East Los Angeles, CA) [From The Editor’s Desk]: And here we go off into the NFL’s huge second season, notably the arrival of “Super Wild Card Weekend.” And scheduled to play against the Detroit Lions in the NBC nightcap 5:00 p.m. game of the triple-header on Sunday, 1/14, are the Los Angeles Rams, now proud owners of a very respectable (10-7) overall record. This is a great accomplishment by the team, the Coaching Staff, and of course, Head Coach Sean McVay, now in his 7th year at the controls.
Now, via the Coach’s Monday transcript, it’s that time to get ready for a brief recap of Sunday’s (21-20) victory over the 49ers followed by a broad and serious look into the playoff game against the Detroit Lions, the number three seed, and how it will feel to compete against his former QB, Jared Goff. There’s also the perspective of how Matt Stafford will be preparing to return and compete against his former team.
Reflecting on Coach McVay’s style, he has lots to say about his job and pro football. Read his remarks to the media’s array of questions about this coming week of practice and his preparation for the NFC “Wild Card” playoffs.
[Rams Transcript: Coach McVay, 1/8]
[Head Coach Sean McVay]
(On what’s changed with Lions QB Jared Goff over the last few years when he watches him on film)…“Yeah, I think he played a really high level in the four years here with us but I think he, just like anybody, has just continued to mature. You can see he’s got great ownership of what they’re doing. He’s got a lot of responsibility at the line of scrimmage, getting in and out of the different packages. You can see that (Lions Offensive Coordinator) Ben (Johnson) and (Lions Head Coach) Dan (Campbell) give him a lot of leeway in terms of some of the audibles, but just a quarterback playing with a lot of confidence, has a great rapport with his skilled players. Even when you’re watching that Chargers game and you could see his ownership to be able to check into a run when they had a personnel grouping that they didn’t have and then it goes for a 75-yard touchdown. So just good ownership. All the things that you want to see from your quarterback and been really impressed. I’ve been watching just because I’m a fan of this game and then obviously you’re studying it through a different lens and it seems like we’ve crossed over with them a lot seeing their offense and it’s been one of the best and he’s leading the way.”
(On if it’s weird to game plan against someone you used to game plan for)…“I think the longer that you do it, it can become a little bit more normal. Like I said yesterday, I’m really happy and incredibly grateful for the four years of time that we did have together. I think the appreciation grows as I reflect back on it. We’re excited to try to figure out how the Rams can play the best game that we can against the Lions and it’s going to be tough to stop those guys.”
(On injury updates for DB Jordan Fuller and LB Troy Reeder)…“Yeah, same thing. They’ll be day-to-day. They won’t be able to practice. Wednesday we’ll have a walkthrough so we’ll kind of just see what their status looks like. It was an ankle with Jordan and then it was a hyperextended knee with Troy. We’ll continue to just try to see…use all the time that we have. Hopefully, they’ll be available. If not, then we’ll have contingency plans accordingly. Then it looks like (OL) Joe Noteboom is making good progress with his heel. Those will be the only guys that would probably be out right now from a projection as far as Wednesday is concerned.”
(On if the outside noise of people writing the Rams off this season was a motivating factor for them)…“I think our players are probably a lot more in tune just because of them being on social media, and things like that. I’m aware of it because of the questions that you guys ask, but I try to stay pretty blind to it. We try to be as inside out as possible. What I loved, and I mentioned this to you when we’ve kind of connected, is the way these guys continue to come to work, and the consistency at which they did it was on display really when we were 3-6. Then when we were able to finish up 7-1, I think we were getting healthy. I think we started to find our identities. I love the consistency of our coaching staff. It’s about coming together at the right time and continuing to gel as a group. I think our veteran leaders really elevated everybody around them. Then you get some guys that are able to contribute a lot faster than what is normally expected based on, hey, you’ve got to. We’re counting on you and these guys matured faster than I think a lot of people outside of this building would’ve thought. We’re excited to be where we’re at. I think we’ve got some good momentum, but now we’re all 0-0. I’ve really had fun and I think recommitting to a lot of the values and principles. It’s almost like we’ve continuously talked about it, but the consistency that this group, the energy, the vibe that they’ve brought it’s been really fun, and it’s a great mix of guys that have been in a lot of big-time games and then a heck of a lot of young players that have really watched these guys do their thing and then been able to accelerate their learning and maturation process a lot faster than anybody anticipated.”
(On if this season is his best coaching job ever)…“I don’t know about that. I think I’m really proud to be associated with this team. I think more than anything, especially given the experiences that we’ve accumulated with this being the seventh year, I think I have a lot more gratitude and appreciation for the journey instead of it just being words. I think we’ve lived it out a little bit more consistently. I do know that last year’s challenges, and there were a lot of challenges even before that it might not have just been as headlined because we were getting positive results, I think have helped us continue to grow and establish a grit and a mental toughness that served us well. What I’m proud of is that I think this team has an identity and they’ve really created their own culture. That’s certainly as players and coaches… and I’m around a lot of people that you want to be motivated not to let them down instead of some of the selfish stuff that I wasn’t afraid to acknowledge especially last year.”
(On what it’s like preparing for a road playoff game environment and what he expects)…“Well, it was a crazy environment in Seattle with no fans in the stands on COVID year. It was wild, man. This is a little bit different. I think the closest thing that comes to mind is the divisional round at Tampa. That New Orleans atmosphere in the NFC Championship in ‘18 was wild. You’ve watched Detroit all year. They’ve had great home atmospheres and environments. Everybody’s pumped-up, big-time Sunday night game. We anticipate them to have a great crowd and great support, and sometimes going to those atmospheres can be a great opportunity for us to come together and be tighter than we’ve ever been. That’s kind of life in the NFL when you go on the road but we know this is going to be especially special for that city and pretty cool the loyalty they have and the love they have for football. We’re going to try and go in there and give them a great show and compete to the best of our ability. It’s no different, you just know that you have to do a great job of handling the visual communication, especially as it relates to the offensive side of the ball knowing that their fans will be going crazy when we’re up.”
(On how the team has operated in silent count situations this season) …“I think we’ve been pretty good. I think there were a couple of instances particularly that come to mind as you asked that question that we’ll be able to use as learning ops, especially in Baltimore with a couple of the things that always start with me that we didn’t do a good enough job of. But because we’ve got the right guys, I’m confident that those can be used in the right manner. But you don’t take for granted how difficult it is, how important it is in terms of the starting point coming from us as coaches, me sending it in to (QB) Matthew (Stafford), and then him being able to echo it and articulate it to the other 10 guys around him. But communication is a key and critical factor every single week and visually is going to be a key factor in terms of how we visually communicate as well as verbally for our defense. But there’ll be some opportunities and that is going to be a huge factor and we got to do a great job of handling that with poise and execution.”
(On if he jokes with Stafford or has had discussions with him about playing the Lions in Detroit) …“We talk all throughout the course of the week. I think it’s standard operating procedure. He has played a lot of games. You’re not going to run away from what that will mean in terms of the history that he has and the reverence that city has for him and that he has for that city. But I think he said it to you guys yesterday, once the game kicks off, you’re just totally immersed in the moment. I think there’ll be a lot of fun narratives externally that all play into the attention that the game gets. I do believe that the focus and concentration are going to be on playing our best ball and playing good complimentary football. But yeah, those are conversations as it relates to the game and I’m sure he’ll have his family and a lot of people that mean a lot to him there and that’s usually consistent, but this one will be a little bit different and I think he’ll be better equipped to answer exactly the emotions and the feelings that he’ll have for you guys.”
(On what stood out to him about Stafford while he was playing for the Lions) …“Competitiveness, toughness, grit, playmaking ability in crunch time situations. All the things that you see that make him a great player. But I think the one thing I always appreciated watching him from afar was you always felt like you were in a game no matter what the circumstances were with Matthew Stafford and you can tell his team always felt that way as well. And he certainly has made this team and our coaches and players feel that way with him at the switch here.”
(On what changed after the bye week) …“I think health was a big part of it. We got a lot of key players back healthy and feeling good. I think the bye came in a good week, especially when you talk about playing nine games with preseason games, that’s a long time for a lot of these younger players. And then I think there was a commitment to establishing some identities offensively, defensively. We’ve gone through some different things as you guys know, and it’s been well-documented on special teams. But I think we played better as a team. I think we took better care of the football. I think we were able to get timely takeaways. We were able to establish leads early on in games where a couple of those games that became one-possession games, I didn’t think were as close as the score dictated. All of those things, but the thing I liked was there was a consistent approach from the players and from the coaches. The process was consistent, but continuing to have some flexibility and agility as it relates to maximizing all 48 guys that are up on game day, being able to be more efficient and then capitalizing on not making some of the same mistakes. I think that’s been the key factor. I think you do learn how to win. We were trying to gel as a team and figuring out ways to be able to finish and finalize some of these games. There were a lot of games early on where you’re playing excellent teams that we just came up short or didn’t do quite enough but I think there was enough good stuff that the guys knew like, all right, hey, there, you can’t fake some of the good ball. Let’s put it together more consistently. Let’s figure out what it looks like and how we gel as players and coaches alike. And they’ve done an excellent job and it’s been really rewarding watching them do it.”
(On how he describes the team’s identity) …“I think there’s a mental and physical toughness. I think there’s an enjoyment for competing together. I see a connected team. I see a team that supports one another. I see a team that responds to adversity better and then I see a team that has a whole hell of a lot of fun just going out and cutting it loose and I think that’s when we’re at our best.”
(On QB Carson Wentz stating he’s appreciated the youthful energy from this team and if he’s absorbed a youthful element from the team as well) …“No question. I think that vibe, the energy, the joyfulness, however, you want to articulate what those positive things are, I think that’s a fact. I think you want guys to come in and enjoy, falling in love with improvement, and really loving going to work and feeling like you’re getting better and doing it with people that love football and coaches that want to pour into you and care about you as a person and want to help you be the best player you can possibly be. And so that’s exactly what you want to hear. And I don’t think there’s any other way around it. That is the way you get the most out of people and it is always about people and that’s a really cool thing. And I do agree with what Carson’s saying and I think that’s a real credit to these players. And again, I love our coaching staff and the vibe that they help cultivate and create in addition to those players. It’s all about everybody doing that stuff together.”
(On the timing of the Goff-Stafford trade that led to a quick progress for Stafford with the Rams and then a methodical but substantial progression for Goff and the Lions)…“Well, I think the first thing is there’s four years of great experiences that I have much more appreciation and perspective on than I probably did at the time, so that’s the first thing. The next thing is that it was a rare opportunity to acquire a player of Matthew Stafford’s caliber with some of the surrounding pieces. They had a real appreciation for Jared’s skillset and so it kind of just timed up in a manner that worked out. And then I think what you’ve seen is some of the things that have made Jared a really good player and why they’ve been the team that they are is there was a resilience, there was a grit, there was an ability to work through some stuff while knowing that, hey, there’s good stuff as we continue to work through it and I think (Lions Executive Vice President and General Manager) Brad (Holmes) and (Lions Head Coach) Dan (Campbell) and those guys have done a great job of onboarding really good players through the draft, through free agency, and then they had some really good players in-house. But Jared and his ability to be able to work in collaboration with (Offensive Coordinator) Ben Johnson, it’s been really impressive to watch, especially for the last few years, just the rapport and the comfort that those guys have with one another. I think there are a lot of layers to it and I think it is a good situation for both ends and that’s why we’re fortunate enough to meet in a big-time game like this in a really competitive league.”
(On if DB Jordan Fuller is going to practice this week and if his injury is that serious)…“He’s not going to practice on Wednesday as of right now if I were to project that, but we’re going to give him all the time that he needs. We’re going to take it a day at a time but I think we do need to be prepared and get contingency plans in place, but we’re hopeful that he might be able to make it to the game.”
(On what the team would lose if Fuller wasn’t able to play on Sunday)…“A communicator, a guy who’s played with great range. I think he’s made a lot of timely plays in crunch-time situations, but he’s been a captain for a reason. He’s got tremendous respect from his teammates and coaches and there’s been a toughness to his game. So it would be a big one for us, but we’re hopeful that we don’t have to go quite that direction yet.”
(On why he thinks scoring has been down around the league this season)…“I don’t know all those things. I just know that it’s a cyclical league and defenses do a great job. There’s an inventory and ways of studying the game. I think they’ve done a great job of limiting some of the big plays, but I just think it’s a back-and-forth battle and I just think there’s great coaches, great players and they make it as competitive as possible. But I can’t really divulge into why I think it’s down significantly or how much of the trends are different, but I just think there’s great competitiveness week in week out and I think there’s great parity. I mean, I don’t know, there was a bunch of teams that were in the mix to potentially get into the playoffs as of week 18 and I think that’s exactly how the NFL wants to see it and what you think every single week, you think you know, and then you realize now you just don’t know and you got to be ready to go. And humility is only a week away in this league, whether it’s offensively, defensively, or in the kicking game.”
(On if momentum from the second half of the season carries over into playoffs and how that would manifest itself) …“Well, I think you want to use some positive momentum but the playoffs, it’s the closest thing to March Madness that sports sees because it’s a one game elimination tournament and it’s really about who plays the best in that three-and-a-half-hour window. You look at it the year that we were able to win the Super Bowl, we lost our last game. And so I think that having the resilience and the grit to be able to respond or to be able to carry momentum is something that can be a really important factor, but you can’t do either or if you don’t possess a mental toughness and an ability to be able to move forward and be where your feet are planted. While I do think that we want to use that as a positive for us, we still have to show up and play well because if you don’t, the margin for error is small. And you just look at it, I mean, look no further than yesterday’s game or even the previous week’s game, how easily those could have gone a different direction and so the margin for error gets that much smaller and we’ve got to just go play to the best of our ability and make sure that we understand that those differences in advancing are very slim, especially when you’re talking about the caliber of team that we’re going up against at their home stadium.”
(On what makes Stafford special as a player and quarterback besides the numbers)…“The ability to communicate and own everything that we’re doing where he breeds a calmness to everybody else, his communication of the play calls in the huddle, his little coaching points as you’re breaking, his understanding of defensive structures and ability to be able to get us in and out of the right plays, the different things that we can activate offensively in terms of how we can operate, being able to change up the tempos. And so you’ve got a guy that can activate all parts of the field with his arm. I think he’s using his athleticism to be able to change the launch point and extend plays and I think he’s seeing the field and throwing the ball with accuracy, anticipation, and good decision-making as anybody. All of those things make him really special and I do think that the playoff experience he has will serve us well. Everybody’s got a new narrative, but we’ve got a guy that’s led us to a world championship that’s leading us and I’m really grateful and wouldn’t want anybody else leading us into this playoff charge than him.”