One year after making their return home following 21 seasons in St. Louis, the Los Angeles Rams have turned a new page in their lengthy history. That came with the hiring of Sean McVay, who became the youngest head coach in modern NFL history when the Rams announced the move on January 12.
McVay, who turned 31 just 12 days after being hired, takes over a franchise that finished with a miserable 4-12 record in 2016. That was simply the latest example of a downtrodden franchise that hasn’t had a winning season since 2003, with their best efforts being a pair of 8-8 seasons in 2004 and 2006. The run of misery is the longest in the 80-year history of a team with roots dating back to Cleveland.
In contrast, the NFL legacy of McVay only goes back to 2010, when he was named assistant tight ends coach for the Washington Redskins. Within four years, he was elevated to the position of offensive coordinator, with the Redskins moving from 25th in the league for yards-per-game to the third spot this past season. That success is badly needed in Los Angeles, where the Rams finished last in points scored, managing to average just two touchdowns every game.
During his time in Washington, McVay was given the credit for developing Kirk Cousins into a starting quarterback who could cash in when free agency begins next month. The hope of the Rams braintrust is that McVay will be able to work the same type of magic with quarterback Jared Goff, who went through the usual rookie growing pains.
McVay has already made inroads in connecting with the front office staff, throwing a pizza party for them on January 30. That ability to connect with people and McVay’s youthful energy that will require countless hours of work offers the Rams the opportunity to develop a coach that ends up leaving a long legacy.
When it comes to the Los Angeles defense, they were able to put up average numbers during 2016 and should improve next season, primarily due to the arrival of longtime assistant coach Wade Phillips.
Still, the Ram offensive line needs plenty of work and there's little depth when it comes to skill positions. Plus, they don’t have a first-round pick this year due to the deal that allowed the team to draft Goff last year. They will have to wait until the 37th pick to make their first selection.
McVay has family roots in the NFL, with his grandfather, John, having served as head coach of the New York Giants and as personnel executive with the San Francisco 49ers during their glory years.
The positive start of McVay allows him a grace period and avoids comparisons to the person he replaced as the youngest-ever coach: the largely-reviled Lane Kiffin. Another head coach who once held that title, Don Shula, will keep an eye on the Rams because McVay hired Shula's grandson, Chris, as a defensive coach.