Is everything all right with Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay?

(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images) /

Sean McVay is in the middle of his first season as head coach with the Los Angeles Rams.

The week before the Los Angeles Rams played the Jacksonville Jaguars, my wife and I watched a press conference by head coach Sean McVay. “He looks like he might be sick,” she said. She was right. He was a bit paler than usual, his rugged and boyish face looking less Hollywood and more haggard.

Even his demeanor was different. The same machine-gunned phrases were still there, such as “great job,” “as well as anybody,” “great football,” “moving forward,” and “can’t say enough.” The Jon Gruden-like mode of speaking which eschews periods and commas. But some of the emotion was lacking. There were none of his little smiles, as if he was sharing a joke with the reporters.

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I didn’t think much of it at the time. After all, there is a lot of stress involved in coaching an NFL team.

Then I watched his press conference in Jacksonville on October 8, after a practice in preparation for their game against the Arizona Cardinals in London. Coach McVay kept closing one eye as he talked. Like a nervous tic, or a physical symptom of something. As I watched the seven-minutes and forty-second video, I became more and more concerned. He kept doing it. Closing one eye—sometimes for long periods of time. Always the same eye. When he turned to the side to respond to another reporter, hiding the errant eye, the other eye remained calm and normal. But I was sure the other eye was still acting on its own, as if sending out a Morse call for help.

Are you okay, coach?

Coaching in the NFL is notoriously difficult on the body, mind, and spirit. Fifteen years before Dick Vermeil took over the reigns of the then St. Louis Rams, he resigned as the coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, citing physical and mental burnout. Jimmy Johnson left coaching after the 1999 season for the same reason.

In just the last five years, coaches such as Bruce Arians (Arizona Cardinals), Gary Kubiak (Houston Texans), John Fox (Denver Broncos), and Chuck Pagano (Indianapolis Colts) have all experienced medical scares, such as heart attacks, strokes, and other ailments. The history of the league is riddled with coaches who contracted stress-related illnesses, including Joe Gibbs, Mike Ditka, and even Vince Lombardi, who died of colon cancer in 1970.

Perhaps McVay’s optical tic was just the Florida sun in his eye. Maybe it was some dust kicked up gotten while he was famously running some of the routes with his receivers. Maybe his fiancée was in the crowd, and he was letting her know that he saw her.

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Take care of yourself, coach McVay. There are a lot of Rams fans in Los Angeles and elsewhere who see you as a long-awaited savior of the franchise. You’ve brought more hope to Rams fandom far sooner than almost anyone thought you could. Get some sleep. Do some of that Southern California yoga. Take care of yourself—for the team, for the fans, but mostly, for yourself and your loved ones.