The Los Angeles Rams caught everyone by surprise last year with their impressive offense and even better defense. There are honestly few teams more complete from top to bottom than the Rams are and they got undeniably better this off-season with the additions of DT Ndamukong Suh on defense and WR Brandon Cooks on offense. It’ll be a tall order to play them week 1 and come out if it with the victory.
For the Oakland Raiders to get the underdog win Monday night against the Rams they are going to have to play their absolute best football. Besides having to stop Todd Gurley along with the impressive passing offense the Rams have, the Raiders are also going to have to score against the Rams stellar defense too. To make things even more interesting though, they also have to beat one of Jon Gruden’s protégés with him having a very close relationship to LA coach Sean McVay.
For those of you that didn’t hear the story repeatedly when the Raiders faced the Rams in Preseason week 2, Jon Gruden and Sean McVay have very close family ties. It was actually McVay’s grandfather who gave Gruden’s father his first coaching job, and the families have been extremely close ever since. Gruden even gave Sean McVay his first NFL coaching experience when he hired him onto Gruden’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers coaching staff.
Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson was also on that Tampa Bay staff, and he was McVay’s QB coach last season with the Rams before returning to the Raiders with Jon Gruden this season. While in LA he couldn’t help but notice that Sean McVay had even inherited some of Gruden’s mannerisms.
“I used to say Sean used to use a lot of Gruden-isms.” Greg Olson said of McVay at his press conference yesterday. “How he spoke to the team and his message and mannerisms. I think there were a lot of similarities there that Sean had picked up. Certainly, they’re two different coaches, two different people. When I first got to Sean’s staff I thought that was entertaining to say the least on some of the mannerism that he used.”
Considering how close of a connection Gruden and McVay share it isn’t too surprising if McVay emulates some of Gruden’s style, though it does add an interesting level of intrigue to this upcoming season opener. Which one of these coaches will better use their knowledge of the other to lead their team to victory?
It’s a tough question because of it being their first real game facing off against each other. Toss out the preseason game they just played too because neither coach tipped their hand in that one. It was as plain of play calling in that game as you will ever see, even by preseason standards that game was boring. It actually must have been difficult to coach a game that was that devoid of personality for both of these coaches.
That won’t be the case Monday night, this time it’s for real. Will it be the teacher or the pupil who gets the better of the other though, that is what we will all be waiting impatiently to find out. However, if you think Gruden would admit to this game being more meaningful considering it’s against one of his closest friends and pupils you’d be dead wrong. Gruden says he doesn’t think about who is on the other side at all, a classic Gruden hyperbole if I’ve seen one.
“I don’t really care who we play.” Gruden said when asked if the game mattered more to him because of McVay. “We always learned a long time ago the other team are faceless objects. You have to look at it that way. They can beat you up really bad in pro football, no matter who you play. So having the utmost respect for the Rams. Obviously, when the game is over it will be great to see Sean. You got to treat every game as its own and we want to win because it’s time to play.”
As if it was right on cue, Sean McVay was asked about how he feels about playing Gruden too and his response was eerily similar. When reading this it makes you realize just how right Greg Olson is about McVay’s use of “Gruden-isms”.
”Yeah, what you talk about is, I think everybody knows the appreciation you have for what Jon has meant to my family and to me personally, as a coach. But, this is about the Rams versus the Raiders. What we try to do a great job of as coaches, is really focusing on getting ready for that opponent and once you get into the stadium, it’s going to be about the Raiders versus the Rams and that’s exactly what it’s about.” McVay said at his Rams press conference.
“Regardless of the relationships that you have, the coaching profession is such a small one, but it’s about doing everything in our power to try to come away with a win and I know he would say the same exact thing. We’ve got a whole lot of respect for what they’re going to present and a lot of different problems in all three phases and it’s a challenge that we’re excited about.”
Yep, two peas in a pod. Now we will get to see if their play-calling is just as similar too when they face off this Monday. The Rams have the better roster (sorry, they do) but the Raiders have the mentor while the Rams have the pupil. Will that be enough for the Raiders to get the surprise victory or will it be the pupil who becomes the master instead? I don’t know, but I’m very excited to find out this Monday night.