Sean McVay’s Biggest Coaching Challenge Yet

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As the season draws to a close for the reigning Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams, the gap between offense and defense is becoming more and more apparent. One side, laden with veterans, spews fire. The other, crippled by trauma, has no answers. It’s like there are two teams in the same dressing room, and head coach Sean McVeigh seems to understand that.

“There aren’t many positives you can take away from this” McVeigh said following last Sunday’s loss to the Arizona Cardinals, this is the team’s third loss in a row. I don’t know what those answers are.

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It’s surprising to hear McVeigh admit that he doesn’t have a solution to his team’s problems, especially their offense problems. The Rams have lost five of their last six games and are in last place in the NFC West with just one win over a division rival this season. But what worries me the most is the gap between McVeigh’s offense and defense, and that gap comes out in public.

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Just listen Jalen Ramsey. The veteran cornerback has never been shy, but it shows that he’s boldly critical of his team’s offensive coaches, like after the Rams’ loss to the Bucks earlier this month, when the Los Angeles defense seemed would have postponed the game until the attack went to three or more. -out and gave Tom Brady and Tampa Bay one more possession to win the game. “We shouldn’t go to the touchline after such a big stoppage when our coaches tell us, ‘We need you again,'” Ramsey said. “What the hell? We made a big stop. Fall turnover. [With] a minute and a little change left. … We need dogs.”

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Sure, it’s too late to save this season – the Rams have a 6.9% playoff chance, according to FanDuel – but now it’s worth analyzing what went wrong, especially in the last month that the Rams have fallen out of contention. to determine how the Rams can mend their differences and turn back into a championship contender. Let’s look at McVeigh’s crime first.

McVeigh’s claim to fame as he soared through the ranks was due to his offensive creativity. He was regarded as a visionary with the ability to plan for the future and was praised as a genius game planner, a reputation that lasted until he coached the Rams against Bill Belichick in Super Bowl III. It was then that KOZU attacked McVeigh. Belichick’s defensive schemes force opponents to change their tendencies by taking away the first and second options from them. Essentially, force the team to play left-handed. Flexibility becomes a problem if the opponent’s coach is not agile enough. McVeigh and Jared Goff’s attack were out that day, and the Rams lost despite the Patriots only having 13 points. McVeigh’s attack looked helpless because he was unwilling or unable to adapt once Belichick lost his Plan A.

In many ways, this game was a learning experience for the young coach, and in later years we saw a different, more aggressive version of McVeigh. Especially in 2021, when he overhauled the offense by swapping Goff for quarterback Matthew Stafford.

McVeigh’s problem now is that with the offensive unit destroyed, he has to rely on his creativity and flexibility, and he couldn’t. What we saw last week against the Cardinals was a tough offensive approach that was not unlike how McVeigh trained in a Super Bowl loss almost four years ago.

The Rams’ first 15 games against Arizona looked relatively decent in the script, and they drove down the field in 14 games for 57 yards that ended in a field goal. As soon as the script was completed, the offensive production began. The Rams’ next 10 possessions included five punts (three of those three-and-outs), two passes (one fumble, which was recovered at the Rams’ 30-yard line, and an interception of filling quarterback John Woolford, who was returned 25- Rams yard line). The Rams scored two touchdowns (one drive with an assist from JJ Watt’s two penalties; another in trash time, 17 points behind). (The remaining possession of the ball was kneeling for the remainder of the first half.)

It can be argued that McVeigh was missing a rib during the game and Stafford was suspended from the game while on concussion protocol. But let’s be honest: Woolford’s performance was eerily similar to Stafford’s entire season. Offensive struggles—the inability to run, block, and defend the pass, and the non-existent running game—are independent of who is under the post. Stafford is likely to return this week against the Saints, but the other most important offensive player, wide receiver Cooper Kupp, won’t. Kupp was placed on injured reserve earlier this week after suffering an ankle injury against Arizona.

The loss of Kupp is a devastating blow to an offense lacking top-notch talent elsewhere. Kupp was McVeigh’s only correct answer this season. And even with Kupp, the attack remained a shell of itself: after 10 weeks, the Rams rating 30th in total EPA offensively, 30th in scoring, 32nd in yards, and 27th in turnovers.. There are turnovers. But the context of the Rams’ losses is especially detrimental to the Rams’ defense.

The team is committed 15 turns This season, the opponents have turned those mistakes into 50 points. Seven of the Rams’ passes ended up in their own territory (including both last week’s losses, a strip sack and a Wolford interception). This is a seemingly impossible situation to put up a defense.

Los Angeles is currently fourth in red zone defense; they just give up 22.2 points per game and are fourth in yards allowed, although this includes points given directly by hitters or special teams—off Stafford’s two pick sixes, Stafford’s fumble, which was returned for a touchdown against Dallas, and the blocked punt, which was returned for the score against the Falcons. They currently have the fourth-best defense in the NFL with only 96.1 yards per game.

Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, who earned a lot of praise for his performance last year – his first season with McVeigh – has received his fair share of criticism this season as the Rams’ defensive performance has declined. The Rams put pressure on 5.5% shots this season compared to 7.2%. in the past regular season, and they especially lack the constant pressure from the rim to complement defensive superstar Aaron Donald’s offense. Donald has only five sacks this season, and only one in the Rams’ last four games.

However, a mid-range defensive unit (Los Angeles is currently ranked 15th in the DVOA Football Outsiders) with above-average players like Donald and Ramsey should keep the Rams in a lot of games. The problem is that this one side of the ball is being asked to do everything. And yet the Rams defense seems poised to continue to bear the uneven burden. Linebacker Bobby Wagner said it had to be in defense to increase the losses. as well as glasses. Giving up is not an option.

“That’s not my mentality. The season is not over. I am a fighter.” Wagner said when asked the “anything that could go wrong” question following Sunday’s loss. “We have games left … It’s up to us to decide whether we continue to play and create positive moments.”

As for Morris, his players have his back.

“Rah fire” Ramsey said repeatedly in defense of the Morris zone scheme last week. “The fact that he’s not a head coach somewhere is a blessing for us.”

Morris has an open door policy that even attackers use when seeking advice on how to attack certain images. This approach works, Ramsey said. “He can tell them flawlessly not only in his own language, but also in our language,” Ramsey said.

This is the reality of the Rams: two different divisions in the same dressing room. No immediate relief is expected this season. Where are the Rams and, in particular, McVeigh going next? McVeigh took time after the Super Bowl to consider his coaching future. Still the youngest head coach in the NFL at 36, he’s not thrilled with the idea of ​​coaching longevity and told reporters earlier this year that he’s not aiming for a multi-year career like Belichick or Don Shula. He got married earlier this year and talked about wanting create a family and be a real father.

What else should McVeigh do? McVeigh eventually returned to the Rams and signed an extension in August after reportedly turning down a television deal worth about $10 million a year. The long-term question is whether one can be committed to the people, not the process. Especially when this process takes you to deep waters, below 0.500, as is currently the case in Los Angeles.

This season is lost, but can it serve as a starting point for reimagining McVeigh’s offense? Losing Kupp for an extended period of time could have been the push they needed to finally establish a relationship between Stafford and veteran receiver Allen Robinson II, or a chance to experiment with 22 people. Either way, change is coming. McVeigh hinted at this in his very recent News conference. “It gives us the opportunity to learn about a lot of the other guys in this reception area, actually about our offense in general. So you have to look at it through that lens,” McVeigh said.

But are any adjustments enough to rehabilitate this locker room into one cohesive team with one dream and set the stage for 2023? Perhaps this is the biggest problem for McVeigh.


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