Sean McVay became only the ninth head coach in Los Angeles Rams’ history to be a first-year head coach without any prior head coaching experience, including on the collegiate level. It’s a rare occurrence that hasn’t always favored the Rams, but history wasn’t always so terrible. Either way, McVay can learn much from past coaches:
Steve Spagnuolo (2009-2011)
Let’s be honest, most of us were excited when the Rams announced “Spags” as their next head coach, myself included. And why we wouldn’t be? This defensive guru was one of the main factors of the New York Giants winning Super Bowl XLII. The mentality of “defense wins championships” drove this experiment.
Unfortunately, Spagnuolo inherited damaged goods. The offense had absolutely nothing going for them except Steven Jackson, and it resulted in Spagnuolo going 1-15 in his first season. But there was a glimmer of hope in 2010 when the Rams drafted the quarterback that would “save the franchise” in Sam Bradford. To his credit, he helped lead the Rams to a 7-9 record. But the nail in the coffin for Spags came in 2011, where the Rams took a major step backwards to a 2-14 record. Spagnuolo left St. Louis with a humiliating 10-38 record.
Scott Linehan (2006-2008)
Before fans endured the hardship of Spags, they were forced to withstand the reign of Linehan. Unlike with Spagnuolo, not many people were comfortable with this hire. Most of his success stemmed from a coordinator or smaller role in the collegiate level and not so much in the NFL. He did receive plenty of praise from Nick Saban while he coached with the Miami Dolphins, but that experiment didn’t go well with either one of those coaches. But, Linehan apparently impressed during the interview process, so that must count for something, right? Well, not exactly.
As the successor to Mike Martz, fans expected a high-flying offense with Linehan. All things considered, the Rams didn’t have a terrible offense in 2006. Admittedly, some of the players Linehan inherited were aging, but it still wasn’t too bad. In fact, the Rams got off to a great start in 2006, but unfortunately the Rams struggled down the stretch, bit had a horrifically terrible slump, and finished the season 8-8, which was still better than the previous season. The hope was that the 2007 season would lead to better days with better team chemistry, but it was comically frustrating. The frustrations were even displayed on the sidelines with players like Torry Holt and Marc Bulger arguing with Linehan. At the end of it at all, the Rams finished with a 3-13 record. Linehan was already on the hot seat entering the 2008 season, but the 0-4 start was the last straw, and was fired midseason. Linehan left an 11-25 legacy in St. Louis.
Mike Martz (2000-2005)
One of the most highly debated coaches in franchise history is Martz. The “Mad Scientist” was notorious for the high-flying offense that helped secure the Rams’ sole Super Bowl victory (Super Bowl XXXIV) in “The Greatest Show on Turf.” Of course, the Super Bowl win came while he was an offensive coordinator, and he wasn’t a head coach until the following season. Regardless, whether you love or hate the guy, he was key in developing one of the greatest offenses ever assembled.
Sadly, the Rams never seen another Lombardi Trophy with Martz, though he did lead them to Super Bowl XXXVI. It’s true that Martz inherited a great team from Dick Vermeil, but he did have three winning seasons during his tenure. His 53-32 record proves that newbie head coaches can thrive in the NFL.
Chuck Knox (1973-1977; 1992-1994), Joe Stydahar (1950-1952)
Knox is one of the most successful coaches in franchise history, and possessed some of the most legendary teams the NFL ever witnessed. Let’s not focus on his second stint with the team, but the prime of his career is proof that first-year NFL head coaches can succeed and dominate the league. The Rams went 12-2 his first season leading the team. Winning became the norm for Knox and the Rams, he won five consecutive NFC West titles, but sadly, that never translated to a Super Bowl victory. In eight seasons with the team, Knox earned a 69-48-1 record. The modern-day Rams are hoping McVay can duplicate that kind of success in his first stint as head coach.
Don’t recognize Stydahar? He isn’t a household name because he basically only coached the Rams for two seasons. Oddly enough, he resigned just one game into the 1952 season. This is just one year after the Rams won their second NFL Championship in 1951. The alleged reason is due to tension with other coaches on the staff. Still, I’d be ok if McVay brought a Super Bowl to Los Angeles in his second season with the team.
Harland Svare (1962-1965), Bob Waterfield (1960-1962), Bob Snyder (1947)
Svare, Waterfield and Snyder were all talented players. The Rams hired them hoping that their success as a player would match their coaching prowess despite their inexperience. In these instances, they were painful seasons to watch. At least they had a good run as a player. McVay wasn’t hired based on his past athleticism, so hopefully he doesn’t see these kinds of results.