Zac Taylor

Rams HC Sean McVay Discusses Offseason, Cooks, Talib

The Rams are going to have plenty of pressure on them heading into next season. Following a 2017 campaign that saw them win 11 games and earn their first playoff appearance in more than a decade, the franchise loaded up this offseason.

While the team let go of players like Sammy Watkins, Trumaine JohnsonAlec Ogletree and Robert Quinn, they seemingly found upgrades in Brandin Cooks, Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, and Ndamukong Suh . Clearly, there will be a lot of pressure on this talented squad, but it sounds like Sean McVay is ready for the challenge.

The Rams head coach recently sat down with Myles Simmons of TheRams.com to discuss his offseason additions and the team’s expectations in 2018. The whole interview is worth checking out, but we’ve compiled some of the notable soundbites below:

How OTAs have been going, especially when it comes to adding new players into the system:

“I think it’s been really good. There’s been a lot of good competition, guys getting familiar with our systems, continuing to learn each other — how to compete but be smart doing it. And I think we’re just starting to see guys just continue to make improvements one day at a time. Our coaches are doing a great job. So want to wrap up OTAs the right way next week.”

On the acquistion of wideout Brandin Cooks, and how his addition will help quarterback Jared Goff:

“Yeah, I think with Brandin, and then being able to play alongside such a great receiving corps that we have in place, he’s been a nice addition. Feel really good watching the way he’s been able to implement himself into our offense by the way he’s learned, how conscientious he is in meetings. And he’s a guy — if you just look at, really, his career — he is a really fast player, but he can do everything. He plays big for a smaller-stature guy. But he’s strong. He can win short, he can win intermediate, he can go down the field. So I think you’re really not limited in any way that you can utilize him. And there’s a reason why he’s had over 1,000 yards and [at least] seven touchdowns each of the last three years. And he’s a special player for sure.”

On the addition of cornerback Aqib Talib, and how his veteran presence will help the defense:

“Well I think like anybody else, he’s had a lot of success in this league. But I think he leads by being able to connect with the players, and then going out and doing things the right way with the way he practices, the way he is in meetings. I’ve been extremely impressed watching him from afar. I was with him in Tampa his rookie year, and now just getting a chance to reconnect with him — smart player, cerebral. Seen a lot of different things, understands concepts. And then he’s also got the athleticism to match up with it. And he’s very comfortable having played in this system with coach Phillips in Denver. So, it’s been a seamless transition for him so far. And we feel really good about having Aqib with us.”

On how much Talib’s relationship with defensive coordinator Wade Phillips influenced the acquisition:

“Oh, it’s huge. I think that’s one of the things you feel so good about, is that a lot of the players that we’ve acquired from outside the organization have been people that have worked with some members of our coaching staff. And Wade in particular with the knowledge and experience that he has, he’s got a great feel for personnel around this league. And having worked with some great players, you hear guys want to come play for him because of the way he works with those guys, the way he puts them in position to have success. And Aqib is very similar. And, like I said, extremely pleased that we got him and it’s a real credit to Les and his staff for getting that trade done.”

On first-year quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor:

“Yeah I think when you look at Zac, great college quarterback, had some success playing professionally, Big 12 Player of the Year. He’s got a great even-keel demeanor and disposition. He’s been a coordinator, when he called plays for the Dolphins. He was at the University of Cincinnati. But I think he’s just got such a great perspective and a really good way about relating to the players, communicating in a clear, open, and honest fashion. And that demeanor, that disposition — especially dealing with the quarterback position — I think is perfect. Extremely detail-oriented. Been really pleased with what he’s done. And he’s another guy, having had him in place, getting to work with our receivers last year, and now watching the way he’s interacting with Jared, with Sean, and with Brandon — it’s been a really seamless transition. And he’s done a really good job so far.”

On avoiding a “boom-or-bust” mentality:

“I think the NFL is so competitive — don’t really look at it like that. Look at it as, we feel confident with the players that we have, with our coaches. And we’re focused on getting better every single day. And I think in the short amount of time that I’ve been fortunate to work in this league, you realize how competitive all 32 teams are — the other 31 teams other than us. And [they’ve got] great coaches, great players. And you can’t afford to kind of get complacent. You’ve got to always focus on getting better one day at a time, establishing a standard of performance and how our process guides our everyday approach — and that’s the one day at a time. And you can’t really get caught up in things that we can’t control. We kind of just want to be just want to be where our feet our planted, and that’s being present in the day and controlling what we can control.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Rumors: Fangio, Rams, Broncos

Free agent coach Vic Fangio is an extremely popular man at the moment — as PFR’s 2018 Coordinator Tracker indicates, Fangio is a candidate to return to the Bears or join the division rival Packers, and he could certainly be linked to more jobs as other head coaching vacancies are filled. But hiring Fangio won’t come cheap, as he was reportedly among the NFL’s highest-paid defensive coordinators last season with a salary in excess of $2MM, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. The average DC, per Biggs, earns closer to $1.5MM annually, so any club that wants to add Fangio will likely need to pony up.

Here’s more from the coaching front:

  • The Rams have promoted assistant wide receivers coach Zac Taylor to quarterbacks coach, the club announced today. Taylor will replace Greg Olson, who left Los Angeles to become the Raiders’ next offensive coordinator under new head coach Jon Gruden. Taylor has previous play-calling experience, having served as the OC for both the University of Cincinnati and the Dolphins. But he won’t be leading the offense with the Rams, who also employ head coach Sean McVay and offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur. Instead, Taylor will help guide former No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff as he enters his third NFL campaign.
  • The Broncos have a new special teams coordinator in Tom McMahon, tweets former NFL punter Pat McAfee. McMahon, who’s coached in the NFL for more than a decade, comes to Denver from Indianapolis, where he helped the Colts rank eighth in special teams DVOA. The Broncos, on the other hand, ranked 30th in ST DVOA under former coordinator Brock Olivo.
  • Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin has set up assistant coaching interviews with multiple AFC teams, reports Mike Jurecki of 98.7 FM (Twitter link). While Arizona defensive coordinator James Bettcher was given a head coaching interview after Bruce Arians retired, Goodwin wasn’t afforded the same opportunity. Goodwin has interviewed for four head coaching positions over the past two seasons.
  • While the final decision to fire former offensive coordinator Mike Shula was ultimately left to Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, Rivera “kept the lines of communication” open with interim general manager Marty Hurney during the process, according to Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer (Twitter link).

East Notes: Giants, Tannehill, Jets

While Giants brass was fed up enough with pass rusher Damontre Moore to cut him Friday after he got in a fight over headphones with then-teammate Cullen Jenkins, ESPN’s Dan Graziano writes that most of the club’s players aren’t happy the 23-year-old is gone. One Giant told Graziano that Moore’s gameday encouragement of both offensive and defensive players will be missed, and another said the third-year man could always be counted on to attend teammates’ charity events without asking for anything in return.

The atmosphere in the locker room was quiet after Moore’s release, per Graziano, who believes his ex-Giants teammates want things to go better for him in his next stop. There’s a chance the Giants and Moore could meet as foes this year, Graziano notes, as one of their remaining opponents – the Dolphins, Panthers, Vikings or Eagles – might land him.

More on Big Blue and a couple of AFC East teams:

  • While the Giants’ Tom Coughlin may be past his prime, the recent work of general manager Jerry Reese hasn’t helped the head coach’s cause, submits Newsday’s Bob Glauder. The release of Moore, a third-round pick in 2013, is the latest check mark against Reese – whom Glauber believes has too often underwhelmed in the early and middle rounds of drafts over the last few years. Reese’s failure to hit on those picks has caught up to the Giants, which is a big reason why they’re 5-7.
  • Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill has gotten plenty of blame for the team’s disappointing season, but offensive coordinator Zac Taylor says the fourth-year man hasn’t “regressed in any way, shape, or form,” per Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald.
  • The Jets have two key defensive linemen scheduled to become free agents at year’s end. One is Muhammad Wilkerson, who’s among the best, most well-known defenders in the league. The other, Damon Harrison, doesn’t have Wilkerson’s name recognition, but he has performed brilliantly. That will make it difficult for the Jets to let Harrison go, opines Brian Costello of the New York Post. The 27-year-old currently grades out as the fifth-best run-stuffing interior D-lineman in the league this season, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
  • Backup Dolphins tight end Brandon Williams broke a bone in his left foot and is likely to miss the rest of the season, head coach Dan Campbell said (Twitter link via ESPN’s James Walker).

AFC East Notes: McDaniels, Jets, Tannehill

Going back to the turn of the century, NFL teams have fired an average of 6.9 head coaches per season. So, based on recent history, we should see plenty of head coaching positions open up in the offseason. On Thursday, Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com rounded up a list of ten candidates who will likely be on the list of any team seeking a new coach, based on conversations with NFL officials.

Two AFC East coaches made the unranked list: Bills assistant head coach Anthony Lynn and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Lynn interviewed well with the Jets last season but ultimately lost out on the job to Todd Bowles. McDaniels, meanwhile, could be the top candidate available given his success in New England.

Here’s more out of the AFC East:

  • The Jets have proven that they won’t hesitate to cut the cord on high draft picks from the old regime, like Quinton Coples, but it would be bad business not to bring back cornerback Dee Milliner, Manish Mehta of the Daily News opines. Milliner, who is guaranteed $2.1MM in 2016 in the final year of his rookie deal, has not played much this season because he apparently has not earned the trust of head coach Todd Bowles. Still, Milliner’s work habits don’t appear to be a problem and the potential is there – Milliner was almost universally rated as the best cornerback in the 2013 draft.
  • Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill obviously didn’t gloat over the firing of offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, but he sounds glad to be moving on from him. “I’m just excited about being part of the game plan,” Tannehill said, according to James Walker of ESPN.com. “Working with the coaches Monday and [Tuesday], just being a part of the game-plan process and having my thoughts heard and kind of putting our heads together to create some of the things we want to do, it’s been fun so far.”
  • Linebacker Joplo Bartu will work out for the Jets today, according to a source who spoke with Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle (on Twitter). Bartu, a former starter, made one start in 2015 and appeared in six games total before being released by Atlanta late last month. Between 2013 and 2014, Bartu appeared in all 32 regular season contests for te Falcons with 27 starts. In total, Bartu notched 167 tackles and 4.5 sacks during that span. This year, he has recorded just eleven tackles.

Dolphins Fire OC Bill Lazor

After the team’s latest disappointing loss on Sunday to the Jets, the Dolphins have made another change to their coaching staff, reports Thayer Evans of SI.com (Twitter link). According to Thayer, Miami has fired offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com confirms the decision, tweeting that “massive changes” are on the way for the Dolphins.

Having replaced head coach Joe Philbin and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle earlier in the year, the Dolphins have now fired their head coach and their coordinators on both sides of the ball since the regular season began. As such, many of the “massive changes” alluded to by Rapoport seem to have already taken place, but perhaps the NFL.com reporter is suggesting that the roster will also be undergoing a significant overhaul in the near future.

At the very least, given the results for interim head coach Dan Campbell since his hot start, it seems likely that the Dolphins will hire an external candidate for the permanent head coaching job in the offseason, and that new coach will likely bring in his own coordinators and assistants from outside the organization as well.

As for Lazor, a report last week indicated that at least one Dolphins official had “privately questioned” whether the OC’s system was suited for quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has struggled this season after signing a long-term extension. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald noted at the time that an offensive coordinator change wouldn’t surprise anyone, and just a few days later, the team has indeed made that change.

With Lazor out of the picture, quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor will take over Miami’s OC job for the rest of the 2015 season, tweets Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald.