As of Monday, it looked like Sean McVay would leave the Rams after six seasons. He ultimately decided to stay. So why did he choose not to leave?
Although plenty of Rams fans are behaving as if McVay’s decision to stay means he was never considering leaving at all, well, that’s just incorrect. Last Sunday, Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reported that, at this point, people in the building would be more surprised if he stays than if he goes.
There are plenty of theories making the rounds in league circles as to what caused McVay to change course, at a time when he was speaking so openly about his tenuous status. Really, when had any head coach before McVay engaged in such a public monologue about whether to step down? Something changed from Monday to Friday.
It’s possible that there wasn’t any one reason, but that multiple different reasons combined, resulting in McVay choosing to return for a seventh season. With that said, here are reasons that may have influenced the final decision to remain where he is, for at least one more year.
First, McVay may have quietly gotten a new deal. That’s not to say he deliberately spoke about leaving in order to leverage more money from owner Stan Kroenke, via COO Kevin Demoff. But if McVay was serious about going and if the Rams were serious about keeping him, one way to do it would be to offer him more money.
If we ever know whether he got a new deal, we won’t know for a while. Last year, for example, he got a new deal after deciding not to leave for Amazon. Neither the Rams nor McVay disclosed it. Indeed, McVay was specifically asked about it after training camp began and said he hasn’t signed a new deal. Then, a lengthy ESPN.com profile included a reference to the fact that McVay has recently gotten a raise. After that, McVay fessed up to the fact that he’d fibbed about not signing a new contract.
Second, key players who remain committed to the team through 2023 may have expressed dissatisfaction with the possibility that McVay was leaving only one year after the team’s Super Bowl win. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who seriously contemplated retirement after 2021 and who linked his future with the team to McVay, signed an extension that tied Donald to the Rams for at least 2022 and 2023. Would Donald have done that if he’d known McVay would leave after 2022? Probably not, and that quite possibly was communicated to McVay.
Third, McVay may have been stung by the criticism he received for creating the perception that he’d sold the franchise’s soul for a Super Bowl win, and that he was running away when Satan came to collect, in the form of a multi-year rebuild. In six years since McVay became the head coach of the Rams, he’d always been the fair-haired boy, the kid who could do no wrong. The guy for whom everything always came up roses. Now, for the first time ever, people were suggesting that he was behaving poorly and/or selfishly. If that happened, it may have caused McVay to stay, simply to avoid creating a narrative that he pulled an Indian Jones, sliding under the door and reaching back for his hat as the Rams slipped into an “eff them picks”-fueled purgatory.
Fourth, McVay may have just assumed that he’d waltz from the sideline into a broadcast booth, without realizing that seats that were open a year ago are filled now. Once he began to learn that there will be no viable, and lucrative, spot for him in 2023, that alternative dried up.