This is a Super clash between two eras, between two slogans, between one boy genius and one old genius.
This is Bill Belichick standing as the standard bearer for a generation that still believes defense wins championships. And this is Sean McVay standing as a symbol that nowadays it isn’t only offense sells tickets, it is also offense wins championships in a quarterback-driven NFL — even though Belichick’s Patriots are driven by the greatest quarterback of all time.
But that will be Wade Phillips’ problem in Super Bowl LIII when McVay’s Rams attempt to deny Belichick and Tom Brady their sixth championship together.
McVay’s problem will be Belichick, and vice versa.
McVay, 2017 Coach of the Year, is such a beautiful offensive mind that the current head coach hiring trend has franchises looking for The Next Sean McVay the way they used to be looking for The Next Bill Belichick, until they all realized there is no Next Bill Belichick.
McVay was 20 days shy of his 14th birthday when Belichick resigned as head coach of the Jets, and not quite 16 when Belichick and Brady won their first Super Bowl against the Rams. McVay turns 33 this month. Belichick turns 67 in April. McVay is 14 months older than Patriots safeties coach Stephen Belichick. Brady turns 42 in August.
McVay, with his spiky hair and beard, and Belichick with his trademark hoodie are on opposite ends of the “GQ” spectrum, but they are kindred spirits in the fact they are football gym rats and mad scientists, forever thirsting for new machinations and adaptations to disorient and demoralize the opposition.
Belichick was Boy Wonder once under Bill Parcells, the two of them kryptonite to Bill Walsh and Joe Montana, and all these years later, he is the Superman of defense.
McVay cut his teeth under Jon Gruden and Mike Shanahan and Jay Gruden and his swift development of Jared Goff has branded him as the state-of-the-art quarterback whisperer. Kirk Cousins swore by him as a Redskin.
McVay supporters will be heartened by the fact that Doug Pederson and Nick Foles defeated Belichick and Brady 41-33 in Super Bowl LII. Belichick supporters will be quick to point out how he slowed the Greatest Show on Turf in Super Bowl XXXVI.
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McVay supporters might argue that the game was played before additional rules changes and protection of the quarterback resulted in the current offensive explosion.
This much is certain: McVay will put his players in the best position to move the ball, and Belichick will put his players in the best position to stop it.
McVay has a photographic memory of offensive plays rattling around in his head. By the same token, it is safe to say there isn’t anything Belichick hasn’t seen or defended. Or wouldn’t know how to prepare for.
In a Sports Illustrated story by Greg Bishop last August:
“McVay pivots from that game and mentions that he met with Belichick this spring, pestering the Pats’ czar with questions about offensive schemes. Could you envision coaching an NFL team at 66, as Belichick will this season? ‘No,’ he says. ‘I don’t think I could make it.’ ”
McVay is much more of a people person than Belichick, which isn’t saying much. But Belichick is every bit the teacher McVay is. McVay is emotional and animated. Belichick is unemotional and stoic. They both command a room.
Rams cornerback Aqib Talib played for Belichick.
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“I see guys respond to [McVay] the way they responded to Bill,” Talib said once.
McVay is a peerless play-caller and play designer. The Rams (511 points, 32.9 ppg) finished second to the Chiefs (567) in offensive production, and McVay was undoubtedly heartened that Patrick Mahomes was able to score 24 points in the fourth quarter and 31 in the second half Sunday. The Patriots (325 points) finished seventh on defense. The 2017 Rams led the league with a 29.9 ppg average.
The Patriots may not have an Aaron Donald on defense, but Belichick and defensive coordinator Brian Flores get them playing hard, smart and together.
McVay, already having lost receiver Cooper Kupp (knee) Week 10, curiously had Todd Gurley touch the ball just five times against the Saints in favor of C.J. Anderson. Both parties denied it had anything to do with Gurley’s recent knee injury, but McVay will have to coach the game of his life if Gurley is hobbled in Super Bowl LIII. With Brady on the other side, he might have to no matter what.