Rams’ McVay reaches career pinnacle and wonders what’s next
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Five years and one month after Sean McVay became the youngest head coach in modern NFL history, he is somehow still the youngest coach in the league.
At a time when many of his chronological coaching peers are still getting started, the 36-year-old Los Angeles Rams boss is getting his second shot to become the youngest coach to win the Super Bowl.
Perhaps it’s no wonder this inveterate overachiever has been suggesting for several years that he might leave coaching early as well.
McVay answered questions about the subject again this week while the Rams wrapped up their final preparations to face the Cincinnati Bengals. While McVay has never said he’s planning an imminent exit from his profession, his openness in talking about life after the sideline generates headlines whenever he is asked about it — and it happened again 48 hours before the Super Bowl.
“I know I love football and I’m so invested in this thing, and I’m in the moment right now,” McVay said Friday. “But at some point, too, if you said, ‘What do you want to be able to do?’ I want to be able have a family, and I want to be able to spend time with them, and I also know how much time is taken away during these months of the year.”
Whenever McVay is asked whether he sees himself following the example of Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick by coaching into his 60s or 70s, McVay rejects the idea. He did it again Friday, saying he “won’t make it” that long.
But McVay’s first half-decade on the Rams’ sideline has been wildly successful. He has 55 regular-season victories, a franchise-record six postseason wins, four playoff berths, three NFC West titles and two Super Bowl berths.
He’s on a path that gives him time to become the winningest coach in NFL history — but only if he wants to stick it out. McVay has openly acknowledged the burnout that hits him during a season, and he is still trying to learn how to regulate his investment.
“I don’t think calm is ever a word that anybody would use to describe me,” he said.
McVay throws everything into his job, yet he’s self-aware enough to realize it exacts a toll. His friends and players see it, too: They love to tease their head coach about his intensity, with Cooper Kupp revealing that the Rams often talk about the “anger sharks” in McVay’s head — a reference to a joke in the 2003 film “Anger Management.”
“I think at times he walks the line between unhealthy competition and healthy competition,” Kupp said. “He wants to win at all cost. He’s aware of it. He knows he’s a psycho. But it is what it is. I wouldn’t want anyone else leading this team.”
Perhaps McVay simply exemplifies the evolving awareness of mental health among his fellow millennials by giving voice to doubts and concerns that a stereotypical Boomer coach would deny or a Generation X coach might ignore.
But given McVay’s self-described obsessive nature of research and planning, it’s no surprise he’s already thinking about what he might want several years in the future before he even has kids or a wife. McVay and his longtime fiancée, Veronika Khomyn, will finally get married this year after a two-year delay because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I want to have a family, and I think (it’s important) being able to find that balance, but also be able to give the time necessary,” McVay said. “I have always had a dream about being able to be a father, and I can’t predict the future, you know?”
McVay is the grandson of John McVay, the former Giants head coach and 49ers executive. Sean’s father, Tim, didn’t go into football partly because he wanted to have time with his family that John McVay never had. That example looms large in Sean’s mind, because he believes his father could have been “an unbelievable coach” and leader.
“One of the things that prevented him from getting into coaching was, ‘Man, I had such a great relationship, but my dad missed out on a lot of the things,’” Sean McVay said. “And he didn’t want to do that with me and my little brother. I always remembered that.”
McVay’s first NFL boss was the ever-intense Jon Gruden, and McVay’s speculation about his long-term future suggests he might follow other paths traveled by Gruden.
Gruden became the Raiders’ head coach at 34 and won a Super Bowl with Tampa Bay at 39 — the youngest at the time to do it, although he was later passed by Mike Tomlin.
After Gruden was fired by the Buccaneers at 45, he spent nine years in the broadcast booth before his ill-fated second stint with the Raiders.
With his polished public persona and teaching acumen, McVay could easily handle the decidedly less stressful responsibilities of a broadcast career. Whether he would miss the rush of competition is a different question, and even McVay doesn’t know the answer.
McVay’s mixed feelings on his long-term future are still clear, and he seems to be years away from making any decision about the next chapter in his life. A few moments after speculating openly about life after coaching, McVay acknowledged he still can’t imagine it.
“You’ll probably be talking to me when I’m 61 doing this stuff,” he said.
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