Sean McVay took the league by storm over the past two years. He went 24-8 in his first two seasons including a trip to Super Bowl LIII. Ever since they scored just three points in the biggest game of the year, the Los Angeles Rams have not looked the same. This immediately sparks the question, has the league finally caught up to the so-called offensive guru?
McVay started an epidemic of NFL teams hiring young head coaches who have an offensive background such as Matt LeFleur, Kliff Kingsbury, and Freddie Kitchens. Last season, the Rams ranked second in total offense, fifth in passing yards per game, and third in rushing yards per game. In 2019, they rank 12th in total offense and sixth in passing yards per game. The Rams defense is not the best in the league by any stretch of the imagination, but this starts on the offensive end.
So has the league figured out McVay? It’s not that simple. There are two key factors to look at.
Todd Gurley’s Usage
In 2018, Gurley was viewed as one of the best running backs in the game. He finished with 1,251 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground. He added 580 yards and four touchdowns receiving. Gurley suffered an injury that limited him in the postseason in 2018. McVay clearly has that injury in the back of his head because he has not been using his All-Pro back enough.
This season, Gurley has 104 carries in eight games. In their Week 10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Gurley did not touch the ball in the fourth quarter. That is impossible.
“I think there’s always things that you look at as a coach and say, ‘Would you do it differently?’,” McVay said following the loss. “If you knew that that was going to be the last possession you get until two and a half (minutes) left, you probably would say, ‘I would’ve preferred to have Todd get into more of a rhythm and maybe get some touches there.’”
Getting your star running back involved late in a close game. This doesn’t seem like a bit of a no-brainer. Has the league figured out McVay? In this sense, no. He just needs to start making better decisions.
Jared Goff’s Regression
Goff is the most recent quarterback to get overpaid before doing much in the NFL. Goff cashed in on 60 touchdowns over the last two seasons and a trip to the Super Bowl. This season, he has taken a clear step back and looks like the quarterback he was under Jeff Fisher.
Goff is completing 60.3% of his passes and has just 11 touchdown passes with nine interceptions. He did not throw a touchdown on Sunday against Pittsburgh. Goff finished with two interceptions and fumbled three times, losing one. McVay received credit for turning Goff’s career around so it is fair to put some blame on him this season.
The Rams took a step back this season was obvious before it started but it was not expected to be this drastic. Right now, they are not a playoff team. This could be a classic case of a Super Bowl hangover. It is too early to tell if the league has figured out McVay. That can be fully judged in 2020 but this season, it is clear that teams are one step ahead of the Rams when they take the field.