LOS ANGELES — The Sean McVay coaching tree seems to be growing by the minute, as NFL teams with head-coaching vacancies scramble to clone the success of the Rams’ young head coach.
The NFL has always been a copycat league, emulating the latest offensive or defensive schemes and practices of championship teams. That includes finding a similar head coach to one that seems to be smarter and ahead of everyone else.
Long ago, the coaches in demand were long-time assistants who taught power football. That was the Bill Parcells coaching tree which begot the Bill Belichick tree. Then there was a run on anybody connected to Bill Walsh and the West Coast offense, which begot the Mike Holmgren coaching tree. Now we’ve got the Sean McVay tree, even though he’s just 32 and has been a head coach for just two seasons.
“I’m too young to have a coaching tree,” McVay joked earlier this week.
The NFL apparently disagrees. Zac Taylor, 35, will become the latest with links to McVay to land a head coaching job. Taylor is currently the Rams quarterbacks coach and is expected to be named the Bengals head coach once the Rams season ends.
He joins a list of former McVay associates and clones to land an NFL heading coaching job this year. It includes Matt LaFleur, the new head coach in Green Bay. LaFleur, 39, was the Rams’ offensive coordinator under McVay in 2017.
“He’s one of my closest friends,” McVay said of LaFleur. “To see that for him I couldn’t be more excited. He’s a great football coach with a great understanding of offensive football. He cares about people. He’s going to be honest with his communication and he’s going to be invested in working really hard and trying to help put guys in good spots. It’s an exciting thing for the Packers and for Matt for sure.”
Even the hiring of Kliff Kingsbury to be the Cardinals head coach was influenced by McVay. Kingsbury, 39, shares similar offensive views as McVay and is seen as a quarterback guru after coaching Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield at Texas Tech.
Freddie Kitchens’ promotion from offensive coordinator to head coach in Cleveland is also viewed in the same mold — a young offensive mind like McVay, who could continue to develop Mayfield.
Clearly, young offensive-minded coaches are in vogue thanks to McVay’s development of quarterback Jared Goff and turning the Rams into division champions. His Rams have gone 24-8 and made the playoffs in McVay’s first two seasons in Los Angeles.
After losing to the Falcons in the wild-card round last year, the Rams earned a bye to the NFC Divisional round this season, where they faced the NFC East champion Cowboys on Saturday night at the L.A. Coliseum.
McVay called the interest in his former assistants and like-minded coaches “flattering for our organization,” and gives credit to those he has worked with.
“I think more than anything it’s really the Rams’ success that we’ve had,” he said earlier this week. “If there’s one thing that you do realize over the last couple years is that this is a product of great people around you.
“It would be naïve to think that any of this is about one person and that certainly isn’t the case at all,” he said. “I think if the last two years have taught me anything being in this role is you better surround yourself with a lot of people that are better than you so that you can learn every day and not feel like you have to have the answers to things that you don’t.”
Time will tell whether these coaches can match the success of McVay. Ultimately, wins and losses will decide whether each was worthy of their selection. Then it will be on to the next best thing.