Head coach Sean McVay continued his media tour this morning on the popular radio program On Air with Ryan Seacrest. Last week, the youngest head coach in the NFL was a staple on Radio Row at the Super Bowl.
Host Ryan Seacrest immediately found common ground with McVay as they attended rival high schools in the Atlanta area. Furthermore, Seacrest enjoyed victory in a McVay compatibility game during the interview, beating his cohost 8-3.
Seacrest also dug into the football X's and O's, asking McVay about his football resume and his plan to improve the Rams next season.
When asked about being the NFL's youngest head coach, McVay told On Air with Ryan Seacrest: "You feel very fortunate to be in this situation, Ryan, and it's one of those situations where I've been around great people to help get to this place and get into coaching. Really, my grandfather's influence as an executive for the 49ers for all five of their Super Bowls was instrumental in helping me get into it."
As Sean McVay and Wade Phillips made the media rounds in Houston during the lead up to Super Bowl LI, the 69-year-old defensive coordinator had an idea to run by his 31-year-old head coach.
As is well known by now, Phillips had come up with a tweet that would poke fun at the ages of both men. Despite his age, Phillips has clearly embraced what some might term Millennial technology, regularly displaying his humor and wit within 140 characters.
“Rams have the only staff with DC on Medicare and HC in Daycare,” Phillips tweeted on Feb. 2.
Of course, Phillips’ social media skills pale in comparison to what he’s bringing to the Rams’ defense. Phillips has earned his reputation as arguably the league’s best defensive coordinator with a track record of success extending to before McVay was even born.
Having entered the league in 1976 as a defensive line coach for the Houston Oilers under his father, Bum Phillips, Wade Phillips has been a part of over 20 top-10 defenses in his 39 years of NFL experience.
“Wade Phillips is the NFL. I mean, that’s history. That’s a walking encyclopedia,” new Rams cornerbacks coach Aubrey Pleasant said. “His head coaching experience, his defensive coordinator experience, the Super Bowls — for me to be able to work for the youngest coach in NFL history, somebody I believe in, and to be able to work with an OG, no, a triple OG like that? It’s a blessing for me as a young coach.”
Pleasant is not the only on who feels that way. McVay has spoken about the somewhat unique situation that brought Phillips to the Rams, which began with McVay developing a strong friendship with Phillips’ son, Wes — Washington’s tight ends coach.
“One of the things that’s tricky about the NFL is, are guys going to be available with their contract situations and things like that,” McVay said Friday. “You look at a Coach Phillips, to get a guy of his caliber, where his contract was running up, we feel very fortunate about that. It kind of worked out where timing ended up being, really, in our favor.”
The respect between coach and coordinator is mutual.
“I think he’s got a great future because I think he’s really sharp,” Phillips said of McVay. “He’s got a purpose. And I think the players are going to feel it.”
But perhaps the biggest adjustment the players will feel is in the defensive scheme. The Rams ran a 4-3 base defense — four defensive linemen, three linebackers — under previous coaching regimes. That will change under Phillips, who favors a 3-4.
“We’re going to run a 3-4, but how we run it depends on our players. So we’re going to try to utilize our talent,” Phillips said. “That’s what we’ve done everywhere we’ve been. And we’ve been pretty successful at it. And we’ll stay with that formula.”
Anyone with Phillips’ résumé doesn’t need to justify his preference when it comes to a base defensive set. But Phillips said he uses the 3-4 because, to him, it’s better.
“When you have a 4-3, you have four linemen — those are the four guys rushing,” Phillips said. “When you have a 3-4, you have three linemen, and somebody else is coming from somewhere, because it’s going to be a four-man rush most of the time. So it gives us an advantage of them not knowing [who’s coming] protection wise.”
“I think it helps you pass-defense wise,” Phillips continued. “If you look at our pass defenses over the years, if you look at our sacks over the years, they’ve all been top of the league. And I think that’s the key to beating people, is stopping the passing game in this league. So that’s why I’ve stuck with the 3-4.”
Even though 3-4 is the base package, Phillips has added tweaks to his system from different schemes he’s worked in over the years.
“I added some of the 4-3 stuff, and the ‘Bear’ stuff that I did with Buddy Ryan — we kind of implemented it into our 3-4 thinking,” Phillips said. “So the concepts are there. But we just line up a little differently.”
No matter the front, the most important principle Phillips uses is fitting the scheme to what his players do best. And that — plus his pervious experience — is why he doesn’t feel the adjustment will take long.
“Four out of the last six times I’ve come in as a defensive coordinator, they ran a 4-3, and we went over to 3-4 and we’ve been very successful,” Phillips said. “So hopefully it’ll be the same thing here.”
As Phillips noted, having success come quickly is vital to longevity in the NFL. That’s part of why the defensive coordinator has been around for four decades — he’s been able to produce quick turnarounds at multiple stops.
“I think we have a great system of teaching,” Phillips said. “We’ve honed that down through the years that [players] can learn quickly, they don’t make many mental mistakes, those kinds of things. And then we can work a lot on technique and how they play the game, rather than assignment football. So that’s always been our philosophy and it’s worked pretty well for us.”
“When you really talk about what makes a great coach, I think, ultimately, everybody has different levels of ability, and it’s our job to help them reach that highest potential,” McVay said. “And that’s why Coach Phillips is a great coach — he’s got that perspective.”
Another element of Phillips’ coaching profile has been his ability to build strong, meaningful, long-lasting relationships with his players — as recently illustrated by the many Broncos reaching out via Twitter once Phillips’ move to Los Angeles was confirmed.
“That’s the way I’ve always been. It’s important to me, and it’s important to them, I think, that comes through,” Phillips said. “So I always tell them, if it’s important enough, you’ll get it done. So if it’s important enough to you, you’ll get better. If it’s important enough to you, you’ll coach well enough to get them there.”
And that’s exactly what Phillips plans on doing in L.A. While the Rams’ defense has been considered the club’s strength in recent years, the new defensive coordinator is looking forward to building an elite unit in Los Angeles.
“It’s not really what they’ve done before,” Phillips said. “It’s what we can do together.”
Experienced Kromer to Lead Young Offensive Line
Of the many famous football clichés, “Everything starts up front” tends to ring true year after year. And new offensive line coach Aaron Kromer is tasked with ensuring the Rams have the best group in the trenches week in and week out.
Entering his 17th year as an NFL coach, Kromer has a bevy of experience leading successful offensive lines. He was the OL coach in New Orleans when the Saints won Super Bowl XLIV, also serving as the club’s running game coordinator. Then Kromer spent 2013 and 2014 as the Bears’ offensive coordinator, helping guide a unit that set franchise passing records. And at his most recent stop, the Bills led the league in yards rushing in 2015 and 2016 with Kromer as offensive line coach.
It’s Kromer’s goal to bring that kind of dynamic attack to Los Angeles.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Kromer said last Friday. “I’ve been lucky — my first 11 years as a coach, I made the playoffs a lot of times. And then hit a couple places where we haven’t won as much, but we were No. 1 in rushing at Buffalo. We broke Chicago Bears records in Chicago on offense, so I feel like we’ve still had a lot of success.
“I hope we can carry that into this place, into the Los Angeles Rams, and use that knowledge of what brought victories, what brought success to help this team,” Kromer added.
Teaching the Rams’ new offensive system to the group up front will be a process, but one made easier given Kromer and head coach Sean McVay’s coaching lineage. It’s been well documented how McVay learned under Jon and Jay Gruden. The elder Gruden brother was also the one to give Kromer his start in the NFL, hiring him as an offensive line assistant with the Raiders in 2001.
“Our backgrounds are similar … in that Jon Gruden and Bill Callahan trained me to be an NFL coach right out of college coaching. And Sean McVay, right out of college, was trained by Jon Gruden,” Kromer said. “And so we have the same philosophy — although there’s tweaks here and there that we’re going to work together to find the best answer. And so that’s how we felt good and strong about working together.”
It’s still early in the evaluation process, but the youth and size among the Rams’ offensive line stick out to Kromer.
“Being young, they move well because they have young knees, and young hips, and young ankles. So they move well as a group,” Kromer said. “They’re 310-plus across the board, 320. And you’re always looking for the bigger, the faster, the better.”
It’s no secret Los Angeles finished No. 32 in total offense last year, with issues across the board. And while some of the problems can be attributed to the offensive line, Kromer sees them as collective.
“The group needs to get better,” Kromer said. “So how are you going to do that? You’re going to try to do your best of coaching the guys you have, maybe finding some guys to help, and just continuing forward. I think it’s a process, but I think with Sean McVay’s leadership, his ability to communicate the way he does, his competitive greatness — I feel like [that’s] going to rub off on this team.”
When it comes to offensive line personnel, one name that has consistently come up is 2014 first-round pick Greg Robinson, who was deactivated for two games in 2016. Much of the discussion has centered around whether or not there may be a position change in his future from tackle to guard.
McVay said last Friday that is still up for discussion.
“Obviously, when you look at some of the things he’s able to do, you see the athleticism,” McVay said. “In space, when he’s pulling around and using some of those parameter schemes that they did offensively last year. He’s a guy that we’re excited to get around.”
As a group, though, Kromer said chemistry and communication between the five men on the offensive line is crucial for offensive improvement.
“The challenge is that you take this young group and you develop them and mold them into what you’re looking for,” Kromer said. “And we hope that we have character in this group. We hope that we can communicate in this group. And we really hope that they have competitive greatness — that they want to block their man more than that guy wants to make the tackle.”
And with a young offensive line and young quarterback, it’s important both position groups make progress together.
“The quarterback is going to run the ship. He’s in charge,” Kromer said. “The center then at that point is the next in charge. So we have to make sure that they understand the system together, That they can work together and communicate what we’re trying to get done.
“So that’s our job as coaches,” Kromer continued, “to get that to them in a way that they can relate it to each other and have success from there. So like I said, it’s a challenge, but it’s a challenge we look forward to.”
Barry Glad to be Back in L.A., Working With Rams' LBs
New Rams assistant head coach/linebackers coach Joe Barry is no stranger to Southern California. Barry spent his formative years in Los Angeles, playing linebacker at USC in the early 90s, then returning to USC as the program’s linebackers coach in 2010.
Barry’s history should make for a special reunion when he walks into the Coliseum as a Rams coach for the first time.
“I played at SC and I coached at SC, so to now go back and be able to coach for two years with the Rams, I can’t wait,” Barry said last Friday. “Little shoutout to the Trojans — the last time I was actually in that stadium, we beat UCLA 50-0. So I’m excited to be back in there.”
Barry comes over from Washington, where he spent the last two seasons as the club’s defensive coordinator. He said he had a few choices of jobs this offseason, but picked the Rams in large part because of his strong relationship with head coach Sean McVay.
“We worked together the last two years — he was the offensive coordinator, I was the defensive coordinator — so we got to be very close, worked hand in hand,” Barry said, adding he wasn’t surprised McVay received a head coaching job despite his age. “ I knew as soon as he went on these interviews, he was going to get a head job, just because I know what type of guy he is, I know how passionate he is, how smart he is. So, no, it did not shock me one bit.”
Barry also cited working with defensive coordinator Wade Phillips as a factor that brought him to L.A.
“To have a chance to work with [McVay], to have a chance to work with Wade Phillips — I pinch myself, I really do,” Barry said. “And to be back in Southern California with the Los Angeles Rams, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
While coaches are still early in their evaluation process, Barry said he’s been impressed with the Rams’ defensive effort from last season.
“Defensively, I know I’m very excited watching these guys. Going back and having watched 16 games, these guys play hard. They love football. You can tell they’re totally into it,” Barry said. “And for a starting point, that’s great. Now, we’ve got to implement coach Phillips’ system. But that’s what OTAs are for, that’s what minicamp is for, that’s what training camp is for.”
With the Rams switching from a 4-3 base defense to a 3-4, there will be some clear adjustments from a linebackers standpoint. Despite Los Angeles’ heavy reliance on nickel packages in 2016 — often leaving Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron as the Rams’ only linebackers on the field — Phillips said he’s not concerned about the relative inexperience in the rest of the room.
“I’ve been in this situation before. We’ve always come up with something. I don’t foresee a problem,” Phillips said. “We have some linebackers, some of them haven’t played much, but they look like they’re good players.”
Of the linebackers currently on the Rams’ roster, Barry said he’s been particularly impressed with Ogletree and Barron.
“Obviously, NFL coaches watch all the film every single week so you get to follow these guys’ careers,” Barry said. “And when Sean brought me on here, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I get 52 and 26?’ So they’re great guys, obviously great players. But everything that I’m hearing, they’re great leaders, they love the game, they love to prepare, they love to practice.”
Given the stipulations of the latest collective bargaining agreement, coaches cannot do much but have friendly conversations with players until the offseason program begins. But from the few times Barry has talked with Ogletree, he’s sensed the middle linebacker’s desire to be great.
“I coached Derrick Brooks in Tampa Bay for eight years — and that was something that Derek was just — it fueled him, it fired him to be the very best every single day he walked in the building,” Barry said. “Alec and I have already had that conversation. And the great thing is, he wants that. He wants to be the best linebacker.
“He doesn’t just want to be a good linebacker in this league, he wants to be elite. He wants to be the best,” Barry continued. “So when a player has that passion and that desire, that’s fun to coach.”
Between Barry and Phillips, the Rams have plenty of coaching experience to build their defense heading into 2017. And Barry is as eager as anyone to get the process going.
“I’m so excited to be here,” Barry said. “So excited to be with Sean. So excited to be with coach Phillips. And I can’t wait to get back in the Coliseum — I can’t wait for our players to get back in the building in April. I’m chomping at the bit.”
Gardening for This Month’s Staff Day of Service
Staff members helped with the various gardening and beautification projects to help repair damage caused by the recent rain. In addition to tending to fruit and vegetable plots, sweeping up fallen branches and leaves, and feeding the garden’s three chickens, staff members were also able to learn about the aquaponics garden project, which was created by Jon Armstrong, a Carthay School parent. The aquaponics garden is used to teach children at the school about hydroponics, which is the growing of vegetables without soil, and aquaculture, the raising of edible fish.
Started in 2006 by parents and the Friends of Carthay booster-club, Carthay’s Garden of Possibilities is a privately funded, 5,000 square foot area on the school grounds. In addition to seeking donations and grants, the parent volunteers also sell the vegetables and fruits that are grown in the garden to raise funds for the garden’s operational costs and projects that are used to teach students at Carthay School about gardening, sustainability and the environment.
“Carthay School of Environmental Studies Magnet is a high poverty, Title 1 LAUSD elementary school,” explained Armstrong. “In 2014, Carthay became an Environmental Studies Magnet, the only one of its kind in LAUSD, combining the sciences and the humanities in an educational program centered on society and the environment. Maintenance and upkeep is an ongoing need to sustain the garden space, and we rely heavily on volunteers to keep the garden vibrant and healthy. The Rams staff were an incredibly enthusiastic group of volunteers who completed many essential tasks to help with the upkeep of Carthay’s garden areas.”
Each month, the Rams front office staff takes time out of the office to volunteer with local non-profits. Since the program’s inception in 2009, the Rams staff has provided more than 12,000 hours of community service.
A satirical look at more than 75 years of Football's Rams history, combined with discussions of American Exceptionalism and almost 50 years of personal experience in the life of a Rams Fan. The history parallels and intertwines life to form a humorous, yet serious look at American History, World History, an American Football team, and Political Science.