It wasn’t that long ago that Sean McVay was playing quarterback and defensive back for the Marist School and leading the War Eagles to a state 4A title in 2003.
This week, the first-year NFL coach will try to guide the Los Angeles Rams to a victory over the Falcons in the Wild Card round of the NFC playoffs.
Here’s what McVay, who at 30 became the youngest head coach in the history of the NFL on Jan. 12, 2017, had to say about facing the Falcons.
On facing his hometown team: “I think it’s exciting. It’s a great opportunity, specifically because of the amount of respect that I have for coach (Dan) Quinn. He’s a guy that, as soon as I got hired, you just look at the success that he bred with a positive, contagious kind of attitude and guys kind of competing and the way that those guys play hard for him. I immediately reached out to Coach Quinn and got a chance to connect with him when I got a chance to get this job. He’s been so great to me. I think he’s one of the guys that does it as well as anybody in terms of how he leads in an authentic and genuine way. It’s exciting to be able to go against a great team, specifically the NFC defending champs. They are a complete football team. They are playing really well in all three phases. We have a lot of respect for them. We know it’s going to be a great challenge. It’s an awesome opportunity for our organization and for our team to be able to go against an opponent with this type or resume and track record.”
On his grandfather and father: “They were instrumental. I’ve grown up in a football family and it’s never been something that was ever pushed on me, but something that I always just kind of drawn to the game and the competitive nature and all the different and various aspects about it from playing. When I got done playing in college, I didn’t exactly know it was coaching or personnel, but I knew I wanted to be involved in football in some form or fashion. Fortunately, because of the reputation of my grandfather had established in this league, you get a chance. You are really aware that things don’t happen unless you have a really great family legacy like my grandfather was able to kind of have for our family name. I got a chance to get right on coach (Jon) Gruden’s staff right when I finished playing at Miami of Ohio. What a blessing that was to get exposed to some great coaches and get an opportunity to get right into the NFL when you start your coaching career. It took a couple of days to realize that was actually the route (I) wanted to go. Being involved with the communications with the players on the field and trying to help them reach their highest potential and the interaction with the coaches. It’s been a huge blessing to come from a football family and realize that some of the opportunities that have presented themselves wouldn’t have happened it if wasn’t for the reputation and the legacy that my grandfather has.”
On if Todd Gurley has done enough to win the MVP award: “Being biased, I’m always going to root for Todd. He’s been instrumental. ... I know he’s certainly been valuable to our team. I think he’s been at his best when his best has been required. In those last couple of weeks, when we had to win those two games against Seattle and against the Titans to be able to clinch the division, he played as well as anybody has. If you just look at the production where you have 19 touchdowns and he sits out the last game, he was leading the league in rushing at the time before that with 1,305 yards and almost 800 yards receiving. So, he’s been outstanding with the ball. He’s been just as good without the ball in his hands, when he’s been protecting and competing without (the ball). He’s been a great example of what it looks like to do thing right consistently. Then to see the production, you are just so happy for Todd. He’ll be the first to tell you that’s a reflection of his teammates as well.”
On what were some of the keys to getting the Rams turned around so quickly: “You know, the first thing is when you get in a role like that is that you want to hire a bunch of great coaches to work with and we feel very fortunate that’s what we’ve done. Whether if it be offense, defense or special teams, we’ve got a bunch of great leaders on our coaching staff. They are great communicators, great teachers (who are) trying to help these guys reach their highest potential. Then you see a lot of the characteristics and traits from some of those key positions in place. Specifically, offensively: a young quarterback (and) a young running back that you can build around. You see a young playmaker in a Tavon Austin and some young offensive linemen in Jamon Brown and Rob Havenstein. Then you go supplement that with the draft and free agency where you are able to acquire (wide receivers) Robert Woods and Sammy (Lee) Watkins, you get (offensive linemen) Andrew Whitworth and John Sullivan. You watch Rodger Saffold continue to play as well as anybody at the left guard spot. Then you see how Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds have been able to contribute. It’s been a fun process for us and then on the defensive side, you’ve got great players in Aaron Donald and Alec Ogletree. Then you are able to kind of bring in the Connor Barwins, Kayvon Websters, and you continue to see (linebacker) Mark Barron and (defensvie tackle) Micheal Brockers grow. I just think it’s been really fun to be a part of it. ... It’s a bunch of great people all pushing in the same direction knowing that every day presents a new challenge for us. Whether if we’ve won or lost games, I have loved the way the team has responded kind of with that same approach as far as being process over results-driven.”
On Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan: “Matt is a great football player, coming off an MVP-caliber season. I’ve have followed the Falcons closely the last couple of years, just because of some of the relationship that I have with the coaches in (the Falcons’) building and obviously with Matt (LaFleur) being here and how highly he speaks of them. You can see that there is certain command that those guys who have been doing it at such a high level for so long have. He has a great way about himself where he is in total command. He understands situations and he’s able to distribute the ball to a variety of play makers. He’s recognizing pressure looks and he’s taking advantage of some of the things that defenses present. I think he is a lot more athletic than what people give him credit for as well. He’s able to create off schedule. He’s executed some of the play action and movement game as well as anybody over the last couple of years. He’s as big of a reason as anybody why (the Falcons were) playing in the Super Bowl last year, winning the MVP. ... (He found) a way to get a win to get to 10 wins again. It’s really hard to do (that) in this league and Matt has been instrumental in the success that they’ve had over the last couple of years.”
On Matt LaFleur giving him some insight to the Falcons: “Oh, yeah. I don’t know if it’s any insight other than just continuing to ... or reiterate what you see on tape about why (Ryan) is such a special player, but also the way that he goes about his business. You just hear about the extreme ownership that he had over everything that was going on offensively. (He) wanted to do that and taking the initiative himself to lead the players. When you have your players that take that initiative where they truly become an extension of the coaching staff and they kind of do above and beyond of what’s being asked of them, that’s when you have special people and you have special results. That’s what you guys have there with a great leader in Matt Ryan.”