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Keidel: Despite Awful Performance, McVay And Rams Have Bright Future Ahead

Jason Keidel
February 05, 2019 - 1:44 pm

If you watched that horror film on Sunday, Silence of the Rams, you were astonished by the coaching clinic put on by Bill Belichick. Julian Edelman won Super Bowl MVP. Tom Brady got his sixth ring. But Belichick was the wizard behind the Patriots' magic. 

And the victim of Belichick's sorcery was the young football genius, Rams head coach Sean McVay. McVay was riding an unprecedented wave of worship and success, landing him at the Super Bowl in just his second season in Los Angeles, at 32 years old (he's turned 33 since the NFC title game). Late money came in on the Rams, who became the trendy pick in the two days before Super Bowl LIII. Then they played the game. 

McVay was schooled by a man literally twice his age and naturally more of an NFL sage. Known as the new face of offense, McVay never got his Rams a single snap in the red zone. The Rams are especially potent when they run the ball over 20 times, yet all-world halfback Todd Gurley - who had three rushes in the first half - barely ran the rock all game. McVay never gave QB Jared Goff some safe, early throws to get him into a groove. The Rams entered halftime with two first downs and six punts. So a team that averaged nearly 33 points per game this season mustered a mere three points in Super Bowl LIII.

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But underneath the Sunday whipping, and all the whiteboard algorithms and fake punts, there's another reason McVay will be back to the Super Bowl - modesty. 

Rather than growl his way through the postgame presser, moments after he lost the biggest game of his life, McVay was his humble best. He conceded he was out-coached from whistle to gun. He admitted he did not put his players in the best position to win. He did what coaches are supposed to do: be accountable, and be the grown-up in the room.  

If you watched HBO's Real Sports series this year, you watched in awe while Bryant Gumbel peppered McVay with obscure game situations from games played a month or a year ago, and McVay calmly conveyed exactly which play they ran, how many yards they got and even the play they ran before the play in question. 

So if McVay can recall a third down in September, he will surely keep a keen, mental snapshot of Super Bowl LIII, a game the Rams could have won had they been coached with a fraction of Belichick's traction. Be sure that McVay and his puppy of a QB (Goff is only 24) will make noise next year and well beyond (McVay could be comforted to know that Belichick is 8-0 in the playoffs against quarterbacks age 25 or younger). 

McVay also proved he's a born leader. Despite being eight years younger than Tom Brady, the Rams coach juggled a gaggle of volcanic egos, from Ndamukong Suh to Marcus Peters to Aqib Talib. While the Steelers melted under the twin-narcissists named Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, McVay has somehow charmed his players into a special esprit de corps.  

Consider McVay has Goff, Gurley and Aaron Donald locked down for the foreseeable future. While the QB and RB get the bold ink, Donald, twice named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, may simply be the best player on the planet, regardless of position. They have a conga line of top-flight wideouts, especially once Cooper Kupp returns from injury. 

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The Rams have a long list of unrestricted free agents to consider, but the only ones of real importance are Suh, S Lamarcus Joyner, OL Rodger Saffold and LB Dante Fowler (and perhaps C.J.Anderson, if they feel his breakout performances were not a fluke). Despite their splurges before the 2018 season, the Rams will have about $37 million in cap space entering this offseason (according to overthecap.com)

No doubt the Rams caught a serious break in New Orleans when Nickell Robey-Coleman beheaded Saints WR Tommylee Lewis before the ball arrived and no flag followed. But candidly speaking, none of us has ever seen a head coach this young and this good, reaching the Super Bowl before he's even old enough to run for President of the United States.  

The point is Rams fans have much to love, even if you loathed the Super Bowl. The club is young, hungry and about to enter a new, glittering stadium with the complete NFL ecosystem that does everything but your laundry. In the ultimate copycat league, the NFL is trying to hire any coach that has McVay's number stored in their smartphone. It won't work because there's only one Sean McVay, and the Rams have him for a long time, and hopefully for a few more Super Bowls. 

Twitter: @JasonKeidel