After three weeks of 10 OTA practices, the Rams will hold their mandatory minicamp from next Tuesday through Thursday to finish the 2018 offseason program. With that in mind, TheRams.com recently sat down with head coach Sean McVay to talk about the offseason program so far, what’s changed for McVay since last year, and the expectations of the upcoming year.
Myles Simmons: How have OTAs gone so far?
Sean McVay: I think it’s been really good. There’s been a lot of good competition, guys getting familiar with our systems, continuing to learn each other — how to compete but be smart doing it. And I think we’re just starting to see guys just continue to make improvements one day at a time. Our coaches are doing a great job. So want to wrap up OTAs the right way next week.
MS: Do things start to feel more real in this part of the offseason program since you’re allowed to practice 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills?
SM: It does. And really, that’s what it’s about — getting out here, getting on the grass and getting the chance to compete. Love doing the meetings, love being able to have these guys work with Ted and with Reggie and his staff, and just getting themselves as healthy as possible and as strong as possible. But it’s about playing football. It’s about getting out here on the grass with these guys and enjoying that, and us all collectively getting better together.
MS: What do you typically try to accomplish in Phase III of the offseason program?
SM: I think it’s just that — getting an ownership on our systems, coming together as a team and trying to continue to formulate that identity with what the 2018 Rams are going to be. And that’s predicated on our players. We feel really good about the personnel that we have, and we’ve got to do a good job as coaches putting them in positions to have success, really, in all three phases.
MS: We often see you running around on the field with the players. Does being on the grass at practice energize you?
SM: Yeah, being able to get out here and work with the players is what you love so much about coaching. And I feel so fortunate to be able to do this and be able to work with people that you thoroughly enjoy and help them. And if you can kind of steal a couple runs and a little bit of exercise, that’s always fun as well. But this is what coaching’s about. This is what you enjoy the most, and love being able to get out here with our players.
MS: Let’s take you back to last year at this time. What was that like?
SM: We were continuing to get to know our players, figure out what we were going to be on offense and defense. And I think that’s what you feel so good about, is as the season evolved, it’s about adjusting to our players. I think we have a better idea of what we can do to kind of maximize their skill sets. But it’s about building and developing those relationships. And the more time you spend with people, the better feel you get for them. And we’re a year into that process. We’ve got some great new pieces that we’ve added and that Les and his staff and Tony have done a great job of kind of incorporating. And I think those guys are fitting in nicely. And looking forward to seeing as we progress one day at a time.
MS: Where do you feel like you are as a head coach now in comparison to last year?
SM: I think there’s still so much to learn. And I think you feel so fortunate that you’ve got good people around you that you can really lean on for their advice, their perspective. But I think you’re just a year into it — having learned from a lot of the mistakes you’ve made. And, hopefully, continue to do some things the right way with what we were able3 to have a little bit of success with last year. But every year is a new challenge. And I think it’s just about taking it one day at a time, not getting too far ahead of yourself. And at the end of the day, it’s all about these players. And we’re trying to do a good job of putting them in positions to succeed and reach their highest potential.
MS: What’s one thing you learned in 2017 that you’ve really tried to implement in 2018?
SM: Yeah, I think it’s just about planning. I think it’s just in terms of, you think you’re organized, but down to the minute — making sure every minute is maximized. You’ve got your meetings, you’ve got your schedule set in a manner that’s conducive to maximizing every single moment. And what you’re also reiterated with is how fortunate you feel to have great people around you. To be able to work with our players, with our coaching staff, it reminds you that any organization is about its people. And we’ve got great people that we’re working with here, and I feel fortunate to be a part of that.
MS: Do you ever still find yourself having to think about being the head coach of the whole team rather than just focusing on the offense?
SM: You know, I think one of the things that you feel fortunate about is I want to learn as much as I can about football. And being able to spend time with the defense that maybe you wouldn’t have otherwise when you’re a coordinator is a luxury that this job offers. So I’m always trying to learn, spend time with defense and offense, spend time with Bones. But I think it’s great to be able to have such a unique opportunity to be in this role, but continue to lean on those people to try to get better and be able to put yourself in a position to lead the right way.
MS: Watching practice, it’s easy to notice how you emphasize tempo for the offense. Why is that so important to the scheme?
SM: I think there’s different phases of our offense that we try to utilize. And, again, it’s back to the players. Their ability to be able to operate at the line, operate in-and-out of the huddle, using the huddles and breaking in a timely manner — so we’ll mix up the tempos, but it’s all based on our players’ ability to do that. And when you’ve got smart, conscientious players, you can kind of change up the way that you’re coming at people with that tempo throughout the course of the game.
MS: When you were mid’d up during practice, we caught you talking about just how fast Brandin Cooks is after he caught a deep pass from Jared Goff . How does his speed add to his versatility for what he can be in the offense?
SM: Yeah, I think with Brandin, and then being able to play alongside such a great receiving corps that we have in place, he’s been a nice addition. Feel really good watching the way he’s been able to implement himself into our offense by the way he’s learned, how conscientious he is in meetings. And he’s a guy — if you just look at, really, his career — he is a really fast player, but he can do everything. He plays big for a smaller-stature guy. But he’s strong. He can win short, he can win intermediate, he can go down the field. So I think you’re really not limited in any way that you can utilize him. And there’s a reason why he’s had over 1,000 yards and [at least] seven touchdowns each of the last three years. And he’s a special player for sure.
MS: Another topic that’s been brought up a lot this offseason, especially after all the transactions, is how how you’ll deal with the big personalties. So, how do you manage the multiple personalities on this team?
SM: I think [defensive coordinator] Wade [Phillilps] said it best — we don’t manage personalities, we work with players. And it goes back to building and developing those relationships, knowing that a mutual respect exists between our coaching staff and our players. And it’s all about doing the little things the right way. And our players that are here have done those things so far. And we feel really good about the steps we’re taking, knowing that we’ve got a lot of work to do before you get to that first game against the Oakland Raiders. So we’re just focused on taking it one day at a time, and I think our players are doing a great job of being able to personify that day in and day out.
MS: Specifically with Aqib Talib , what kind of leadership qualities have you seen since he’s been here?
SM: Well I think like anybody else, he’s had a lot of success in this league. But I think he leads by being able to connect with the players, and then going out and doing things the right way with the way he practices, the way he is in meetings. I’ve been extremely impressed watching him from afar. I was with him in Tampa his rookie year, and now just getting a chance to reconnect with him — smart player, cerebral. Seen a lot of different things, understands concepts. And then he’s also got the athleticism to match up with it. And he’s very comfortable having played in this system with coach Phillips in Denver. So, it’s been a seamless transition for him so far. And we feel really good about having Aqib with us.
MS: When you’re able to acquire a player like Talib, how much of a bonus is it that he has the strong relationship with Wade Phillips?
SM: Oh, it’s huge. I think that’s one of the things you feel so good about, is that a lot of the players that we’ve acquired from outside the organization have been people that have worked with some members of our coaching staff. And Wade in particular with the knowledge and experience that he has, he’s got a great feel for personnel around this league. And having worked with some great players, you hear guys want to come play for him because of the way he works with those guys, the way he puts them in position to have success. And Aqib is very similar. And, like I said, extremely pleased that we got him and it’s a real credit to Les and his staff for getting that trade done.
MS: You spend a lot of time, I’m sure, thinking about motivating players, trying to coach players up to their highest potential. But what motivates you?
SM: Yeah, I think it’s just that. I think it’s making sure you’re doing everything the right way to help these players and help our coaches — really just kind of be a consistent presence that’s doing your job to the best of your ability. And that’s about listening to people, learning from them, and then putting yourself in a position to lead the right way. But I think what’s so special about our building is, it’s a collaborative effort from everybody — being on the same page, working on the same direction, working through problems, solving them together. And we always talk about that communication, and we feel like the communication in our building leads to that great collaboration. And it’s about everybody doing their job to the best of their ability. And with the people we have in place, we’re confident that good things will happen if we do that.
MS: Cornerbacks coach Aubrey Pleasant brings a lot of energy, which we see on a day-to-day basis at practice. What are some of the things he brings to the table that we don’t see because they’re going on in the building?
SM: I think when you get around a coach like Aubrey, you certainly feel his presence. Dynamic personality, got great, authentic energy. I was really fortunate to work with him in Washington, and there’s certain people that you’re around where they kind of have that ‘it’ factors, and he’s certainly one of those guys. He’s worked under some great coaches. Extremely conscientious, smart, detailed, listening to him coach guys up on the fundamentals, the techniques. But I think the enthusiasm and the passion he brings every single day — it can’t help but rub off on guys. And he’s one of those people that you can’t help being excited around him. And I feel fortunate to have him on our staff. And he’s also a close friend — being able to spend some time together outside of the facilities. And he’s a great coach and he’s been a great influence on our DBs and, really, our team.
MS: What have you seen so far from Zac Taylor as QBs coach?
SM: Yeah I think when you look at Zac, great college quarterback, had some success playing professionally, Big 12 Player of the Year. He’s got a great even-keel demeanor and disposition. He’s been a coordinator, when he called plays for the Dolphins. He was at the University of Cincinnati. But I think he’s just got such a great perspective and a really good way about relating to the players, communicating in a clear, open, and honest fashion. And that demeanor, that disposition — especially dealing with the quarterback position — I think is perfect. Extremely detail-oriented. Been really pleased with what he’s done. And he’s another guy, having had him in place, getting to work with our receivers last year, and now watching the way he’s interacting with Jared, with Sean, and with Brandon — it’s been a really seamless transition. And he’s done a really good job so far.
MS: What have you seen from Jared Goff throughout this offseason program? Where do you want him to be going into the season?
SM: I think he’s made a lot of improvements. But I think just like anything else — the quarterback position is as tough a position as there is in sports — it’s all about consistency. Making good decisions, playing within the timing and rhythm of the offense, throwing the ball accurately, having a command on the run game, being able to change up your cadence — in all those things, I think he’s continuing to take ownership on this offense. I think what you want to try to avoid, but inevitably it’s going to occur, is when mistakes happen, how do we respond from that. And, really, since we got here with him as a coaching staff, he’s demonstrated that resilient mentality where he bounces back quickly. He doesn’t let previous plays affect him as he moves forward. And he’s done that. And he’s just so refreshingly comfortable in his own skin, and I think that resonates with the players. He’s truly taking command and he’s really a true leader on this team just by being himself. And that’s what you feel good about. And we’re in good hands with him leading the way, but he’ll be the first to tell you — as will I — that we’ve got a lot of work to do and we’ve got to get better every day.
MS: With the way things turned out in this offseason, how do you avoid going into this year with a, “This is a boom-or-bust season” mentality?
SM: I think the NFL is so competitive — don’t really look at it like that. Look at it as, we feel confident with the players that we have, with our coaches. And we’re focused on getting better every single day. And I think in the short amount of time that I’ve been fortunate to work in this league, you realize how competitive all 32 teams are — the other 31 teams other than us. And [they’ve got] great coaches, great players. And you can’t afford to kind of get complacent. You’ve got to always focus on getting better one day at a time, establishing a standard of performance and how our process guides our everyday approach — and that’s the one day at a time. And you can’t really get caught up in things that we can’t control. We kind of just want to be just want to be where our feet our planted, and that’s being present in the day and controlling what we can control.