Is the party already over?
The Rams were only a handful of hours removed from a Super Bowl LVI celebration that extended into Monday morning when coach Sean McVay said two words with potentially alarming implications for their future: “We’ll see.”
That was McVay’s response to The Los Angeles Times when asked whether he would return to coach the Rams next season.
Regarding speculation he could retire, or take a break, from coaching to take a job as a broadcaster, McVay said, “I’m just enjoying this moment right now. I’m really happy to be a part of this. Happy for that.”
McVay, 36, acknowledged the championship he won Sunday would make it easier for him to walk away when he determines it’s the right time to do so.
“I think you could definitely say that,” McVay said.
Seated on the side of a conference room in the Los Angeles Convention Center, McVay glanced in the direction of a nearby stage on which receiver Cooper Kupp posed for photographs with a couple of newly-won trophies.
“But to me,” McVay continued, “I think the biggest thing that drove me this year was doing it with people like him. That drives you. I love coaching. I’m just so excited about this moment right now.”
In other words, he wasn’t ready to address the subject.
So, as McVay said, we’ll see.
The consequences for the Rams will be significant.
They were a four-win team before they made him, at 30, the youngest coach in NFL history. They are now a team built in his image, as tenacious as they are talented.
However, the high-energy, high-intensity approach can be exhausting, as McVay touched on last week when he said there was “no chance” he would be coaching at 60.
“I won’t make it,” he said.
It was one thing to work frantically around the clock when he was the golden boy and everything was moving in a positive direction the way it was for the majority of his first two seasons with the Rams.
Losing to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII marked a turning point.
Instead of being on an unobstructed turbo-charged run to a championship, the Rams were suddenly stuck in mud. Instead of being worshipped as a do-no-wrong genius in the football world, McVay came under scrutiny after he was outcoached by Bill Belichick in that Super Bowl.
Tumbling down the mountain after nearly reaching the summit, McVay had trouble regrouping for another ascent. The work was as draining as it was before, only now there were fewer rewards.
How much more of this could McVay take, especially with the broadcast booth offering him a possible out? The New York Post reported last week that ESPN would pursue him to be part of the “Monday Night Football” team if he left coaching, estimating he could make upwards of $10 million as a commentator.
McVay’s stay in football purgatory turned out to be relatively short, with the Rams taking down the Cincinnati Bengals at SoFi Stadium three years after their crushing defeat to the Patriots.
In the aftermath of the victory, McVay shared a moment with Rams owner Stan Kroenke. When they were finished talking, McVay visibly exhaled and shook his head.
His relief was obvious.
McVay’s beard is whiter than it was in his first years with the Rams, but the coach reported to the NFL’s news conference on Monday morning projecting as youthful a vibe as he did when he was first named coach.
“It’s an incredible honor to be here,” McVay said, before joking, “It’s also torturous to have a team win a championship and then make you come the next morning and do a press conference this early.”
The renewed exuberance is why the guess here is that McVay remains the Rams’ coach.
Winning on Sunday freed him from the burden of his unrealized potential and slayed the ghost of Belichick that haunted him. The golden boy is golden again.
He is now the youngest coach to win a Super Bowl. He already has a coaching tree, with four of his former assistants now NFL head coaches or about to be named a head coach, including Zac Taylor of the Bengals. He has built on a family legacy that was started by grandfather John McVay, who won five Super Bowls as a San Francisco 49ers executive.
McVay is obsessed with football. How could he walk away from this?
With two years remaining on his contract, McVay is in line for an extension. Rams president Kevin Demoff sounded open to making that happen.
“While many, many things have changed over the past five years, we’ve had unbelievable unwavering leadership from Sean and [general manager] Les [Snead],” Demoff said. “It goes without saying we’d like that to continue.”
On the other hand, McVay will be married this summer and has shared his skepticism about whether he can both coach in the NFL and raise a family.
He also has to be concerned about the status of Aaron Donald, who was also noncommittal when asked about returning next season. The Rams could have to restructure his contract to convince him to not retire. If they don’t, their defense will be in rebuilding mode.
Demoff attributed McVay’s and Donald’s statements to them being “wiped” from a long season.
“I would agree I don’t think Sean’s current pace is sustainable, in terms of how much work he puts in, if you want to have a family,” Demoff said. “But I think the one thing [is] these guys all love football. They love being around each other, they feed off of each other.
“A month away, two months away, from everybody and I think things will feel a lot better.”
With his calm delivery, Demoff subtly underplayed a worrisome reality, which is that what could be the greatest era in Rams’ history already could be over.