2004, and he'd spent two years in the role. Fresh out of college at Miami of Ohio, McVay spent the 2008 season under Gruden as an offensive quality control coach in Tampa Bay.
And while McVay was young, it didn't take long for him to impress a fellow young, bright offensive mind in Shanahan.
"As soon as I got him in on an interview, I could tell within about five minutes that he was going to be a very good coach," Shanahan said on a conference call with L.A. media on Tuesday. "He was exactly what I wanted and he reminded me exactly how I was after two years with Gruden. He knew it all, he was very into his Xs and Os part and I always enjoyed him as a person. After our second year we made him the tight ends coach, and we had four good years there together. And I consider him a good friend."
"I remember it very well," McVay said of the same interview on Tuesday. "I think it was a comfortable rapport that we had right away because you're talking about football and there were some similarities in terms of our background, both having worked with Jon Gruden as a quality control coach, so we were able to speak the same verbiage right away. It worked out and it was a great experience working for him."
Shanahan said he was always impressed with McVay's work ethic, noticing early on McVay would always do his work thoroughly without taking shortcuts.
"Sean, when he was the quality control, just in terms of breaking down the film, in terms of drawing all the plays that we would have him do, Sean would grind," Shanahan said. "He'll work at everything. He takes it very personally if he makes a mistake, so he's going to always try not to. He puts a lot of pride in his work and those are the kind of guys that you trust to do their job."
"He was always in charge of our tight ends, but I gave him a big responsibility in the red zone and Sean would work, he doesn't cut corners and those are the type of guys that I trust," Shanahan added. "If you've got guys that you know are going to work just as hard as you, they're not going to cut any corners and they're trying to find the best thing to help the team, then those are guys you feel confident giving responsibilities too."
Offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur worked with both men in Washington as the quarterbacks coach and then with Shanahan in Atlanta in the same role. He described both Shanahan and McVay as fiery leaders, but men who have different ways of getting their points across.
Check out photos from practice prior to this week's matchup against the San Francisco 49ers.
"First and foremost, both those guys are extremely detailed and two of the most knowledge football minds that I've been around," LaFleur said. "They're a little bit different personality wise, but again, when it comes down to football, both two of the brighter minds that I've ever been around and I feel pretty fortunate that I was able to learn from those guys."
As the Rams and 49ers square off on Thursday Night Football this week, there's an interesting wrinkle to preparation because of Shanahan and McVay's similar background.
"It looks very similar to what we do schematically," Shanahan said. "Our schemes have, I really feel like we have started in very similar spots. He might have a little bit more Gruden in him and I might have a little bit more older Denver Broncos and things in me when it comes to the run game and everything, but when you turn on the tape, it's very similar. Sean's doing a good job and I knew he would. They've got some good coaches there and it's – I know they're going to get better each week."
And while the men consider themselves friends and there's a clear mutual respect, Thursday night will be all about competition.
"As a person, I think he's a great guy," McVay said. "He's one of my closest friends where you get to know him and really, just have enjoyed spending time with him, getting to know what's important to him as far as the family, the football, he's a great dad, great husband, all those different things.
"I think it's always fun when you go against people that you know," McVay added, "but it's about trying to put our players in good spots, making sure that we're smart and sound with the schemes that we're implementing. I think there's a competitiveness that comes into play. You look at some of the things from last week's game and then leading into it, it makes it fun. But, really once that things kicks off, it's just another game and we have got to try to do a good job of coming away with the win."