Winning the Super Bowl was the finishing move on Sean McVay’s fifth season as head coach of the Los Angeles Rams. Getting to year six is in itself quite an accomplishment, as McVay is now one of the longest-tenured head coaches in the NFL.
Hired in 2017, only five coaches have held their positions longer than the 36-year-old McVay, including Bill Belichick (2000), Mike Tomlin (2007), John Harbaugh (2008), Pete Carroll (2010), and Andy Reid ( 2013). Two other coaches have lasted since 2017, but both have resumes with room to catch up to McVay, now a two-time NFC Champion, one-time Super Bowl winner; Kyle Shanahan has reached one Super Bowl, but has a losing (39-42) overall record, while Sean McDermott has yet to get past the AFC Championship game with the Bills.
Obviously, few coaches in NFL history have ever gotten off to better starts than McVay, and certainly not his grandfather John McVay, who had three losing seasons with the Giants from 1976-1978.
Belichick won three Super Bowls in his first five years with the New England Patriots. But prior to that, Belichick posted four losing seasons in five tries with the Cleveland Browns and was fired in 1996 as the team was moving to Baltimore. McVay still has 14 more years to go until he’s the same age that Belichick was when he won his first Super Bowl.
If we eradicate the strike-shortened 1982 season, then Bill Walsh won two Super Bowls in his first five years with the San Francisco 49ers, beginning in 1979. But Walsh also endured seasons of 2-14 and 6-10, while McVay has yet to know the feeling of a losing season. Walsh was 50 when he won his first Super Bowl, having already experienced a lifetime in the college ranks.
Within the Rams own organization, an interesting name appears.
From 1973 to 1977, first time head coach Chuck Knox led the Rams to five straight 10-win seasons. However, LA won only three playoff games in those five years, falling short of the Super Bowl every time.
Perhaps the greatest modern competition for McVay’s title of “Hottest Starts Ever” would be Tomlin. Taking over a Super Bowl caliber team already in 2007, Tomlin went 55-25 over his first five seasons, then 5-3 in the playoffs with one Super Bowl win and another appearance.
Through McVay’s first five seasons, he is 55-26, with a 7-3 playoff record, one Super Bowl win, and another appearance. Tomlin was 35 when he was hired by the Steelers, as compared to McVay being 36 as he enters the post-Super Bowl win phase of his career. And unlike the Steelers, McVay was taking over a team that had been among the NFL’s worst teams for many years prior to his tenure, including 4-12 in 2016.
On Monday, the Los Angeles Rams showed appreciation for McVay as the head coach on Twitter. So I felt it was a good opportunity for us to do the same at Turf Show Times with a comparison to the only other head coach who has been with the Rams during the Les Snead / Tony Pastoors / Kevin Demoff era.
The exact opposite of Sean McVay himself: Jeff Fisher.
While I realize that Fisher is the ultimate punchline to a joke about head coaches, and is maybe best laid to rest when it comes to talking about the history of the LA Rams, he is no less a part of the franchise’s history. In fact, he’s a very integral piece of history when even discussing McVay and how the best era of the franchise ever got started.
Without Fisher, there is no McVay. A yin needs its yang.
Jeff Fisher came into the NFL as a coach who opened doors for people like McVay, in a way. He was a 27-year-old defensive backs coach with the Eagles in 1986, a 30-year-old defensive coordinator in 1989, and then a head coach at 36. But unlike John Madden, a head coach at 33 and a Super Bowl winner at 40, Fisher never broke through to solidify himself as one of the greatest hires of all-time.
Fisher lasted 17 seasons with the Titans, but only made six postseason appearances. In his other 11 campaigns, Tennessee went 8-8 or worse. Those were his only winning seasons. Which finally brings us to his five-year tenure with the Rams.
Jeff Fisher got 5 years with the Rams:
The Rams went 31-45-1 under Jeff Fisher, even though they had many of the key pieces in place (Snead, Pastoors, Aaron Donald) that they do now.
Sean McVay has now had five years with the Rams:
McVay brought an immediate energy to the organization, helping recruit and place signees Andrew Whitworth, Robert Woods, trade acquisition Sammy Watkins, and draftees like Cooper Kupp, John Johnson. Thus the constant churn of talented players coming through Los Angeles would begin.
If the LA Rams go 9-8 or better this year, then Sean McVay will have as many winning records in six attempts as what Jeff Fisher had through 22 NFL seasons.
If winning a Super Bowl with Matthew Stafford after he failed to win a single playoff game in 12 years with the Lions isn’t impressive enough, then I think going 43-21 with three playoff trips and a Super Bowl appearance in the Jared Goff era stands out as a remarkable accomplishment on its own.
Rams fans were subject to almost 20 more losses in the five-year Fisher era than the five-year McVay era.
Just because it is easy to say that Sean McVay is a better head coach than Jeff Fisher doesn’t mean that we are not allowed to say it sometimes. Especially on Sean McVay appreciation day. Fans had to endure five years of Fisher to get to five years of McVay, so in a way it’s okay to appreciate them both.
Will the McVay era last another five years?
It would be interesting to see what Sean McVay could do when he eventually turns 40. That’s not for a while.