How a Bill Walsh book helped in the making of Rams’ Sean McVay


Before there was Rams’ coach Sean McVay, there was his grandfather, John McVay, who was a former NFL head coach and decorated executive with the San Francisco 49ers.

In fact, it was the senior McVay who teamed with Hall-of-Fame coach Bill Walsh to make the 49ers the Team of the 1980s, with San Francsico winning four of its five Super Bowls in that decade.  And it was the senior McVay who was named the league’s Executive of the Year in 1989.

But before there were the 49ers there were the New York Giants where McVay served as a head coach for three seasons (1976-78), and we wondered how that experience affected the advice he passed on to his grandson when Sean McVay took over the Rams at the age of 30.

“Well, the pressure and the expectations as we all know are extremely high,” McVay said on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast, “and it does vary to a degree from different franchises. I think having talked with him (that) Sean’s father, Tim, has had an enormous influence on Sean as far as coaching is concerned. Sean has grown up with uncles and a Dad who have been successful in college football. So he’s had the benefit.

(John McVay photo courtesy of San Francisco 49ers)

“Plus, I remember him telling me he had Bill Walsh’s book. Bill Walsh had a book … it’s a how-to book … and it’s unbelievably complete and concise. But Sean said he would read a few pages at night until he would fall asleep, then carry on and do the same thing the next day. And he had met Bill Walsh face to face when Sean was a youngster.”

Walsh and McVay joined the 49ers not long after Hall-of-Fame owner Eddie DeBartolo bought the team in 1977, and, within three years of Walsh’s arrival, the club had gone from the bottom of the NFL to its first Super Bowl.

“It’s great to win, and it’s tough to lose,” McVay said. “But you just have to be flexible enough that you can deal with the downside of it and remember (that) we’ve got another game to play next week. Let’s don’t languish on the one that’s right behind us.

“(When we came in) things were tough. It took awhile to get it turned around. It was Bill Walsh’s third year before, all of a sudden, we were in the playoffs.”

Of course, it always helps when you have a team with Joe Montana as your quarterback.

“It is essential,” said McVay. “If you’re going to win in this league you have to have a good quarterback. And you have to have  a willing owner. And you have to have a coach who has control of certain aspects control of the personnel and, control of the assistant coaches. So to make it all fly, you need to have those kinds of things.”

Sean McVay has control of the Rams, with L.A. on top of the NFC West and playing so well that they’re a playoff possibility for the first time since 2004. Surprising? You bet. In fact, the top-scoring team in the NFL is making so much noise in McVay’s first year on the job that he’s an early favorite to win Coach of the Year and a runaway winner in this week’s Talk of Fame Network mid-season poll.

“It certainly is a difficult job,” said Sean’s grandfather, “going into a situation when you’re coming on board following a coach who has been released and trying to take that personnel and everything to make it work. And he’s been successful in doing that, so far … knock on wood.

“He’s had unbelievable good tutelage, having worked with both of the Grudens. who served as head coaches. For a young guy he has quite a bit of experience in the NFL. As you can see, I’m very proud of him and what he’s doing and how he’s keeping his composure and making things work for him.

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