By Greg Beacham/AP Sports Writer
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (AP) –The Los Angeles Rams threw the last of their lavish offseason parties Thursday night so they could hand out their massive Super Bowl championship rings to their current and former players.
Sean McVay sees the Friday morning after that soiree as the dividing line between the success of last season and the formidable task in front of the Rams this fall as they attempt to become the NFL’s first repeat champions in 18 years.
“It was kind of good timing, because now it represents, ‘Let’s turn the page,” McVay said outside the Rams’ training camp headquarters in balmy Orange County. “Let’s not minimize what a great year last year was, but that’s not going to have anything to do with this year.”
Most successful coaches repeat some version of this philosophy after a title, but McVay believes the Rams have the talent and the leadership to stay in the race for a second ring. Even if the Rams fall short, McVay is determined to make sure it isn’t because of complacency.
“So many things have to go right,” McVay said. “We could be a better team this year, and I think we’ve got a chance to do that, and it might not mean we win a Super Bowl, because there are a lot of things that take place throughout the course of a game – the bounce of a ball here – certain things that are out of your control.”
The Rams got several of those bounces during their playoff run while winning consecutive thrillers over Tampa Bay, San Francisco and Cincinnati with late-game surges. Those breaks meant the difference between an excellent season and a title-winning campaign, so McVay plans to make sure only that his team is prepared to get in the position to have another chance.
After the Rams made their first Super Bowl under McVay three seasons ago, they went 9-7 the following year while missing the playoffs for the only time in McVay’s career. The coach credits that slight decline to those bad bounces, not to any post-Super Bowl hangover or preparation flaws.
“A hangover, to me, what that entails is guys think they’re better than they are,” McVay said. “They stop working the right way, complacency sets in and the previous success you think is going to have anything to do with your future success. We’ve got the right kind of guys in our locker room, the right kind of coaches that are intrinsically motivated.”
The Rams have a few practical tasks to perform in camp. They must identify a replacement for departed starting cornerback Darious Williams and right guard Austin Corbett, and they must build teamwork and communication with new receiver Allen Robinson and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, who must both take on major roles immediately.
The Rams held their first practice at UC Irvine on Sunday. They’re getting an early jump on camp partly because they’ve got the first game of the new season as the defending champs: They’ll host Von Miller’s Buffalo Bills on Thursday, Sept. 8.
As for his own future, McVay admitted he contemplated stepping away from the game before deciding to continue with the Rams. He hasn’t finalized a contract extension yet with the team, but he said the negotiations are “in a good place,” and it’s “more than likely” they’ll finalize a deal in training camp.
General manager Les Snead is also expected to agree to a contract extension during training camp to continue their partnership with the Rams, who have five consecutive winning seasons, four playoff berths, three NFC West titles, two Super Bowl appearances and one championship during their half-decade together.
“Myself and Les, being a pair, when we get that thing finalized, you guys will know,” McVay said. “But I feel really good about the direction that’s going.”