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Rams' Sean McVay seeks 'rhythm' between series as head coach, playcaller

Sean McVay had his first chance to juggle his duties as a head coach and a playcaller during the Rams' preseason opener. K.C. Alfred/Icon Sportswire

IRVINE, Calif. -- As Washington's offensive coordinator these last three years, the time between series allowed Sean McVay to sit down with his quarterback, flip through pictures of the opposing defense's setup and map out a plan for the next series.

Not so much anymore.

McVay is now the Los Angeles Rams' head coach, further complicating the task by also taking on duties as the offensive playcaller. He got his first crack at it during Saturday's preseason opener against the Dallas Cowboys, an eventual 13-10 win by his team. The toughest part, he said, was "the transition in between series." McVay seeks a balance between "making sure that you're mindful of getting ahead for that next series and have a couple thoughts in mind that you can communicate to our offensive position coaches in terms of how we want to attack the next drive, but also being involved with what's going on on defense."

McVay has the benefit of working alongside defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and special-teams coordinator John Fassel, two experienced coaches who are among the very best at what they do. But the 31-year-old McVay still seeks "a rhythm" in between series. His former boss, Washington coach Jay Gruden, predicted that would be McVay's toughest challenge when asked about the dynamic of being a head coach and playcaller during the scouting combine.

"You have to watch the game," said Gruden, who called offensive plays in 2014 before turning it over to McVay. "You have to be in tune with what’s going on on defense. You can’t just go sit next to the quarterback and talk about your next series of plays. That’s the toughest adjustment Sean is going to have. But I think with the staff that he has and the familiarity he has with them, I think he’ll be fine."

McVay felt "very comfortable" with the flow of the game and called the communication with his fellow coaches "very smooth," particularly with offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur.

The playcalling comes naturally.

"It was really good," Rams quarterback Jared Goff said. "I was talking with [quarterbacks] Dan Orlovsky and Sean Mannion about it all night. Just the way he verbalizes things, the way he’s able to communicate with us and give us little tips in the play call and stuff to remember, little reminders, is so helpful."

It's the other stuff that will take some time for McVay. Like when to take a timeout, whether to accept certain penalties, when to go for it on fourth down. He'll lean on his veteran coaches, and he'll use the preseason to figure it all out. McVay's playcalling seemed particularly conservative on Saturday, which is to be expected for an initial preseason game. That will eventually change.

Second thoughts will not.

"You’re always going to want a couple decisions back, you’re always going to wish you put the players in better situations," McVay said. "That’s something that I’m sure I’ll feel every single week."