Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay is not on the kind of hot seat where he is in danger of losing his job, but he is facing the pressure of exceeding expectations to get this team further than he did last season.
After going 11-5, winning the NFC West for the first time since 2003 and being awarded AP Coach of the Year, McVay had a great year in his first season as an NFL head coach. Now the Rams are legitimate contenders with the opportunity to reach the Super Bowl.
With the additions of Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, Ndamukong Suh and Brandin Cooks, the Rams have made themselves legitimate contenders, and now, it is either Super Bowl or bust for the upcoming season.
The Rams became the first team in the Super Bowl era to go from the worst scoring offense (14 points per game in 2016) to first (28.9 ppg in 2017) thanks to McVay’s offensive scheme. Jared Goff put his “bust” speculations to rest after throwing for 3,804 yards, 28 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. Todd Gurley II was named AP Offensive Player of the Year after rushing for 1,308 yards (second in the league) and 13 touchdowns (first in the league). And don’t forget Aaron Donald, who was honored with AP Defensive Player of the Year. With the new additions and the players already on the Rams roster, McVay has the most pressure of winning this season.
McVay has the luxury of having star players like Goff, Gurley, Donald, Peters and Cooks still on their rookie contracts. Also, the Rams signed Suh to a one-year, $14 million “prove it” type of deal. This is the type of unique situation that McVay and the Rams cannot afford to waste, or it may hurt in the long run.
Players like Donald and Cooks are hoping to sign contract extensions before the season starts, and each are looking to cash in. Donald will potentially become the first defender to be paid $20 million per year, and deservedly so. Cooks will look to be paid with the upper echelon of NFL receivers after three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. But for the Rams, each are still under contract and will play this season if the two sides do not come to an agreement. Donald wanted a new contract last season and decided to holdout of training camp. He missed the opening game because of the holdout and still managed to have a career season, so the Rams have a slight edge. Goff, Gurley and Peters will have big paydays after the season and will look to be paid like top players as well.
If the Rams fail to meet said expectations, they will go into the offseason thinking if the moves they made were worth it. They gave up a first-round pick to get Cooks from the New England Patriots and a second-rounder to the Kansas City Chiefs for Peters. The players they could have selected in the draft with those picks would have been more beneficially to them in terms of future salary cap.