McVay's coaching staff believes in young Rams boss' skills
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) Although Sean McVay is the youngest head coach in modern NFL history, he'll have plenty of experienced help around the Los Angeles Rams.
McVay's new coaching staff spent the past week at the Rams' training complex watching film of last season's team, holding meetings and preparing for the months of work ahead. The 31-year-old boss has assembled a staff featuring several veteran NFL coordinators and position coaches, along with two holdovers from Jeff Fisher's staff.
Many of the assistants have previously worked together, and two are literally related: offensive line coach Aaron Kromer is the father of offensive quality control assistant Zak Kromer. The group all shares a belief in McVay, who intends to revitalize a franchise with just four winning seasons in the last 27 years.
''I had multiple opportunities to go to other places, but Sean is why I came here,'' said assistant head coach Joe Barry, a veteran defensive coordinator. ''I believe in this guy, and he's incredibly special. I can't wait for obviously the city of Los Angeles, really the whole NFL, our team to see this guy and what he's all about.''
McVay's biggest hire was Wade Phillips, the veteran defensive coordinator joining his 10th NFL franchise. After a few weeks of film study, Phillips sees the ingredients of a standout defense around All-Pro Aaron Donald and fellow linemen Robert Quinn and Michael Brockers.
''I think they were good (last year), and we have a chance to be great,'' said Phillips, who spent the past two years running Denver's Super Bowl-winning defense. ''We have a chance, even, to be the best, and that's what we're looking for.''
Phillips confirmed he plans to move the Rams from a 4-3 defense to his favored 3-4 scheme, although he considers such labels to be semantics.
''You can call it a 5-2,'' Phillips said. ''It's an odd-man front, which you can play in a 4-3.''
Phillips' defensive staff includes Barry, who worked alongside McVay in Washington for the past two years: Barry was the Redskins' defensive coordinator, while McVay was the offensive coordinator.
Barry, who is also the Rams' linebackers coach, welcomed the move into a supporting role for the opportunity to work with the 69-year-old Phillips. Barry and Phillips developed a friendship over the past 10 years, but have never been on the same staff.
''The No. 1 thing that I do with my players all the time, I challenge them to improve every single day, but I also challenge myself to learn, to get better, to improve,'' Barry said. ''And to be working with a guy like Wade Phillips, I'm going to spring out of bed every day to come to work every single day.''
Quarterbacks coach Greg Olson has been an offensive coordinator for five NFL teams over the past 12 years. He also accepted a positional coaching role for the chance to work alongside McVay and Matt LaFleur, the Rams' new offensive coordinator.
LaFleur won't formally join the Rams until Monday, a week after his Atlanta Falcons' loss to New England in the Super Bowl. McVay has worked alongside Olson and LaFleur at previous coaching stops, and they all share a belief in the offensive concepts favored by Jon Gruden and Kyle Shanahan, the San Francisco 49ers' new head coach.
''I think (McVay) and I are well ahead of the curve in terms of where we're at, philosophically speaking,'' Olson said. ''Had a chance to talk with Matt, too, and we'll certainly assimilate some of those schemes that they had in Atlanta, because they had a tremendous year, but that's also West Coast-based. All three of our backgrounds are West Coast-based, so I think that will come along very quickly.''
McVay kept two coaches from last season's staff. Running backs coach Skip Peete stayed after a personal pitch for his retention from Todd Gurley, and special teams coordinator John Fassel returns for a sixth season with the Rams after finishing out last year as their interim head coach.
Fassel and his wife have two young children, and they were overjoyed to avoid yet another move after relocating from St. Louis. Fassel also looks forward to working with McVay.
''You don't ever look at him and think about him being a 31-year-old,'' Fassel said. ''You just look at him and see a passionate, great communicator, a great decision-maker and a guy who's brought in a great staff.''
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