ESPN recently put together power rankings based on how each NFL team is positioned for these next three seasons. The Los Angeles Rams finished 28th. That is, um, not good. It's not good because, well, 28th is bad.
It's really not good because of what the next three seasons represent for this franchise. Thanks to heavy rainfall in a city that never experiences heavy rainfall, these next three years now constitute the buildup to the Rams -- and Los Angeles Chargers -- moving into their vast, opulent $2.6 billion stadium in Inglewood, California.
The Rams -- 13 years removed from their last playoff appearance, 14 years removed from their last winning season -- want to become legitimate contenders as quickly as possible. More specifically, they want to ensure they are a playoff-caliber franchise by the time they move into that new stadium. ESPN's Louis Riddick, Mike Sando and Field Yates don't think they will be -- at least not as the team is currently constructed. The trio graded each team's roster, quarterback, draft, coaches and front office, and crunched the numbers to come up with a final score. The result: 27 of the 31 other teams are, in their minds, better positioned for success from 2017 through 2019.
The Rams can't have that. They can't have an uninterested fan base in the nation's second-largest media market, and they can't play second fiddle to the Chargers in a stadium they themselves are funding. Leading up to training camp, we're going to take a look at the five things that need to happen in order for the Rams to be a lot better than the 28th-best team at the conclusion of this three-year stretch.
No. 3: Sean McVay must learn fast.
History isn't necessarily kind to McVay's circumstances. He will be 31 years, seven months and 17 days old by the time the Rams play their first regular-season game, the youngest head coach in the NFL's modern era. Prior to McVay, the four youngest head coaches in that era went a combined 52-115 before being fired by their respective teams.
Lane Kiffin went 5-15 for the Raiders and was let go emphatically by owner Al Davis, who said in a news conference that he "picked the wrong guy" and "was embarrassed to watch" his team play under Kiffin. Raheem Morris lost the final 10 games of the 2011 season and was fired by the Buccaneers with an overall record of 17-31. David Shula, son of Hall of Famer Don Shula, guided a Bengals team that went 19-52 and lost 50 games faster than any team in NFL history. He was dismissed midway through the 1996 season. Then there was Josh McDaniels, whose 28-game stint with the Broncos included a videotaping scandal, strained relationships with Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall, and, ultimately, 17 losses.
None have received a second chance to be an NFL head coach.
Bottom line: This stuff's hard, and it is especially difficult at such a young age.
But those who know McVay best would caution against using his age to define him. His knowledge of the game, his ability to explain it and his capabilities as a leader are considered light years beyond whatever it says on his driver's license. Many believe McVay is a star in the making, including the Rams. They hired him before even sitting down with a more-accomplished Kyle Shanahan, the former Falcons offensive coordinator and current 49ers head coach. And they signed him to a five-year contract. They're committed to McVay long term, and his ability to adapt to the high-profile role of an NFL head coach will directly impact how the Rams look throughout this three-year stretch.
The Rams are great on special teams and very good on defense. Their success will come down to how quickly McVay can turn that offense around, and he will take a hands-on approach by calling the offensive plays. Aaron Donald has already been impressed by McVay's understanding of defensive schemes, even though McVay has been involved with only the offensive side of the ball. Jared Goff has raved about how simple McVay makes the game for quarterbacks. And everybody else will tell you the energy he brings is infectious.
"His ability to understand the game from every aspect -- fronts, coverages, line play, checks, from top to bottom -- is uncanny," said former Washington tight end Chris Cooley, who spent a lot of time around McVay these last few years. "To understand it in that way, and to speak it the way he speaks it, it's just a love thing. You have to spend unlimited time doing it. And it has to be what you love. When you talk to him, when I talk to him, you just hear it in his voice. You see it."
Cooley is like many who will tell you they hear Jon Gruden every time McVay speaks, which brings up a favorable precedent. Gruden was successful as a young head coach. So were John Madden, Don Shula, Mike Tomlin, Bill Cowher and Al Davis himself.
The Rams believe McVay is in that class, not the other.