Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay is the flavor of the year in the NFL.
The second-year coach has the Rams unbeaten at the midway point of his second season after they went 4-12 in 2016 and Jeff Fisher was fired with three games left.
McVay revitalized the offense in his 2017 debut, turned the team around and they went 11-5 before losing a first-round playoff game to Atlanta.
This year they are the league’s only unbeaten team at the halfway point at 8-0 with two big games coming up against the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs sandwiched around a division game against Seattle.
McVay is the prototype of the bright young innovative offensive coach that teams are looking for in this era. And he has a knack of remembering every play in every game.
Still, young coaches make mistakes — and McVay made one last Sunday against Green Bay, although it didn’t cost him because of a subsequent Packers mistake.
Here is the situation: Trailing by a point, the Rams had a second-and-20 on the Packers 23 after a holding call with 3:35 left.
The smart play would have been to go for a touchdown and then take the field goal on fourth down if they didn’t get it, or go for the touchdown if they a first down inside the three.
Instead, McVay had Todd Gurley run on two plays to take time off the clock, forcing Green Bay to take a timeout, and then went for the field goal for a 29-27 lead.
The problem with that strategy was that they were giving Aaron Rodgers two minutes to go 60 yards to get in position for the game-winning field goal.
Odds were, the Rams were going to lose. Two minutes is plenty of time for Rodgers to go 60 yards.
But then Ty Montgomery, told not to take the ensuing kickoff out of the end zone, took it out and fumbled, and the Rams recovered to ice the game.
McVay got away with it that time, but it might cost him in the future if he mismanages the end of the game.
He should know. His grandfather, John McVay, was the New York Giants coach in 1978 when Philadelphia pulled off “The Miracle of the Meadowlands,” when Joe Pisarcik fumbled handing off to Larry Csonka in the last minute and Herman Edwards grabbed it and ran for the winning touchdown.
McVay’s grandfather was fired at the end of the year, although it worked out for him because he was hired by Bill Walsh to work in the San Francisco 49ers’ front office when they were winning Super Bowls in the 1980s.
And this hasn’t been the best of years for young coaches. Two rookie coaches, Frank Reich of Indianapolis and Mike Vrabel of Tennessee, made bad mistakes at the end of games this year and it cost them.
Reich could have punted in overtime against Houston and probably gotten a tie, but he went for it on fourth down and didn’t make it, turned the ball over and lost.
Vrabel went for two on the final play of a game against the Los Angeles Chargers, didn’t make it and lost by point. He could have kicked the extra point and gone for overtime.
The difference is Reich and Vrabel are building. McVay has a team ready to win now.
But if McVay is going to coach in big games and maybe Super Bowls in the future, he can’t afford to make the kind of mistake he made at the end of the Packers game.
He might not get away with it next time.