“Our process is our weekly, our daily, and our hourly rhythm.”
-The refrain of new NFL Head Coach Sean McVay, as he addressed his team during the 2017 NFL offseason.
McVay became the youngest Head Coach in NFL history when he was hired to the Los Angeles Rams in January 2017. Only 30 years old, McVay had reached the pinnacle of football achievement. A new challenge now awaited him: commanding the respect of players and coaches who were his elders.
In a sport where age often predetermines outside perception of one’s ability, McVay proved that age was just a number. In the 2017 offseason, McVay successfully lobbied Wade Phillips, one of football’s defensive legends, to coach his team at the ripe age of 70. A coach more than twice McVay’s senior agreed to work underneath McVay in all aspects.
Additionally, McVay was instrumental in convincing Linebacker Connor Barwin (32) and Tackle Andrew Whitworth (35) to join the team in Free Agency during the 2017 offseason. These players had been in the NFL since McVay was a freshman in college, yet believed in McVay’s offensive scheme, coaching philosophy, and lifestyle habits were enough to put their bodies on the line for him.
The Success-Mindset of Coach Sean McVey
Evidently, McVay possesses qualities that compel those around him to look past his young age. So, what is it that makes McVay so magnetic?
Early Morning Routines
McVay espouses extreme discipline with his daily habits. He begins exercising his habits early in the morning, often arriving to his training facility at 4:00 AM. The duties of an NFL Head Coach are extensive and demanding, requiring McVay to work long hours with little time for rest between weekly bouts of travel. In a video expose by Sports Illustrated, McVay consistently left work at 6:00 PM during Summer Training Camp.
Such taxing hours require sacrifices of McVay’s leisure activities, like viewing East Coast NBA basketball games. Those sacrifices pay off, however, as McVay’s morning hours produce instructional analyses of the previous year’s Superbowl, and motivational thoughts to amplify the engagement level of his players.
A Unique Approach
Long-time NFL manager Charlie Casserly puts it best:
“If you can make me better, I’m gonna listen to you. If you’re not going to make me better, then I’m not. I don’t care how old you are!”
And Sean McVay is making his players better. The LA Rams are 6-2 and currently in 1st place in the NFC West. Quarterback Jared Goff, the 1st overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft, has ascended from “bust” status to lead the highest-ranked offense in the NFL.
McVay’s approach with Goff has worked wonders for his young quarterback. McVay simplifies his quarterback’s “reads,” i.e. the quarterback’s decision making process during a play. If the quarterback sees the nickel corner drop into coverage? Turn his head and look at the other side of the field. There will be one less defender on the left than on the right. With tactics like these, McVay gives his quarterback a simpler palate of decisions to make. Like any good leader, McVay delegates a responsibility in a way his employees can handle.
The same approach worked for Quarterback Kick Cousins of the Washington Redskins. Under McVay’s tutelage and offensive scheme, Cousins established himself as a Washington’s Franchise player, earning himself a franchise tag worth 22 million dollars. As both an offensive coordinator for Washington and a Head Coach for Los Angeles, McVay put his most important player in a position to succeed. And when your players succeed, you win.
Visionary, yet Disciplined
McVay’s arrival in Los Angeles triggered a dramatic organizational culture change. On Day One of team meetings, McVay introduced core philosophies that defined how coaches and players should act. On Day Two, he quizzed them on it. For the Rams, proper professional mindset is not an option. McVay has fined players for being one second late to meetings. He instituted and upheld an unwavering standards of excellence and perfection. “The Standard is the Standard.” Mantra of coaching legend John Wooden and pillar to millennial superstar Sean McVay.
And you know what? The players and coaches have bought in. While speaking to the media, various players have ubiquitously praised McVay, favorably juxtaposing his organizational goals with those of former Head Coach Jeff Fisher. For that reason, players have been “standing up a little straighter” in this regime. But they are glad to hold each other to consistent rules, as it eliminates wasted time during practice and in weekly preparation, which puts players in the best position to succeed. And when your players succeed, you win.
Where is he now?
The Rams are fresh off a road victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars and are currently sitting atop the NFC West with a record of 7-2. McVay’s Rams contrast starkly, both aesthetically and statistically, with past iterations, inspiring hope in the hearts of LA citizens. Parents of a prodigal team* may now weep that the child hath returned**.
*Context: The Rams played in LA for around fifty years, then moved to St. Louis in the nineties, and is now playing their second season back in LA. Like the Biblical parable, the Rams have returned to their true home.
**As a Seattle Seahawks fan, I worry that McVay is more than a flash in the pan. He’s finally getting the most out of a talented roster that had under-performed for years. If they keep this up and win the NFC West, my friend Josh would never let me hear the end of it. Go Hawks!
To read an awesome article with more anecdotes, click here.