Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay will go down as one of the brightest and most successful coaches of his era. However, the 36-year-old already ruled out the possibility of hanging around nearly as long as his peers.
McVay, who turns 37 in January, is nearing the end of a disappointing year. Los Angeles is on the brink of having one of the worst seasons ever in NFL history for a reigning Super Bowl champion. The Rams’ all-in mentality brought the Lombardi Trophy to Los Angeles, but the price is being paid this fall.
- Los Angeles Rams record (Sean McVay era): 59-35, 7-3 in playoffs
While McVay received a contract extension this offseason, it came after he heavily weighed retirement. He is the most-coveted person in the NFL for TV networks, eyeing him as the next great analyst in the broadcast booth. Not only would it provide him with a more relaxed environment that allows him time to spend time with family, it would also come with a lucrative contract.
NFL insider Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports has previously reported that McVay wanted Kevin O’Connell to replace him as the Rams’ head coach if he retired. While O’Connell is off the table, it speaks to McVay’s consideration of his future and the likelihood that he could have a voice in who replaces him.
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With retirement already on his mind and his team seemingly destined for massive changes this offseason, McVay will likely evaluate his future immediately after the season ends.
Considering that retirement will be on the table, it’s time to evaluate several Los Angeles Rams coaching candidates who could replace him if he leaves.
Raheem Morris, Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator
Soon after Brandon Staley left the Rams to become the Los Angeles Chargers head coach, McVay hired Raheem Morris as defensive coordinator. The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach is well-regarded as a great defensive mind with rave reviews for his leadership. When Morris wasn’t hired as a head coach in 2022, McVay was happy to have him back but called out NFL teams who missed out on a great hire.
“It’s a reflection of how far we have to go because he’s one of the best coaches in the world, and the fact that he isn’t a head coach is a crime.”Sean McVay on Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris (via Greg Beacham)
Relationships matter in the NFL, especially when it relates to who lands specific jobs. Not only does Morris have a rapport with the Rams’ locker room, he also now has several years of history with team owner Stan Kroenke and general manager Les Snead.
Assuming McVay receives some input on who would replace him, Morris would likely be on the short list of coaching candidates. Combining that with his experience, the trust he already has inside the organization and his experience, he could be a strong option if McVay steps down.
Brian Callahan, Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator
The trajectory of the Cincinnati Bengals’ franchise changed because of quarterback Joe Burrow, but Brian Callahan might be one of the most unheralded coordinators in the NFL. While Cincinnati divides up its responsibilities for designing the offense among its coaching staff, Callahan plays a massive role in shaping the scheme to fit what Burrow does well and it comes with a strong bond with the face of the franchise.
As Dan Pompei of The Athletic detailed in his profile of Callahan, the 38-year-old evaluates his quarterback to find what their strengths are and what can be done to make them successful. He recognizes that different passers can play at a high level in their own way, as long as their coach finds ways to adapt to those strengths.
“The more exposure you can get in this league to players and systems that are successful, the better you are if you are willing to learn. He’s always finding ways to be a better coach by learning from players as well as coaches.”Los Angeles Rams QB Matthew Stafford on Brian Callahan
It’s something Matthew Stafford appreciated about Callahan when he serves as the Detroit Lions’ quarterbacks coach from 2016-’17. During that two-year stretch, Stafford averaged a 96.2 quarterback rating with 53 touchdown passes in 32 games. The connection to Stafford could make Johnson, who graduated from De La Salle High School and is a UCLA alum, one of the best coaching candidates to replace McVay.
Brian Johnson, Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach
Los Angeles took an unconventional route to find its head coach during the last search, hiring a young offensive coordinator who wasn’t among the most nationally-recognized assistant coaches. Fast forward to 2023 and it’s possible history could be repeated.
- Florida Gators offense (2020): 378.6 pass ypg (1st in FBS), 26.3 first downs per game (8th), 7.3 yards per play (9th), 39.8 ppg (13th)
- Philadelphia Eagles passing offense (2022): 28.2 points per game (2nd in NFL), 388.3 total yards per game (3rd in NFL), 5.9 yards per play (6th in NFL), 108.0 QB rating (1st in NFL)
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Brian Johnson, age 35, took over as the Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach in 2021. A year prior, Kyle Trask posted a 43-8 TD-INT ratio with a 180.0 passer rating with Johnson serving as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Jalen Hurts has emerged as a top NFL MVP candidate this season and the coach he spends the most time with plays a huge part in that success. Johnson would certainly take over as the Eagles offensive coordinator if Shane Steichen leaves, but that’s only if an NFL team doesn’t take a chance on him as a head coach.
Ben Johnson, Detroit Lions offensive coordinator
Speaking of potential Los Angeles Rams coaching candidates with ties to the team, Stafford spent time in Detroit with Ben Johnson. Currently serving as the Lions’ offensive coordinator and play-caller, the 36-year-old served as offensive quality control coach (2019) and then tight ends coach (2020-’21) when Stafford was still with the team.
Johnson is making Jared Goff look like he did at his peak in Los Angeles with McVay. Detroit entered Week 14 averaging the seventh-most total yards per game (369.1), the sixth-most points per game (26.3) and ranked 10th in third-down conversion rate (42.8%).
Perhaps most impressive is Johnson’s success as a play-caller inside the red zone. The Lions have the best red-zone offense in the NFL, scoring touchdowns on 73.9% of their trips inside an opponent’s 20-yard line. Johnson should be an NFL head coach in 2023, it’s only a question of which team hires him.