A 30-year-old is in strong running for Rams' head coaching job

NFL columnist
Yahoo Sports US

Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay has emerged as a leading candidate in the Los Angeles Rams’ search for their next head coach, two sources told Yahoo Sports.

The Rams have yet to meet with Atlanta Falcons assistant Kyle Shanahan and are beginning to pare down an expansive list of contenders, but the sources said McVay, who is 30, had an extremely impressive interview last week and moved ahead of some more experienced names on the docket.

McVay would be the youngest coach in NFL history if he were to land the job, breaking a mark set by Lane Kiffin who was named head coach of the Oakland Raiders in January of 2007, four months shy of his 32nd birthday.

Sean McVay has interviewed for the head coaching openings for the Rams and Niners. (AP)
Sean McVay has interviewed for the head coaching openings for the Rams and Niners. (AP)

But for McVay, landing the job would mean beating a deep pool of competitors. Thus far, the Rams have held court with a multitude of NFL assistants who are considered worthy of head coach consideration. Among them: the New England Patriots’ offensive and defensive coordinators – Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia – Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn and Carolina Panthers defensive backs coach Steve Wilks. The Rams have also sought permission to interview Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and Houston Texans linebackers coach Mike Vrabel and could continue to expand their list.

The two sources added that coaches currently under contract with other NFL teams have not fallen off the list of consideration, but it has become increasingly unlikely that the Rams would part with draft picks in their pursuit. At least one name that appears to be definitively off the list: ESPN’s Jon Gruden. One source said Gruden spoke with the Rams, but that the former NFL coach was acting in an advisory capacity, offering an “organizational assessment.”

With so many candidates still available, a serious pursuit of McVay by the Rams would likely raise some eyebrows around the NFL. A handful of executives who spoke to Yahoo Sports on Monday night said McVay has a reputation of being one of the bright young minds in the coaching community – but some also added that they believe he was a year or two away from being a serious head coaching candidate.

The reticence appeared to be rooted in three areas. One was McVay’s age (he’ll turn 31 on Jan. 24). Another is his relatively short track record as an NFL coach (he became a full-fledged NFL assistant in 2010 and the Redskins’ coordinator in 2014). And arguably the most pressing: Whether McVay was ready to lead an entire franchise while also building an experienced coaching staff to support him in the effort.

“That’s a big bite at [30 years old],” one executive said. “Recent coaches who have been that young, they clearly weren’t ready for it – situations that seemed to come down to experience issues and maturity issues [with the coaches]. I don’t know [McVay] well enough to say whether that would be a concern. It’s just a lot for anyone, even the most experienced coaches. … My first question to him might be, ‘Tell me who your staff will be.’ Mike Tomlin had a Dick LeBeau in Pittsburgh. Jon [Gruden] had been a head coach for a few years by the time he got to Tampa, but he was still pretty young for that roster. Having Monte Kiffin there was a big advantage for Jon. So that would be my first question for McVay, what kind of experience will be built into the staff.”

QB Kirk Cousins has taken nicely to Sean McVay’s play-calling over the past two seasons. (AP)
QB Kirk Cousins has taken nicely to Sean McVay’s play-calling over the past two seasons. (AP)

Hiring McVay would likely pave the way for the return of general manager Les Snead, as it’s not believed that McVay is one of the candidates who would be granted full personnel power – nor the ability to name his own GM. Ultimately, the marriage of McVay and Snead is a decision that would likely be left up to Rams CEO Kevin Demoff, sources told Yahoo Sports. However, Rams owner Stan Kroenke would have to sign off on the move.

Interestingly, McVay and Demoff have some overlap in their careers. Both were with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2008; Demoff as a senior assistant in the front office and McVay as an assistant wide receivers coach. But that’s not why he landed on the Rams’ coaching list. Instead, McVay plowed onto coaching radar screens across the league in 2014, when he was named the Redskins’ offensive coordinator just prior to his 28th birthday. That made him the youngest coordinator in the NFL and instantly pushed him into the spotlight in the coaching community – much like when McDaniels landed the Patriots’ offensive coordinator position in 2006 at the age of 29.

By 29, McVay was the Redskins’ play-caller. And since then, he has seen significant success. Not only have Washington players raved about him (some even anointing him with the “genius” label), but the results have spoken volumes as well. Most specifically, what McVay has done with quarterback Kirk Cousins. Along with head coach Jay Gruden, it’s McVay who is largely credited with transforming Cousins from a bottom-rung option to a stat-cramming starter. One who will command a franchise quarterback deal should he hit free agency in March. And the Redskins’ offense? It became a yardage-churning monster, also rising in scoring from 26th in 2014 to 10th in 2015 and 12th in 2016.

Along the way, McVay earned a reputation on the staff as being both a film grinder and an astute student of football history. He has already rubbed elbows with more successful football minds than some coaches who are 20 years his senior. McVay has worked for two Super Bowl-winning head coaches – Jon Gruden in 2008 and Mike Shanahan, who hired McVay with the Redskins in 2010.

And of course, there is his family’s football lineage. Most notably his grandfather John McVay, who was a front-office staple for the San Francisco 49ers in the 1980s and 1990s and a winner of five Super Bowl rings during one of the most storied dynasties in NFL history. Given that reality and Sean McVay’s individual coaching success, it should come to no surprise that the 49ers have also interviewed him for their head coaching vacancy and are believed to be giving him serious consideration.

The 49ers are also seriously considering the Falcons’ Kyle Shanahan, among others. Neither the 49ers or Rams have set a deadline on when they’d like to have their coach in place.

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