“Sean McVay-A Rubik’s Cube Coach”
What makes the man tick?
What is important to the man?
Is it fame, money, success, or just the next challenge?
The dictionary describes the Rubik’s Cube as a ‘puzzle’ with 27-cubes and a wide array of colors that must be aligned together to declare victory.
Kind of like life in the NFL, so many parts that must be aligned together to have success.
A year ago this week, Sean McVay aligned the cubes together enroute to guiding the Rams to the Super Bowl win.
He brought together an explosive quarterback with a new leader, the ex Lions passing star Matthews Stafford.
He built a dominant defense led by superman defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
He surrounded his stars with gifted athletes who made both sides of the ball complete packages. Cooper Kupp at receiver. Jalen Ramsey at defensive back.
He added kick returners, punters, a solid field goal kicker.
He had a bright light coaching staff of assistants, who matched his creative genius with their breed of play calling.
That was last year, the blue and gold confetti at So Fi Stadium, the trophy given to owner Stan Kroenke and the celebrity status everyone enjoyed.
This year has been so different. No one could have imagined a Rams franchise going from Super Bowl to last place, out of the playoffs.
And now, trying to rationalize a (5-12) record, McVay is reeling.
He called this fall a ‘professional failure’. He is a man who looks like he is burned out. He is walking down a street he no longer recognizes. And now he is questioning his dedication, his desire.
He has options too, the TV networks expressing interest again in having him come off the sidelines and head to the studio as an analyst.
McVay thinks outside the box all the time. Ahead of the curve, a special intellect. this coach now seems lost, with no answers.
He is (60-37) as the Rams leader. He is (7-3) in the postseason, staggering statistics.
But for the first time in his career, he has not been able to overcome a mountain of adversity out of his control.
He often talks about life away from football, global travel, his extended family and a long list of friends. He is limited in time to experience all that, with the demands he puts on himself in relation to all things Rams football.
He lost his confidante, with the passing of his grand father, John McVay, a long time coach, who became a front office exec of renown with the Giants and 49ers. It left a hole in his heart.
Then the season opened, and last year’s Super Bowl team had holes everywhere. And the one thing McVay could not control, injuries, destroyed his team. And now it has destroyed his will to coach.
His legendary Pro Bowl left tackle Andrew Whitworth, retired at age 41. His groomed replacement Joe Noteboom got hurt early and just never became what they thought possible. Then he lost his center Brian Allen, in and out of the lineup all year, always at less than 100%. Then he lost his right tackle, and right guard, then their backups.
At one point they had 12-different starting lineups upfront in 14-weeks.
This his QB-Matthew Stafford, who had an ailing elbow, was buried under a siege of sacks, 37-of them, before he went down with a neck injury.
The Rams wasted half a season before former #1 pick Cam Akers woke up as a power-explosive running back.
Cooper Kupp went out at mid season with a major season ending injury. There was no Robert Woods to rely on, he was traded away. Odell Beckham never recovered from post Super Bowl knee surgery.
On defense, they lost free agents in the defensive front, at linebacker and in the secondary. Then young replacements got hurt. And his veteran star Aaron Donald got dinged late in the season and never got back on the field.
It was a disaster. With no salary cap space, and few draft picks, it’s going to be hard to fix all that ails the Rams.
And he, for the first time in his career, he does not seem to have answers. Self doubts about his ability. Maybe it is the first time he is facing failure, but it’s not his fault, it’s the NFL.
He came from Miami-of-Ohio, you know the Cradle of Coaches. The long lineage of greatness stretches from Paul Brown to Woody Hayes to Bo Schembechler to many more. Somewhere along the road of life, those guys had to have tough seasons. Last I checked, they never quit. Otherwise there would have never been the Browns, the Buckeyes, the Wolverines and more.
If he takes this next year off, you wonder if he will miss NFL football, something that has consumed him forever. You wonder if the burnout he seems to be suffering from is permanent? Whether he can reconfigure the blueprint of life,to succeed again in the NFL and have a private life.
I have seen the examples. Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer told me the NFL consumes you and then spits you out when you fail. He had 200-career wins and was fired. Bolts coach Bobby Ross knew it was time to get out, coming off a huge Detroit Lions road win in Minnesota, he got back on the team plane and 15 minutes later was fretting how to game plan to beat the Packers the next Sunday. It was no longer fun.
Football 24-7-365 seems to have consumed McVay, and now overwhelmed his thought process.
McVay, a Rubik’s Cube coach, suddenly wonders whether he can move those plastic cubes and find the combos again, to win the games in the future.