By GREG BEACHAM
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sean McVay has decided to return for a seventh season with the Los Angeles Rams after taking a break to contemplate his future following the first losing season of his career.
Sean McStay. https://t.co/Y2cbSKRLXj— Blake Arthur (@BlakeArthur24) January 13, 2023
The youngest head coach in NFL history to win the Super Bowl has decided not to take a break from coaching after his Rams finished 5-12 in the worst season ever by a defending champion. The Rams confirmed his decision with a tweet Friday.
McVay, who turns 37 later this month, became the youngest head coach in modern NFL history six years ago Thursday. Everything about McVay’s coaching career has been precocious, but he decided not to get an early start on retirement as well.
McVay is sticking with the Rams at their lowest point in his tenure after a year of what he described as heavy mental fatigue and stress. The Rams’ innovative offensive mind has also spoken frequently about his desire to start a broadcasting career, although this break didn’t appear to be about weighing a move to the booth.
McVay openly acknowledged a near-constant feeling of burnout near the end of the past few seasons, even while his coaching fortunes soared. He went 67-41 with the Rams, who racked up five winning seasons, four playoff berths, three NFC West titles, two Super Bowl appearances and one championship in his first half-decade in charge before everything crashed down in the past year.
McVay was still the NFL’s youngest head coach after six seasons holding the title, but the job weighs heavily on a coach who laments his obsessive work habits and an inability to delegate responsibilities. He has spoken repeatedly in recent weeks about the exhaustion and frustration of this difficult season being compounded by the mental stresses of his grandfather’s death and his worries about his wife’s family in Ukraine.
“Tom Brady had a quote before about (how) he hopes that his kids can find something that they’re as passionate about as he is about football, but he wouldn’t wish that torment on anybody else, and I can really relate to that,” McVay said Monday.
After the Rams beat Cincinnati in their home stadium to win the franchise’s second Super Bowl title last February, McVay’s fame ballooned, and he landed endorsement deals that included a series of national television commercials. He also got a new contract from the Rams that reportedly made him one of the top-paid coaches in North American sports.
McVay said Monday that he would take time to think about his decision instead of following his naturally impulsive instincts, but he also allowed his assistant coaches to look for new jobs this week.
McVay denied speculation that he was thinking about walking away because of the work that will be necessary to return the Rams to contention. Even though the Rams don’t have their first-round pick after trading it to Detroit for Matthew Stafford, McVay said he doesn’t believe the Rams need a major rebuild with Stafford, Super Bowl MVP Cooper Kupp and star cornerback Jalen Ramsey all returning healthy for 2023.
Los Angeles also hopes to have seven-time All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who hasn’t said what he’ll do after he missed the final six games of this season with a sprained ankle. Donald, who will be 32 in the fall, strongly contemplated retirement last year after winning his first ring.
McVay’s success riveted the rest of the NFL, particularly after he led the Rams to a Super Bowl loss against New England in just his second season in charge. That led to heavy yearly turnover on his staff: Four of McVay’s former assistant coaches have already become head coaches who have led their teams to the playoffs, and several more assistants have left him for better jobs.
On Monday, McVay lost another key assistant when offensive coordinator Liam Coen returned to the same job at the University of Kentucky. Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris is among the interviewed candidates for the vacant head coaching jobs in Denver and Indianapolis.
But Coen’s departure opens the door for McVay to hire a strong offensive coordinator who could take some of the burden off McVay, an offense-minded coach who calls the Rams’ plays. McVay’s hard work was no match for the Rams’ injuries this season: Los Angeles finished last in the NFL with 280.5 total yards per game.
That struggle to reload his coaching staff each season contributed to McVay’s stress, and the short offseason following the Rams’ championship run last year led to a haphazard offseason that left McVay notably uncomfortable last summer. He still began a new season with optimism — but the Rams were blown out by Buffalo in their season opener, and a cascade of significant injuries soon unraveled any hopes of contention for a Super Bowl repeat.
The Rams were 27th in scoring with 18.1 points per game, lifted up mostly by a 51-point performance in a Christmas victory over Denver that cost Nathaniel Hackett his job with the Broncos.