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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Cameron DaSilva

5 takeaways from Sean McVay’s end-of-season press conference

Sean McVay met with reporters one last time to close out the 2023 season, fielding questions on Wednesday morning -- just three days after the team’s 24-23 loss to the Detroit Lions in the wild-card round.

He touched on a number of topics, from Tyler Higbee and Kyren Williams‘ injuries to Stetson Bennett’s future with the team, as well as his commitment to Matthew Stafford as the Rams’ starting quarterback.

Here’s what we learned from his final media session of the season.

Rams aren't firing any of their coaches

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

McVay overhauled his coaching staff last offseason, letting go of several assistants and bringing in some new faces who he’s never worked with before — Ryan Wendell and Nick Caley included. It was a big step for McVay after a difficult 2022 season and it yielded some great results.

This offseason, there won’t be sweeping changes. McVay said if there are any changes to his staff in 2024, it’ll only be due to coaches leaving for opportunities with other teams. That means he won’t be firing anyone and will bring back much of the same staff, including special teams coordinator Chase Blackburn, whose unit had a shaky season.

Two coaches who could end up leaving are Raheem Morris and Zac Robinson, while Eric Henderson has already been hired as USC’s co-defensive coordinator.

“If there are changes, it’ll only be because of better opportunities,” he said. “I feel really good about our coaching staff. I think it was good to be able to have a lot of the continuity. Obviously, there could be some chips that end up falling into place relative to Raheem getting an opportunity to be a head coach. If that doesn’t occur and people don’t get better opportunities, then we’ll have the same group back.”

Rams got exactly the look they wanted on third-and-14

(Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

McVay was once again asked about his decision to punt on fourth-and-14 against the Lions, a call that backfired because the Rams never got the ball back. He was also asked if he ever considered trying to pick up a chunk of yards on third-and-14 to set up a more manageable fourth-down situation, rather than trying to gain all 14 yards with one play like they did on the throw to Puka Nacua.

He did think about calling a play to pick up 7-10 yards, but he also noted that the Rams got the exact coverage look they wanted on the third-down play, which is what led to Stafford targeting Nacua on the right side.

“Yeah, there really was and those are things that — absolutely. But we got the exact coverage that I wanted on third-and-14. The backside window was there for that dig route. And it didn’t go down for us,” he said. “In hindsight, do you go for it? Yeah. In the moment I felt like let’s punt it away. I still felt like with four minutes left — and I’m going to be the first to look at all the decisions and I’m really excited about looking back and saying, ‘Where can you learn? Where can you grow?’ I do think you take things with a grain of salt because had we gotten that stop and then we end up going and winning that game with a field goal. But I do think that relative to how you call that two-play sequence when you know you’re probably going to go for it, if it’s anything eight or under and really probably 10 or under in that matter, certainly those are things that you talk about. However, in the moment I felt really decisive about the call, got the exact coverage that I was hunting up, and it just didn’t go down for us. Now, would I have given Matthew another shot in hindsight? I probably would. And so those are the things that you can’t neglect to acknowledge and make sure that as these decisions and situations continue to come up, you’re better equipped with the full gamut of knowledge. I do think that there’s a lot of layers that aren’t necessarily taken into account with 22 moving parts, the feel for the flow of the game. That is a very real thing that a lot of those percentages are not in tune with.”

Unwavering commitment to Matthew Stafford in 2024

(Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

There were questions about Stafford’s future with the Rams last offseason, with rumors swirling about the Rams potentially looking to trade the quarterback. Stafford even confirmed the team approached him about restructuring his contract, which he declined to do.

This offseason, there’s no need to ask about Stafford’s status as QB1 in Los Angeles. He’s the Rams’ starter moving forward, something McVay strongly confirmed on Wednesday.

“A hundred percent, absolutely,” he said of Stafford being their starter in 2024. “Unequivocally, yes. Yes, I totally understand (the question). But, oh man, that would be a good way to get me really riled up. No, we’re ready to go. He’s ready to go and couldn’t be more committed to having him lead us next year.”

Stetson Bennett uncertain to be with the team next season

(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Bennett missed his entire rookie season while on the non-football illness list for undisclosed reasons, causing many to wonder what his future in the NFL looks like. Fans hope to see him back with the Rams in 2024 but that’s far from certain to happen. McVay said it’s too early to know if Bennett will be back with the team next season and he’s “a long way away” from being able to answer that question.

“You know, I don’t know that,” he said. “I think that’s a conversation for another time. I think he’s doing better, but I wouldn’t be in a position to answer that accurately right now. That’s probably a long way away from me being able to answer that.”

He sees similarities between 2017-2018 and 2023-2024

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

When McVay took over the Rams in 2017, they were a very young team that needed a complete makeover. In that first offseason, they came away with a strong draft class that featured Cooper Kupp, John Johnson, Gerald Everett and Josh Reynolds, while also signing key free agents such as Andrew Whitworth and Robert Woods.

All of those players helped lay the foundation of a team that would go to the Super Bowl in McVay's second season. Looking back, he sees similarities between that 2017-2018 transition and the upcoming transition into the 2024 season.

The Rams can be aggressive this offseason, both in free agency and the draft -- just as they were in 2018. They have young players to build around (Steve Avila, Puka Nacua, Kobie Turner, Kyren Williams and others), and some big moves in the offseason could put the Rams over the top.

"think it’s a good parallel. If you’re going to compare it to any previous years, in my mind, it’s funny you asked that, you say it did feel a lot like that now," he said. "There were a couple differences but yes, in terms of a lot of the young guys getting … it does feel like this was kind of a new start to the journey that we’re on and so I get what you’re asking, and I did feel a similar sentiment but you got to do it. And there’s one thing that I’ve learned in these seven years, it’s every single year is a new year. As you continue to accumulate experiences, you learn how to try to best navigate it whether it be your decision making or your onboarding and I do feel like we have a much better idea of the types of people and players and coaches that we want with all the turnover and some of the different things that we’ve experienced I think will serve us well because of the approach that we’ll be able to take. But this league is tough and we all know that, but I’m sure as hell excited to get back and compete and attack it with these coaches and players next year. That’s a cool place to be in too, relative to all the different things that you guys have seen us go through and the gratitude and the perspective is very different and for that, I’m very happy."

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