FNF Coaches Talk for Monday, Jan. 21

Good afternoon, Coaches. We hope you’re ready for a Super Bowl edition of FNF Coaches Talk.

1. High-school years gave Rams coach Sean McVay his first taste of fame (Los Angeles Times)

You wouldn’t believe it watching him call plays on the sideline, but Rams coach Sean McVay was once named Georgia High School Football Player of the Year over the likes of former Lions great Calvin Johnson.

McVay was a quarterback at Marist School outside of Atlanta, and he led his team to a state championship as a senior. Here’s his high school highlight reel.

McVay is now a Super Bowl coach at the young age of 34, so it’s easy to imagine that his football smarts jumped out back in his high school years.

“He was the most athletic guy on the field and the most savvy,” teammate Chris Ashkouti recalled. “He has a knowledge of the game that’s hard to put into words. He played with a chip on his shoulder that nobody had. The combination of those things made him impossible to beat.”

How do you help the players in your program who could be future coaches develop as leaders?

2. Inside 16 crucial plays from the NFL conference championship games (ESPN)

This is a great breakdown of the NFL conference championship games from a coaching perspective. Bill Barnwell reviews why plays were called, coaching decisions that influenced games, in-adjustments from each coaching staff, and more.

Here’s one of our favorite calls from the afternoon — a play that proved to turn the momentum in the Rams’ favor in the NFC Championship.

We also saw pick plays against man coverage in both games yesterday — with very few offensive pass interference calls. It’s always important to have a few of these plays in your playbook for man coverage situations. The Chiefs called a pick play at the perfect time and it went for 38 yards to Sammy Watkins.

You can see Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s reaction to the non-call here.

What play-calling trends did you notice on NFL conference championship weekend?

3. Early Super Bowl Preview: Belichick’s Old-School Plan for a New Rams Juggernaut (The MMQB)

Andy Benoit gives an early preview of what we might see in the matchup between defensive guru Bill Belichick and offensive mastermind Sean McVay.

The Rams’ offense is defined by condensed formations. The Rams don’t have wide receivers so much as “tight” receivers, with Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Josh Reynolds almost always aligning just a few yards outside the offensive tackles.

This has several benefits. One is that it puts receivers close to one another, where their routes easily crisscross and intertwine, creating traffic for man-to-man defenders and poor leverage for zone defenders. Another: A receiver aligned tightly inside, uninhibited by the sideline, always has a two-way go. And crossing patterns, which are huge for L.A., are deeper since there’s less ground to cover horizontally. But perhaps most importantly, a tightly aligned receiver is better positioned to block on run plays.

Belichick has actually coached with a championship at stake against a dynamic Rams offense in Super Bowl LIII. In that first Super Bowl, Belichick realized that much of the Rams’ aerial assault hinged on flex tailback Marshall Faulk. To eliminate Faulk, Belichick revealed a never-before-featured “bullseye” tactic, with defensive ends and outside linebackers jamming Faulk whenever he ran a route. Will the Patriots try that same approach this year — perhaps with Todd Gurley and the inside receivers?

Those jams could wreck L.A.’s aerial timing and also congest the edges against the run. Yes, this would sacrifice New England’s pass rush, which has come to life this postseason. But that pass rush would be mostly neutralized by L.A.’s play-action designs anyway.

It will be an interesting matchup to break down over the next two weeks!

How would you scheme to slow down the Rams offense?

What’s driving the conversation in your locker room? Email Managing Editor Dan Guttenplan or Tweet us @fnfcoaches. Don’t forget to use that hashtag #FNFCoachesTalk!