I flew into Los Angeles on Wednesday and I’ve been here for around six days now. It’s my first time here and I’ve hit all the typical tourist stops, but one of the coolest things I’ve seen on my trip came when I hadn’t even stepped off the plane: While descending to land at LAX, I got a perfect overhead view of the currently-under-construction Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park, the future home of the Los Angeles Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers.
And that got me thinking.
Recently there has been a trend of hiring young coaches. It all started with Rams head coach Sean McVay. Formerly a position coach and coordinator for the Redskins, McVay took over for a struggling Rams team off the heels of the Jeff Fisher era and found immediate success. He went 11-5 with the team in 2017 and 13-3 last season, and when the Rams hit the playoffs last year, they looked unstoppable.
Teams certainly noticed the success of the 33-year-old. During a season of head coach carousels, it seemed as if anyone who’d shaken hands with McVay would be offered a job. Two of McVay’s former assistants in Matt LeFleur and Zac Taylor were hired as the head coach of the Packers and Bengals, respectively.
Teams in the AFC East also went for youth. The Jets hired 41-year-old Adam Gase and the Dolphins brought in 38-year-old Brian Flores.
For a bit, it seemed like the trend would pay off. McVay’s Rams readily handled their first playoff game against the Cowboys and staved off a powerful New Orleans Saints team that defeated them in the regular season (though not without controversy). With that victory, McVay had taken Los Angeles to a Super Bowl in just his second season as its head coach.
You know the rest.
Quarterback Jared Goff wore a lost, empty gaze from the moment he made his first read. The vaunted Rams running game was stifled to just 62 total rushing yards. The New England Patriots were favored by 2.5 points, but they won the game by 10. Plain and simple, McVay got outcoached.
It begs a question. Should all those teams that hired the "next McVay" be worried? Will a young coach crumble under the pressure of the bright lights on Super Bowl Sunday? Did they make a mistake?
I don’t think so.
As with anything, the game of football has evolved. Coaches like Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick have done well to keep up with its many twists and turns, but other aging coaches — like Marvin Lewis , for example — found themselves swept away by the changing scene. People may have criticized McVay for his coaching performance in the Super Bowl, but keep in mind that it’s just his second year.
Perhaps guys like LeFleur and Taylor won’t see success as fast as McVay did, but I don’t think his tenure with the Rams is an anomaly. We’ve hit an era in the NFL where young minds will lead the charge, and while teams like the Buccaneers (Bruce Arians) and Broncos (Vic Fangio) may try to fight the trend, they’ll find themselves swallowed in it once those young minds start to find success, just as McVay did.
Follow River Wells @riverhwells. Contact him at [email protected].