There was Sean McVay in a blue button-down shirt and black pants. The office behind him was non-descript. He held a football in his right hand. What was below his left hand told the story.
McVay’s fingers were spread over the top of a Los Angeles Rams helmet. “Boom!” the caption from the Rams’ official Twitter account read. Los Angeles had just agreed to make McVay, 30, the youngest coach in NFL history, hiring the Washington Redskins offensive coordinator after multiple meetings.
The move is a double-down on NFL news in Los Angeles and hole-making in the Redskins’ coaching staff. Earlier in the day, the San Diego Chargers announced they would relocate to Los Angeles and share the Rams’ stadium. A week ago, the Redskins fired defensive coordinator Joe Barry. McVay’s departure now leaves the two top assistant spots on the team open this offseason.
McVay’s work in Los Angeles continues an NFL legacy within his family. McVay is the grandson of former 49ers executive John McVay, who teamed with coach Bill Walsh to build a dynasty in San Francisco.
Since 2008, Sean McVay has been coaching in the NFL. He started as an assistant wide receivers coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Redskins coach Jay Gruden made McVay the league’s youngest offensive coordinator in 2014. For the prior two seasons, McVay was the tight ends coach in Washington.
“I am incredibly honored by this opportunity and I want to start by thanking Mr. Kroenke and Kevin Demoff for their faith in me to lead the Los Angeles Rams as head coach,” McVay said in a statement. “Collectively, we are committed to building a championship caliber team, and I’m excited to start that process and make our fans proud.”
McVay will be introduced at a Friday press conference.
The 49ers had also interviewed McVay, but it was the Rams who fervently pursued a skilled offensive mind who helped Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins set franchise passing records in back-to-back seasons. Los Angeles also takes a risk by hiring a coach who has no experience being in charge of an entire team.
“He’s brought a lot to this football team, as far as offensively, and done a good job calling plays and utilizing the people that we have,” Gruden said recently.
Washington’s need for an offensive replacement is not as dire as its need to find a new defensive coordinator. The Redskins’ offense was third overall in yards gained last season. McVay made the offensive play calls, but the offense was constructed by Gruden, who also contributed to play-calling last season.
One immediate in-house name that comes to mind as a possible replacement is quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh. Cavanaugh has been an NFL offensive coordinator three times, has coached in the league since 1992 and spent 13 years in the NFL as a quarterback. Offensive line coach Bill Callahan is also an experienced option.
The defense is in a bad spot. Washington was 28th in total defense last season, leading to the dismissal of Barry shortly after the final game of the 8-7-1 2016 season. The Redskins need to find solutions at safety, linebacker and on the defensive line. They recently interviewed former Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley, a noted defensive mind who helped shape the Seattle Seahawks dominant defense. Washington has also interviewed former Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine for the position.
In Los Angeles, McVay replaces Jeff Fisher and takes over a franchise with a prospect at quarterback. The Rams selected Jared Goff with the No. 1 overall pick in 2016. His debut season did not go well. Goff completed just 54.6 percent of his passes, threw five touchdowns, was intercepted seven times and fumbled five times.
The Rams have not been to the playoffs for 12 seasons, often being stepped on in the rough-and-tumble NFC West, where the 49ers, Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals have grappled for the division title. Los Angeles was 4-12 last season, finishing with its 13th consecutive losing season, this one during their first year in Los Angeles after leaving St. Louis.
“This is a great day as we welcome Sean McVay as our new head coach,” Rams owner Stan Kroenke said in a statement. “The accomplishments and success that he has had in less than a decade in our league are impressive. We are confident in his vision to make this team a consistent winner and we will all continue to work together to achieve our ultimate goal – bringing a Rams Super Bowl championship home to Los Angeles.”
Seven previous coaches in NFL history have been hired before they turned 33. One had a winning record: John Madden, who was 32 in 1969. McVay will turn 31 on Jan. 24.
Los Angeles’ offense has finished last in the NFL for two consecutive seasons. Goff struggled in his half-season as their starter. Top running back Todd Gurley had a dismal second NFL season after running for 1,106 yards in his rookie season.
McVay is now in charge of fixing all of it.