Above The Neck And Beyond: Rams Minicamp Approach Displays McVay’s Coaching Genius
The one phrase that every person said from behind the podium was “Above The Neck.” From the mouth of Matthew Stafford, Sean McVay, Liam Coen, and Raheem Morris all reiterated that as the focus and the goal of the Rams minicamps and last week’s OTAs. Get the plan from paper to the brains of nearly 90 players.
Of course, this means that there’s not a lot of action and pretty much no contact at Rams minicamps. In fact, Matthew Stafford still hasn’t thrown the ball. The Rams are in essence trying to engage the mind without engaging the body. This allows them to be productive without risking injury.
This seems to be implementing a popular and effective teaching technique called layered curriculum. Essentially it builds on top of a base layer of knowledge. For example, the incoming rookies know how to play football, but they need to know how to play how and where the Rams need them to. But this technique also allows the team to continue to develop veterans but at a deeper level. Building the next layer on top of the established one.
The end result is to get a guy to a point of critical thinking. Critical thinking has five elements; Observation, Analysis, Inference, Communication, and Problem-solving. Of course, on a football field, this also often needs to happen in a blink of an eye.
Once they are operating at that level, they are basically a coach on the field. The Rams have several players that have reached the final layer, but they also have a lot of players not there yet. But the expectation is that everyone is working on the next layer. One of the things that makes the Rams so successful is their ability to elevate talent whether that be a sixth-rounder that becomes a starter or a first-rounder that becomes the best defensive player in the world.
Another common word from the four at the mic was the word “intentional.” McVay stressed that everything they are doing during Rams minicamps has meaning. Stafford spoke of intentionality when talking about Tutu Atwell’s improvement. Several players and coaches have noted Atwell’s improvement, as well. Stafford said that Atwell now understands that everything they do during Rams minicamps has intent behind it and everything is important. From the macro brush strokes to the minute details, it all matters.
Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his book Outliers about needing to log 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. The big caveat to this is it has to be intentional practice. McVay has taken that caveat to heart.
One of the first things that people noticed when watching a ‘Sean McVay’ practice is there isn’t a moment wasted. It seems almost to be choreographed and in a way it is. It is quite the feat if you step back and imagine at all the planning that must go into assessing all the talent on the roster then building an intentional plan based on that analysis for every player for all the Rams minicamps, OTAs, and training camp. But they do it. All starting at the top with McVay.
So essentially the top four leaders of this team are in lockstep about this portion of the offseason. Focus on teaching each player what they need to know to fulfill their role on the team and take every opportunity to be productive.
McVay was asked about his father today, as Fathers Day is June 19th (Friendly reminder)
He recounted observing his father’s leadership at KTVU in San Francisco when Sean was working as an intern. Sean said his dad led with urgency and care. If you want to know what a Sean McVay practice is all about, that sums it up very succinctly.
It is readily apparent that McVay cares deeply for this football team and the people its made of. From the top to the bottom.
A little more evidence of this erupted late in the practice day. McVay was coaching a session of seven-on-seven between players deep on the depth chart. John Wolford riffled a pass on a rope to the back of the end zone. J.J. Koski was in position to make the would-be touchdown catch but 2022 sixth-round draft pick Derion Kendrick had a step on him a came up with a monster pass break up.
McVay, unable to contain himself, hollered at Kendrick with pure joy. They then executed an equally monstrous flying body bump.
Some coaches’ response to that may have been something akin to “He did his job” and move on, but McVay took that opportunity to celebrate a win by a guy that is low in the pecking order and that could use an injection of confidence.
If there is a debate about ‘locker room culture’ having an effect on winning, Sean McVay is evidence that it most certainly does. His approach to the Rams minicamps in June can be felt on Sundays in December.
Rams Minicamp News and Notes
Bobby Wagner was another big topic of conversation during today’s press conference after the conclusion of Rams minicamp. Stafford, Coen, and Morris all talked about his incredible processing speed and football IQ. The most notable result of those two attributes is how slowly he plays the game.
That’s right! Wagner is slow. But in the right way. The three commented on how his patience allows him to see the game, essentially, in slow motion. That in addition to avoiding wasted movement conjures this adjective, ‘slow’ in their minds. Whatsmore is that Wagner expressed his desire to teach Ernest Jones how to do what he does.
Stafford, Offensive Coordinator Liam Coen, and Sean McVay were asked about their impressions of Allen Robinson. Both McVay and Coen talked about his versatility, specifically in the route tree. Coen remarked that he, “could run routes that Cooper runs.” That is to say, they don’t see him strictly as a high-pointing, outside receiver, but also one that can be used inside as well. McVay and Coen talked about how his fluid motion. McVay assumes that he would be a fantastic basketball player because of his lateral speed.
As stated earlier, Stafford hasn’t thrown the ball during OTAs or Rams minicamp and that, of course, means the work that Robinson has done with him is all theoretical, but Stafford called his work with Robinson over the last few weeks “productive.”
McVay touched on the right guard spot that has been officially vacant since Austin Corbett’s departure in free agency. A lot of names were thrown out, all the usual suspects; Tremayne Anchrum, Bobby Evans, Alaric Jackson, and, of course, Logan Bruss. He did convey that he has been pleased with Bruss’ development, but also admitted that it’s hard to gauge precisely where everyone’s development is given the nature of the Rams minicamp.