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Sean McVay is a Man Who Knows When He is Conquered

SourceThe realization didn’t come in a film session. There wasn’t some epiphany days or weeks later. Instead, unforgiving reality struck on the biggest stage of Sean McVay’s football life. And it was both brutal and instantaneous.

This is how the Los Angeles Rams coach recounts the lessons of his Super Bowl LIII loss. Like someone describing their slow motion agony of dropping a glass of red wine on white carpet – but still processing two thoughts before impact:

1. “Oh crap.”

2. “I have some immediate regrets.” …

Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots taught him something. And how people seem to be forgetting that this whole deal – learning to be a leader and a winner – is just starting for him. …

For McVay, the “oh crap” moment last February was watching the New England Patriots morph parts of their defensive scheme into something that hadn’t consistently been on tape. Mixed defensive fronts. Scrambled pass coverages. Odd personnel groups. Basically, dipping into all manner of things that didn’t readily fit their identity in 2018.

All of which delivered McVay to his immediate regrets. Well, only one regret, really: the realization that when you face New England and Belichick in the Super Bowl, you don’t ask what will be on that test. Instead, you just read every last vowel in the available material. You create answers for the unlikeliest of questions. You plan for all contingencies. Because that’s exactly what Belichick counts on you not doing. That’s why he is who he is. And that’s why the Patriots have become the gold standard in Super Bowl history.

Give credit where credit is due. Sean McVay is not only the best young head coach to come into the NFL in a long time, he is also one of the rare ones who’s willing to learn a lesson that was first taught by Quintus 2000 years ago:

Quintus

There is no shame in admitting that Bill Belichick schemed circles around you. The Old Coaches Home is filled with otherwise great football men who had Belichick carve Xs & Os into their foreheads the way the Inglorious Basterds did with swastikas. Marv Levy. Bill Cowher. Mike Martz. Tony Dungy. Pete Carroll. Dan Quinn. Just to name a few, have all had to sift through the rubble at the crash site, looking for the Black Box that will explain what happened to their best laid gameplans. There’s no shame in it.

Sure, we could say, “What else is Sean McVay going to do after getting pants like that?” It’s a fair point. Belichick gave him something he was not ready for. After playing man 81% of the snaps against Kansas City, the Patriots only played man 43% of the time against the Rams. They went with 5- and 6-man fronts to take away the cutbacks in McVay’s zone run scheme. Brian Flores was aggressive on the early downs, attacking with stunts and blitzes and sending his rushers vertical to deny Jared Goff running lanes and put LA in 3rd & longs. It was sugar in the gas tank of the offense that had the fewest 3 & outs in the league, producing five 3 & outs in their 12 possessions. And keeping the 11th highest scoring offense in NFL history not only out of the end zone, but out of the red zone as well.

So you might be thinking McVay has no choice but to admit he was schooled by the master. But that’s not giving him enough credit.

For 20 years the NFL has been lousy with coaches who refused to admit it. Who lacked the moral courage to admit it. So for every McVay, who respects his betters, we’ve had dozens of Jon Grudens bitching about a Tuck Rule he wasn’t aware of. Tony Dungys bellyaching about pass interference. Rex Ryans blaming their failure on not having a quarterback. Mike Tomlins making up loony conspiracy theories about secret signals jamming his helmet radios. Chuck Paganos showing an ignorance of the Ideal Gas Law. And John Harbaugh – the Patron Saint of Not Being Able to Accept His Own Shortcomings – at various times blaming scoreboards, air pressure, the officials and trick formations.

Which means praise is in order for McVay. At least he gets it. Which tells me he’ll be getting outcoached by Belichick long after these other guys are out of football.