LA Rams shearing coaching staff has curious significant upside

(Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images) /

Are the LA Rams introducing another wave of coaching innovation to the NFL?  The team has a large number of coaching positions to fill this year.  This is a year after the team reworked their coordinators. But amidst the changes stands a curious potential for new growth.

The NFL traditions have changed quite a bit in recent years. From cigar smoked rooms where prospects sat down for grueling no-holds-barred types of questions, working out for each team before the NFL Draft, to hot organized team activities designed to give new coaches and new players a chance to make introductions, the ways of the NFL, for now, are no more.

Even 2017 seems like a lifetime ago. When the LA Rams hired on the youngest head coach in the NFL in Sean McVay, they did so with the goal of changing the landscape. Innovation on the field begins with innovating practices in the front office, in the coaching staff, and in training camp.

2017 was just four years ago. When McVay took over, he leaned heavily into veteran coaches to run their roles effectively on the team so he could focus upon the LA Rams offense. And that formula seemed to be a magical blend of new and old. Within two years, the LA Rams represented the NFC In the Super Bowl. Now, the Rams are trying to return to the biggest football game of the NFL.

And the team is no stranger to taking gambles.

Are the Rams risking another high-stakes gamble?

Is this another gamble?  For whatever the cause, the LA Rams are transforming once more. A year ago, the team hired all-new coordinators for the team. This year? The team has eight coaching vacancies to fill. One analysis technique to trouble-shoot unachieved expectations is a cause-effect analysis. Right now, we don’t know the full effects of so many simultaneous coaching staff changes, but we do know that it will create more short-term challenges for the team.

Perhaps a better way to look at the current changes is to look at this process as an NFL version of shearing. Shearing ewes and rams each year gives them a healthier starting point, a cooler coat for the hot summer months, and helps to encourage new growth.

The LA Rams are shedding their coaches who were critical to getting them this far, and now are restocking the staff with a new set of coaches who are better equipped to deal with the new challenges of the NFL. Encouraging new growth.

Is this another high-stakes gamble by the LA Rams? Well, gamblers only wager when the reward is worth the risk. What type of reward can the Rams be aiming for now?

Three rewards

The LA Rams were absolutely rewarded with the risk of promoting an outside linebacker coach, Brandon Staley, to his first defensive coordinator position. The result was a top-ranked defense, and interest around the NFL to hire one of the Rams defensive positional coaches. So how can the Rams stop that outflow?

The first reward for the Rams is to innovate again.  So far, the LA Rams have successfully placed their collective hands to the grindstone and forged a top-ranked offense and a top-ranked defense without the benefit of first-round draft picks, nor a large treasure trove of available free salary cap space.  Innovation places the originator at the leading edge of the learning curve and ensures that the Rams will have another year or two before the competition catches up.

The second reward is for the Rams to make their 2017/18 schemes obsolete. Almost as soon as the Rams innovated their offense and appeared in the Super Bowl, other NFL teams began their own version of a spread NFL offense. With more offenses based on the McVay scheme, defenses had more practice at stopping it.  Now, Staley’s defensive scheme has migrated to at least the Los Angeles Chargers, the Detroit Lions, and the Green Bay Packers. It was based on the defensive scheme of Vic Fangio, who has installed similar defenses at the Chicago Bears and the Denver Broncos. McVay hired Staley because he struggled to defeat that defense. Now he must do so many times a year.

The third reward is to hire coaches who can embrace the prevalent changes causing upheaval in the NFL itself. The 2020 NFL season showed first-hand how some teams were simply unprepared to embrace the virtual reality of the new regulations. The LA Rams were clearly one of the front runners in terms of adapting to the 2020 changes. The teams handled the NFL Draft very well and made improvements across a number of areas critical for the team’s long-term success.

Change is neither positive nor negative. It is simply different. With change comes a new set of challenges, and a new set of improvements. The amount of change happening with the LA Rams organization is unprecedented with a team that has just advanced to the second round of the NFL Playoffs.  But change brings new improvements. Perhaps the LA Rams see the need to change their pattern in order to climb higher than ever before. Perhaps the reward for all of this is an unconventional method to win Super Bowl LVI?

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It’s a huge risk, but it’s worth a shot. Insanity is using the same input and expecting a different outcome. Perhaps, in the end, The LA Rams are proving to be the sanest team of all.