Sean McVay, 36, just became the youngest head coach to win a Super Bowl in NFL history. But that doesn’t mean the Rams leader has a long coaching career ahead of him. In fact, it doesn’t even mean he’ll return in 2022. After hinting at an early retirement for the sake of a better work-life balance ahead of Super Bowl LVI, McVay doubled down on his uncertain future after guiding his team to its first Lombardi Trophy since 1999. Asked this week if he’ll be back in 2022, he was bluntly noncommittal: “We’ll see.”
Rams COO Kevin Demoff acknowledged McVay’s cloudy status, telling reporters he doesn’t think McVay’s “current pace is sustainable, in terms of how much work he puts in, if you want to have a family.” While Demoff suggested “things will feel a lot better” once McVay has had a few months away from the game this offseason, the mere fact that this is a discussion suggests McVay was serious when he openly contemplated stepping away. ESPN had previously reported that McVay, who’s under contract through 2023, might consider a move to broadcasting if he won the Super Bowl.
What if he does? What if, before long, the Rams find themselves in the same position as the Saints, who saw longtime coach Sean Payton take an indefinite step away from his post? Offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell would’ve been a natural successor if he hadn’t agreed to become the Vikings‘ new coach before the Super Bowl, but unless he’s willing to pull a Josh McDaniels and back out of his commitment, here are some logical candidates to take over as Rams head coach:
Current job: Rams defensive coordinator
The most seamless succession plan would be an internal torch-passing, and Morris is a respected leader, as evidenced by his own head coaching interview with the Vikings this year. Hired to replace Brandon Staley in 2021, he oversaw a championship defense after a busy six years with the Falcons, where he served five different roles, including interim coach. Morris, 45, also has head coaching experience with the Buccaneers (2009-2011), making him well-prepared for a top job.
Current job: Unsigned
If the Rams are looking for more of a stopgap solution, few veterans make as much sense as Caldwell, 67, who was on the Bears‘ and Jaguars‘ radar this offseason. The longtime offensive mind, last seen as the Dolphins‘ assistant head coach in 2019, was well-liked by current Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford during a four-year run as Lions coach from 2014-2017. He also has a pair of Super Bowl rings from his time as an offensive coordinator and assistant head coach with the Colts and Ravens.
Current job: Buccaneers offensive coordinator
A candidate for the Jaguars’ and Saints’ jobs this offseason, the 45-year-old Leftwich is a QB-friendly riser who’d give the Rams another young offensive mind to guide the staff. The front-office structure would be more appealing than it was in Jacksonville, a reported point of conflict during his interviews there, but the other question is whether he’d rather wait to take over in Tampa Bay, where Bruce Arians could be approaching retirement.
Current job: Cowboys offensive coordinator
Like McVay, he’s very young at 33, so he’d at least replicate the youthful spirit the Rams currently have up top. He might also be more inclined to bolt Dallas with team owner Jerry Jones all but crowning defensive coordinator Dan Quinn as a future Mike McCarthy replacement. The question is how much Rams brass would trust him to run an entire franchise, let alone call plays.
Current job: Rams assistant head coach and running backs coach
A name to watch in the 2023 hiring cycle, Brown is just 35 but has quickly risen up as one of McVay’s top assistants, coming over from stints at South Carolina (RBs coach) and Miami (offensive coordinator). He’s guided successful three-man backfields for two straight years as the club’s top run-game assistant, and the Dolphins requested a head coaching interview with him this offseason because of the upside similarities to ex-49ers assistant Mike McDaniel.
Current job: Packers defensive coordinator
He feels a bit more like a potential stopgap after one year running Green Bay’s defense, but Barry was a top aide to McVay as soon as the latter arrived in L.A., serving as the Rams’ assistant head coach and linebackers coach from 2017-2020. Barry, 51, came up under Tony Dungy in the early 2000s and has held three different coordinator roles over the years.
Current job: Lions defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator
Considered a candidate to replace Brandon Staley as the Rams’ DC in 2021 before landing a new title in Detroit, the rising secondary specialist has drawn coordinator looks from the Saints and Vikings recently. Before his time with the Lions, he spent four years under McVay as the Rams’ cornerbacks coach, garnering high praise from All-Pro Jalen Ramsey.