The San Francisco 49ers head south to face the Los Angeles Rams in Week 17. The 49ers are on a roll, but will close out their season with this game. The Rams, on the other hand, have put together an impressive turnaround, flipping from 4-12 to 11-4 and clinching the NFC West. The Rams will be either the third or fourth seed and have a home playoff game for the first time since 2003.
Rams head coach Sean McVay is one of the favorites for coach of the year, along with Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone and Eagles head coach Doug Pederson. McVay is younger than several players on his team, but that has certainly not deterred the impressive work he has done. His work with Jared Goff is praise-worthy, but the smartest move he probably made was hiring Wade Phillips to coach the defense. It took a lot off his plate and has let him focus on what he knows best in year one.
This all comes after years of mediocrity with Jeff Fisher. In 4+ seasons as head coach, Fisher never won more than seven games, wasting a developing defense and doing an atrocious job developing quarterbacks. The running joke with Fisher was that his teams would always go 7-9, and that got me wondering — With this big turnaround, how much better a coach is McVay than Fisher?
I chatted with our friends at Turf Show Times who are always down to rag on Fisher. Here’s what they had to say when I asked them to explore the studio space in discussing Fisher vs. McVay and what the difference is with this team.
Explore that studio space? Buddy, that's what I call home.
The weird thing about Jeff Fisher is that he's not a bad coach when it comes to results. If he were coaching the Cleveland Browns this year, they'd have a few wins racked up. The Giants wouldn't have melted down from the inside if Fish had the reins of the G-men. And you guys wouldn't have started on a 0-9 bender if ol Dear Leader were up in Santa Clara. The thing is, as everyone knows, he's not a good coach either on the outputs. The Jaguars would probably be 7-8 fighting for the AFC South going into Week 17 if he were coaching there. Minnesota would be a 8- or 9-win team with Case Keenum throwing for 120 yards a game. Fisher's a bit of an anachronism for football in 2017. Or in 2010. Or in 2000. Ok, he's not of this century. He's got an incredibly high floor and an incredibly low ceiling and part of the reason why is that he doesn't really care about it.
He cares about familial-istic relationships. And about loyalty. And about using the media as a tool to rally his acolytes to rally the troops. He uses a similar tactical repertoire as a certain President (hint: this one) that's incredibly effective at maintaining momentum among a minority but obfuscating what should be a larger goal at the sacrifice of majority support.
So in terms of replacing McVay, it's a bit hard. The swing from Jeff Fisher to anyone is already dizzying. To go from Fisher to an offensive wunderkind who's younger than his starting left tackle that leads the Rams to the playoffs for the first time in a decade and a half?! Yeah, that's really hard to assess back-to-back.
The major caveat I have to throw out is the overwhelming weight of personnel changes. Would McVay have led the Rams to an NFC West crown this year if Greg Robinson was the starting left tackle with Tim Barnes on the ball at center and if the top wide receiving trio was still Kenny Britt, Brian Quick and Tavon Austin? It's hard to think so. Nonetheless, he deserves all the credit in the world for managing the new personnel to the position the Rams are at heading into the final game of the season having already wrapped up the divisional crown. And I think that maybe pokes at the real answer.
How improved would they be? By the Fisher Value Boomerang Postulate, significantly. But not by this much.