Sean McVay promotes Chris Shula to defensive coordinator; Giff Smith joining staff

Los Angeles Rams linebackers/pass rush coordinator Chris Shula, left, is seen on the sidelines.
Rams linebackers/pass rush coordinator Chris Shula, left, stands on the sideline next to defensive coordinator Raheem Morris during a game at SoFi Stadium on Dec. 3. Shula is taking over for Morris at defensive coordinator. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Sean McVay is breaking from tradition.

For the first time since he became the Rams’ coach in 2017, McVay is staying in house and promoting a defensive coordinator from within.

McVay is hiring longtime assistant Chris Shula to succeed Raheem Morris, a person with knowledge of the situation said Thursday.

Shula, 37, this past season coached linebackers and also was pass-rush coordinator. He also has coached defensive backs and outside linebackers.

Shula, the grandson of legendary NFL coach Don Shula, was college teammates with McVay at Miami, Ohio.

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Shula becomes the fourth defensive coordinator to work with McVay. Wade Phillips oversaw the defense from 2017 to 2019. Brandon Staley held the job for one season in 2020 before he was hired to coach the Chargers. Morris succeeded Staley and was with the Rams for three seasons before he was hired last month to coach the Atlanta Falcons.

Before selecting Shula, McVay reportedly interviewed Staley, who was fired by the Chargers, and defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant. Shula reportedly had been scheduled to interview with the Dolphins about their defensive coordinator position.

The promotion of Shula is the latest of several moves that have affected the Rams’ coaching staff.

Morris hired quarterbacks coach Zac Robinson to be the Falcons’ offensive coordinator. He also hired assistant head coach Jimmy Lake to be defensive coordinator.

The New England Patriots hired assistant special teams coach Jeremy Springer to be their special teams coordinator.

Giff Smith joining Rams' staff

McVay plans to hire former Chargers assistant Giff Smith as defensive line coach, a person with knowledge of the situation not authorized to speak publicly said Friday.

Smith will replace Eric Henderson, who left to become USC’s co-defensive coordinator.

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Smith, 55, coached Chargers outside linebackers the last two seasons, and served as the interim coach for the final three games after Brandon Staley was fired. Smith coached the Chargers defensive line from 2016 to 2021, and previously coached the defensive line for the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans.

Aaron Donald, a three-time NFL defensive player of the year, leads a Rams position group that also includes nose tackle Kobie Turner, who had nine sacks as a rookie. Bobby Brown III, Larell Murchison, Desjuan Johnson and Jonah Williams are the other linemen.

Donald, a 10-year veteran, is scheduled to carry a salary-cap number of $34.2- million this season, according to Donald, who hinted at retirement after the 2021 season, said after the Rams’ wild-card loss to the Detroit Lions that he would return next season.

Following that playoff defeat, Henderson left for USC, and defensive coordinator Raheem Morris was hired to become coach of the Atlanta Falcons.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.