Sean McVay's culture resonates with Rams players

"Coach cool, Coach cool," cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman said of Sean McVay. "Put it like this, he know when to be about business and he know when it's time to play." Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Sean McVay won't hesitate. Win or lose, if the Los Angeles Rams coach thinks he has erred on the field, he will let his team know.

"He'll raise his hand and say, 'Yeah, I F'd up, I put you all in a bad position. I'll fix it, I'll change it,'" defensive lineman Michael Brockers explained. "When you have a coach like that, that's OK with taking that accountability and putting it on himself and being vocal with it outwardly, it allows everybody else to also man up."

It's all part of the culture McVay has established in less than two seasons as coach.

"The standard is the standard," Brockers said. "And we abide by it."

The Rams are 4-0 for the first time since 2001 and are one of only two remaining unbeaten teams in the NFL as they prepare to play division rival Seattle (2-2) at CenturyLink Field on Sunday.

Not long ago the Seahawks were the kings of the NFC West under coach Pete Carroll. His "always compete" mentality enabled the now disassembled Legion of Boom to thrive and spurred the Seahawks to consecutive Super Bowl appearances. But this offseason it came apart as some veteran players took shots at Carroll on their way out the door, claiming that the 67-year-old head coach's message had gone stale.

And so the division's buzz has moved south to Los Angeles, where -- not unlike Carroll -- the 32-year-old McVay has cultivated a unique culture of his own, one that has the Rams set on a Super Bowl trajectory.

"Coach cool, Coach cool," cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman said. "Put it like this, he know when to be about business and he know when it's time to play."

When it's time for meetings, "It's all about business," Robey-Coleman said. Players who are late -- even by a minute and regardless of stature -- get fined, and at weigh-ins, there's an expectation that you're within your range.

"In order to kind of make that a culture, everybody just has to abide by it," left guard Rodger Saffold said. "So I mean he abides by it, the coaches abide by it, players abide by it and we're checked up on by an array of people."

The phrase "We not me" is written on T-shirts and hallway walls and "open and honest communication" is a refrain McVay repeats daily.

For McVay, teacher and coach are interchangeable. And making sure his players are part of the process is imperative.

"When you really look at that ownership that our players have on just the way we operate, that's the most important thing," McVay said. "That's really where the true power comes in, because they're the ones out there making plays."

McVay's culture is, in part, what attracted All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to sign a one-year, $14-million deal with the Rams in free agency.

"There's different models of being able to coach people, and I think it's a matter of really looking at it -- is it a dictatorship or is it an open communication and transparency?" Suh said. "A players' coach is going to be open communication, transparency, have it laid out from the very beginning of what his expectations are."

Receiver Brandin Cooks arrived over the offseason via a trade from New England, where he played one season for coach Bill Belichick and played a previous three seasons for Sean Payton with the New Orleans Saints.

Cooks grinned when asked if McVay was a players' coach.

"No doubt about it," Cooks said. "It's more so because of the amount of attention to detail that he puts into a game. All you can do is respect that."

McVay loves football, so much so that he sometimes apologizes during team meetings -- not for mistakes, but for becoming overexcited when detailing plays. He jumps into drills with receivers, testing his defensive back skills. And McVay arrives at the training facility long before the sun comes up, and his car often remains in the lot long after everyone else has departed.

"When you see that from your head coach," Cooks said, "putting into it as much as you're putting into it as a player, you have to respect it."

But what really makes the Rams' culture work, several players said, was accountability.

"We have it really good over here," Saffold said. "Probably got it better than anyone around the league as far as just the way he takes care of his players and those types of things, then at the same time I feel like there's accountability here. We don't have vague boundaries. We have strict boundaries and you have to follow them."

It's a culture McVay hopes will be unwavering far into the future, regardless of outside noise and their record.

"It's definitely sustainable because when you treat men as men, and definitely keep the accountability high where there is no favoritism, there is no one person above the system; everybody is under the system, everybody is accountable, it just kind of keeps everybody in check," Brockers said. "Everybody is leaning on you, you know everybody is expecting you to do your job and do it well. So we have a bunch of great guys who have all bought into the system, too, and I haven't seen anybody fight the system, so it obviously works."