LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Rams have made Sean McVay the youngest head coach in modern NFL history, and he appears to be getting some experienced help.
The Rams on Thursday hired McVay, who turns 31 on Jan. 24. Several hours later, ESPN.com reported the Rams have finalized a deal with 69-year-old Wade Phillips to be their defensive coordinator, although the team declined to confirm it.
McVay has been the Washington Redskins’ offensive coordinator since 2014. He will replace Jeff Fisher, who was fired 13 games into the Rams’ homecoming season in Los Angeles, and interim head coach John Fassel, who led the Rams to a 4-12 finish in their 13th consecutive non-winning season.
“The accomplishments and success that he has had in less than a decade in our league are impressive,” Rams owner Stan Kroenke said in a statement. “We are confident in his vision to make this team a consistent winner and we will all continue to work together to achieve our ultimate goal, bringing a Rams Super Bowl championship home to Los Angeles.”
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McVay spent the past three seasons as Jay Gruden’s offensive coordinator with the Redskins. He has been an assistant since 2010 in Washington, where he worked with Gruden and Bill Callahan to build a prolific offense led by quarterback Kirk Cousins.
McVay’s most important task is likely to be the transformation of No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff into a star after his rough rookie campaign behind a struggling offensive line.
“Really happy for Sean McVay!” Cousins tweeted.
The Rams made the eye-catching move on the same day that the Chargers announced their relocation to Los Angeles to share the Rams’ $2.6 billion stadium. The Chargers are still without a coach, and the Rams grabbed some of their headlines by snagging one of the most interesting names on the coaching market.
“I am incredibly honored by this opportunity,” McVay said in a statement, thanking Kroenke and Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff. “Collectively, we are committed to building a championship-caliber team, and I’m excited to start that process and make our fans proud.”
McVay wowed the Rams’ top brass during two recent interviews, but he is an unorthodox choice for the franchise, which hasn’t taken many extraordinary risks during Kroenke’s tenure. While McVay is respected as an up-and-coming NFL mind, he has understandably meager experience, including none as a head coach at any level of football.
Lane Kiffin was 31 years old when the Oakland Raiders hired him in January 2007. That hire didn’t work out so well, but perhaps risks are in order to snap the Rams out of their 12-year playoff drought.
They’ve made the playoffs just four times in the last 27 years, all during a five-year span in St. Louis from 1999-2003, and they haven’t had a winning record in Los Angeles since 1989.
Los Angeles has the NFL’s youngest roster, but McVay is still younger than Rams defensive linemen William Hayes. McVay doesn’t inherit an enormous amount of elite talent beyond Pro Bowl defensive lineman Aaron Donald and other topflight defensive players, but the Rams are eager to build a winning team heading into their new stadium in Inglewood, which they will share with the Chargers beginning in 2019.
“He’s brought a lot to this football team, as far as offensively, and done a good job calling plays and utilizing the people that we have,” Gruden said recently.
McVay is widely expected to assemble a veteran staff around him, and the Rams were linked from the start of McVay’s candidacy to Phillips. He was out of contract after leading the Denver Broncos’ Super Bowl-winning unit last season, and the Rams outmaneuvered other suitors to nab him.
Phillips has been a head coach with Denver, Buffalo and Dallas, and he was an interim head coach for New Orleans, Atlanta and the Houston Texans between his 25 seasons as a defensive coordinator in a 39-year NFL career. Phillips’ son, Wes, was McVay’s tight ends coach in Washington.
Wade Phillips traditionally runs a 3-4 defense. Defensive linemen Donald, Robert Quinn and Michael Brockers all excelled in the 4-3 scheme of Gregg Williams, who ran the Rams’ above-average defense for the past three seasons before leaving for the Cleveland Browns after the regular season ended.
The offense will be the responsibility of McVay, who has plenty of work to do.
The Rams’ offense has finished last in the NFL for two consecutive seasons. Goff threw seven interceptions and five touchdown passes while getting sacked 26 times in his half-season as their starter, while top running back Todd Gurley had a dismal second NFL season behind the same struggling offensive line.
McVay could be well-equipped for the job of tutoring Goff: In Cousins’ two seasons under McVay as the Redskins’ starting quarterback, he twice broke the venerable franchise’s records for yards passing and completions. Washington averaged 403 yards per game this season, while the Rams didn’t have a 400-yard offensive game all year long.
“Excited for the future of this team,” Goff tweeted. “Let’s do this thing!”
Although McVay is a coaching youngster, he played receiver at Miami (Ohio), and he comes from a football family. His grandfather, John, spent 21 seasons in the San Francisco 49ers’ front office as a top executive involved in building several outstanding teams.
The Redskins are left looking for two new coordinators on Gruden’s staff after McVay’s departure and defensive coordinator Joe Barry’s firing a week ago.
AP Pro Football Writer Howard Fendrich in Washington contributed to this report.
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