Sean McVay has done enough in five years as an NFL head coach to make him one of the best in the league. He has said enough in five months to create an inevitable annual question as to whether any given year will be his last year as coach of the Rams.
Regardless of McVay’s true intentions, he has mused just enough about not coaching over the long haul and/or getting into broadcasting to already make him the head-coach equivalent of Brett Favre.
The centerpiece of the latest remarks from McVay on the issue of longevity became his comment regarding whether he aspires to land atop the all-time wins list.
“If you said, ‘Do I have a desire to try to chase like Belichick or Don Shula in wins?'” McVay told Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times. “I really don’t.”
Whether he has that desire to achieve that goal is a different question from whether he eventually will. Although there have been indications that McVay could burn out like Dick Vermeil once did, that was before McVay swapped out Jared Goff for Matthew Stafford at quarterback. With Stafford, life seems to be far less stressful for McVay.
Also, with each passing year, he acquires more experience. While it’s important to stay ahead of the curve, there’s no replacement for knowing what to do and how to do it.
Some reacted to McVay’s remark by ignoring the very real question of whether he’ll choose to keep coaching and by insisting that McVay would never be able to pull it off. But there’s a very important point to keep in mind. McVay is only 36. He already have amassed 55 regular-season wins. Belichick didn’t become a head coach until he was 39. At McVay’s current rate of 11 wins per year, he’ll have 88 in the bank before he’s the same age Belichick was when he first became a head coach.
Throw in the fact that each season now has 17 games, and given the very strong possibility that the season will expand to 18 games, it becomes easier to get at least 10 wins per year.
McVay could even take a four-year break, if he wanted to. Belichick took one involuntarily after being fired by the Browns (Ravens) following the 1995 season.
So the question isn’t whether McVay can catch Belichick. McVay can. The question is whether he wants to.
And while it may be hard for him to envision continuing for another 10, 15, 20 or more years, it may be even harder to actually give up the money, power, and influence that goes with being a successful NFL head coach. While talking about retiring or quitting may be part of his method for processing stress, it’s one thing to talk about walking away. It’s another thing to do it.
How many NFL head coaches have truly walked away on their own terms? Sean Payton. Joe Gibbs, twice. Bill Cowher. Bill Walsh. Shula. Jimmy Johnson. Tony Dungy. Bill Parcells, multiple times. Vermeil. Although I’m probably missing one or two, the vast majority of NFL head coaches stop not because they want to but because they’re told to.
That doesn’t mean McVay won’t walk away. Until he just does it, it’s just talk.