WASHINGTON — The Redskins knew offensive coordinator Sean McVay would have opportunities to interview with other NFL teams this offseason, but they were not sure he would leave them this soon.
McVay is the new head coach of the Los Angeles Rams, at age 30 the youngest coach in NFL history. He interviewed with the Rams for a second time this week, according to multiple league sources, and that was as good a sign as any that Los Angeles was serious about McVay, who turns 31 on Jan. 24. He previously interviewed with the San Francisco 49ers.
Los Angeles wasn’t fazed by McVay’s youth or inexperience or that he’s only been an offensive coordinator with play-calling responsibilities for two seasons.
The Rams passed on interviewing one of McVay’s mentors – former Washington offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who now holds that same position with the Atlanta Falcons.
But Shanahan’s situation was complicated. His interview with Los Angeles last weekend was canceled when the Rams’ front office was stuck in Boston thanks to heavy snow. They were there to interview New England Patriots assistant coaches Matt Patricia and Josh McDaniels.
Shanahan still had a game to prepare for this Saturday. His Falcons play the Seattle Seahawks in an NFC divisional playoff and Shanahan told reporters there on Wednesday that he didn’t know when his Rams interview would be rescheduled. Now it won’t be, which is an interesting twist given his history with McVay. Shanahan himself is still just 37.
It became clear that the Rams saw McVay as a viable candidate and were worried about the 49ers poaching him instead. Maybe Shanahan ends up in San Francisco and in the same division as McVay. He interviewed with the 49ers on Jan. 2. McVay interviewed there on Jan. 5.
Ultimately, Los Angeles has to sell its fledgling fan base on a soon-to-be 31-year-old coach who – let’s be honest – hasn’t taken his team deep into the playoffs or to a Super Bowl. That’s not a prerequisite for a hiring, but such accomplishments help when trying to alleviate worries about inexperience.
McVay’s age only works against him in that all coaches need time to develop. McVay will admit as much. Even Redskins coach Jay Gruden had pointed to criticisms of the play calling at times this season – like a dad frustrated with his kids’ grades at school.
Washington wasn’t good in the red zone and too often the past two years has abandoned the running game at the slightest sign of adversity. It also produced the third-most yards in the NFL and McVay was a huge part of that. He wasn’t perfect, but he was good and that didn’t go unnoticed around the league.
Will the Rams be patient? Teams always claim they will be. It doesn’t usually work out that way. Reports that McVay is willing to hire Denver defensive coordinator Wade Phillips surely helped ease any concerns. Phillips is under contract until the end of the month, but has all the experience in the world.
The Broncos just hired Vance Joseph as their new head coach, which leaves the remaining coaches on staff in limbo. McVay also worked with Wade Phillips’ son, Wes, who is the Redskins tight ends coach.
The Rams’ serious interest was understandable. McVay was a hot name even as far back as the NFL Combine in Indianapolis last February. Multiple league sources – agents, coaches and executives – spoke glowingly of McVay. The term “rising star” was used often. They knew of his preparation, his work ethic and his mentors.
McVay is the grandson of former 49ers executive John McVay and received his first professional job in 2008 at age 22 from Jon Gruden with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. McVay has been on staff in Washington since 2010 when he was the assistant tight ends coach. He worked under Mike and Kyle Shanahan and was kept on staff by Jay Gruden in 2014 and given greater responsibility in 2015. The Redskins run Gruden’s offense, but McVay is the primary play caller with input from his head coach.
McVay has plenty to sell. He would be a fresh, energetic face in a huge media market where the Rams struggled to attract an audience in their first year back in Los Angeles. His work with Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins should give confidence that he can help young quarterback Jared Goff develop, too. Goff was the No. 1 pick in last year’s NFL draft and started the final seven games in 2016. McVay has seen what works — and what doesn’t — with young quarterbacks during his time with the Redskins.
All of those things are positives in McVay’s favor. His quarterbacks in Washington, Cousins and Colt McCoy, speak highly of him. They love his demeanor. He isn’t a pushover, even coaching players his age or just a little younger. The Rams just had to decide if they could live with the inevitable growing pains. They could. McVay is a nice choice to grow with as they wait for their gleaming new stadium to be ready for 2019.
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