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SI - Year 3 For McVAy’s Rams: Lessons from a Loss

August 12, 2019 03:54PM
Don’t know if this has already been posted, but loved reading it!



IRVINE and NAPA, Calif. — Some coaches who lose on the biggest stage go out of their way to confront the defeat in its aftermath. That was how Atlanta’s Dan Quinn handled a Super Bowl loss two years ago. Others go the other way and bury the proverbial game ball. That’s how Bill Belichick handled it last year, and how he’s always handled these kinds of things.

After watching the Rams practice twice in a five-day stretch, I’d say Sean McVay is actually doing neither. He’s not seeking ways to address the loss. He’s not going overboard to avoid it. In fact, if you go back and look at how he handled the Rams’ 2017 playoff ouster, I bet you wouldn’t find much difference. I can tell you the players haven’t.

“It’ll always bother you,” McVay told me after Wednesday’s practice with the Raiders. “I think the biggest thing is, every game, and especially that one, it’s a learning opportunity for us. And we just keep it moving. You don’t shy away from the things that I didn’t do as a coach, and that we didn’t do to get it done. But at the end of the day, you wipe the slate clean, we’ve got to produce in the present, and that’s what we’re focused on every single day.

“To say there’s any sort of lull, or any sort of energy that’s drained as a result of that, I don’t feel it at all. I think there’s an excitement about getting back and attacking the ’19 season. People say, ‘Oh, it’s demoralizing to lose the Super Bowl.’ I told the players this—it’s the best season I’ve ever been a part of. And I obviously didn’t feel great about the way it ended, but I couldn’t be more appreciative of the season.”

Likewise, when I asked GM Les Snead what he’d observed of his coach coming out of the 13-3 loss to New England, he pointed me to something said in the Rams’ building a lot, that he says he stole from Celtics coach Brad Stevens—We surrender the results of the future to our process—to explain handling of it.

“I get what you’re saying, but that was a moment in time,” Snead said. “There’s a result.”

And so as with any other game, McVay was going to take all he could from it. Here, then, are a few lessons he said learned.

Getting a break. McVay spent much of the time in between OTAs and camp this year in Europe—he got engaged over there, too. It’s hard to worry too much about football on the other side of the ocean, especially when you’re planning a life event like that, so McVay tried not to.

Along those lines, if there’s one concern the Rams have about McVay’s future, it’s that he’s so hard charging, his drive might eventually get the best of him. And he’s addressed that. He’s talked about it with one of his mentors, Dick Vermeil (himself a victim of coaching burnout) about staying energized, and he’s tried his best to apply what he’s learned.

“I’m excited about this season,” McVay says. “I think this is as fresh as I’ve felt. It was good to have that break after the offseason, even though it goes a little longer when you’re playing into the Super Bowl, and the offseason was shorter. It was really the first time I was able to decompress and then truly get so excited about getting back with these guys. You’ve got an enthusiasm and an excitement—you’re ready to go.”

Snead added that being in Year 3 with the Rams probably helped McVay—“When OTAs start, it’s a different Sean. There are football players in the building, you can teach and coach them in the classroom, on the grass. There’s really nothing that distracts him. It’s good that he can be intentional about getting downtime versus, OK, ‘let me plan my first training camp.’”

Making the team more adaptable. This is something McVay’s quarterback, Jared Goff, and I discussed back in June—the desire to be able to adjust what you’re doing on the fly better, so you’re ready when a team like New England throws something completely different at you.

“It’s making sure you’ve got contingency plans in place,” McVay said. “I talk to the players about this all the time—let’s train them for capacity, not capability. And what I mean by that is having the ability to solve problems within the framework of the game, not just following instructions. And that’s on me to make sure we’re setting up situations where they can reach their highest capacity and not just be disciplined guys following a certain set of protocols. That’s really a good way of saying what Jared did—be adaptable.”

The Patriots, you’ll remember, used disguise—showing the Rams one look, and getting into another at the snap on defense—to short-circuit the high-flying L.A. offense. So as McVay says, they’re working on building in the capacity to counter such approaches.

Throwing the first punch. This boils down to the respect McVay has for Bill Belichick and his staff, and how they used the two weeks to, in essence, change the locks on how they could be beaten from what they’d been for the four months previous.

“When you’ve played in that game nine of the last 18 years—and what a huge amount of respect I have for them—it’s how that time available enables you to be able to get some different things in, if you feel like they’re within the framework of how to win against the opponent, different than how a normal week lends itself to it,” McVay says. “That’s what separates them. They do a good job on a short notice, being able to adjust and adapt their personalities.”

Then, there’s this from McVay: “It was a good dose of humility, if anything. The thing you realize is this game is very humbling. But I thought it was also an opportunity to be what you expect your players to be. It was a humbling moment. I wish I had done better for our players.”

The 33-year-old has reminded himself, too, that the Rams can’t flip a switch and be back there on the first weekend in February—“It’s not like that.” So he’s going to take his lessons, and hope his players do too, but he won’t have it hanging like a black cloud over his team. And with that approach, it hasn’t been hard for McVay to get buy-in elsewhere in the building.

“The football gods can be good to you sometimes,” said Snead, now tied to McVay with both on deals through 2023. “I’m very fortunate to be able to partner with him, someone as competent as he is, but also someone who is as humble as he is. You can’t ask for a better partner in this business.”

Based on the deal McVay just signed, it’s fair to say a lot of people out there agree.


  SI - Year 3 For McVAy’s Rams: Lessons from a Loss

BeachBoy256August 12, 2019 03:54PM