Some coaches never recover from losing the Super Bowl.
For LA Rams head coach Sean McVay, losing to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots at the end of the 2018 season as a 33-year-old could have been cataclysmic for his career.
However, he showed no evidence of being scarred by the 13-3 loss – the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in history – and has helped mastermind the Rams back to the title game this season.
Between trading for former No. 1 overall pick Matthew Stafford to be the team’s new quarterback and signing Odell Beckham Jr. after he was released by the Cleveland Browns, the moves McVay and general manager Les Snead have made throughout the season have taken the Rams once again to the doorstop of success.
And it all culminated in a dramatic victory in the NFC Championship game against longtime adversary Kyle Shanahan, overcoming a 10-point deficit to beat the San Francisco 49ers 20-17 and advance to Super Bowl LVI, which is to be held in the Rams’ SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles on February 14.
Despite the heartbreak that came with the Super Bowl loss to the Patriots in 2019, McVay is able to appreciate that he has learned from that experience.
“I think as you accumulate experience and you use it the right way – we talk to our players all the time, repetition is the mother of learning. And it’s no different for coaches. And you talk about managing the game or making decisions as a play caller and how you put together a game plan to try to help put your players in the right situations,” he told the media.
“And so, I thought (Patriots head) coach (Bill) Belichick and those guys did a better job than I did for our team that night. I think as far as how you get over it – that was a big deal – but it’s always a part of what you remember, but you do have to allow yourself to be able to move on, but you definitely don’t want to minimize the learning lessons that can be had from it if you apply it in the right way.
“And those are things that whether it was a Super Bowl or really any game – even some of the things that occurred yesterday – you want to just continually learn from both the good and the bad, have a short memory. But also make sure that you’re looking back on those things as an opportunity to not make the same mistakes twice.”
McVay was also asked by the media if he feels “more calm” heading into a Super Bowl now that he’s had the experience of one.
However, he doesn’t think that’s an adjective that “anybody would use to describe me.”
“I would say that you’re more ‘comfortable’ is probably an appropriate word,” he explained. “But you also understand the urgency that’s required for us to go finish this.”
In Super Bowl LVI, McVay will be facing an old friend.
Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor spent 2017 as assistant wide receivers coach and 2018 as quarterbacks coach at the Rams under McVay, part of the team that reached the Super Bowl that season.
Taylor was appointed the head coach of the Bengals in 2019, going 6-25-1 in his first two seasons.
But 2021 has been a breakout year for Taylor and the Bengals, reaching their first Super Bowl since 1988 with an enthralling 27-24 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday – a game in which they were down by 18 points.
Taylor is a product of the McVay coaching tree which has become famous in recent years for its high level of candidates. As well as Taylor, other head coaches in the NFL who have been assistants under McVay include Matt LaFleur of the Green Bay Packers and Brandon Staley of the Los Angeles Chargers.
The 38-year-old Taylor joked about McVay’s excellent reputation when it comes to producing head coaches, saying: “The joke is always if you had a cup of coffee with Sean McVay then you’re going to be a head coach in the NFL.”
When the pair meet at Super Bowl LVI, it’ll be the youngest coaching match-up in a Super Bowl – a year after we had the oldest coaching match-up when 68-year-old Bruce Arians faced 68-year-old Andy Reid.
And Taylor praised his time under McVay with the Rams, saying he “owes a lot to Sean.”
“Working for Sean was the two best years of my life. It was fun, you loved coming into the building every single day, and that’s a lot of the messaging to our building, our staff, our players is that we want guys who are willing to come in here and work,” he told the media.
“But they enjoy the process of walking into this building with a smile on their face every day because that was how I felt every day I worked for him. I felt strongly that the other players and coaches felt that way in Los Angeles as well. Those two years have a significant impact on me and how I go about my daily job and how you game plan and how you run a team.”