McVay, who is a co-host on the show with Peter Schrager, brought in the new Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith as the latest guest. McVay didn’t just speak highly of Smith, but gushed over his offensive mind and finally revealed where he gets his latest cues from: Watching Smith’s offenses operate.
“I tell you what, you talk about the best offensive minds and one of the best, what he did in Tennessee the last couple of years he’s been lighting it up. Been seeing their stuff. I’ve been copying his s*** for the last couple of years,” McVay said. “Man, it’s been awesome watching him do his thing.”
‘Our Career Paths Are Similar’
Like McVay, Smith is widely regarded as a brilliant offensive play-caller. In Tennessee, he’s worked his way from offensive quality control coach, to tight ends coach all the way to offensive coordinator, the title he held the past two seasons with the Titans. His philosophy on offense?
“It’s about creating conflict. We want to constantly put pressure on the defense,” Smith told Jeff Schultz of The Athletic in an April 2 interview.
McVay already shares this connection with Smith outside of being offensive gurus: Being in D.C. Smith served as defensive quality control coach from 2007-2008 with the Washington Football Team. Two seasons later, a then 24-year-old McVay joined the WFT staff, where he remained there until the Rams named him head coach before the 2017 season.
Like Smith, McVay had his own humble beginnings in one spot: Working his way from offensive assistant, to tight ends coach to offensive coordinator.
“I feel like our career paths are similar in terms of really kind of growing up in one place for a handful of times. It’s kind of similar to my time at Washington,” McVay said.
The difference between McVay and Smith is that the latter used more “12 personnel” looks in Tennessee: Two tight ends and one running back. The Titans used the scheme 35% of the time and were successful in 54% of their plays in that personnel. Of course, it helped that Smith had behemoth running back Derrick Henry to feed the ball to.
McVay’s system has always been run-heavy like Smith’s. Both are additionally reliant on the play action. The Rams represent the percentage leader in running play fakes since 2017 according to Pro Football Focus.
McVay raved about one play he saw Smith throw on the Jacksonville Jaguars in a September 2020 meeting which drew comparisons to a wrinkle he implemented against the Minnesota Vikings in 2018. The Smith play call, though, had McVay sounding like it’ll be a future idea he’ll include in 2021.
“I’ve kind of alluded to the Cooper Kupp play where we snuck him out of back against the Vikings. But you ran a front-side leak,” McVay described to listeners on the podcast. “Basically what they did is they’re in a two-back set, they run an action where they’re faking to the left. Roger Saffold (Titans guard and former McVay player) basically wally-womps the whole left side of the defensive line. And I think Jonnu Smith slips by himself and I thought ‘Who thought of that play?!’ Because I thought that was a hell of an idea. It was a 60-yard gain. It’s fun watching the creativity.”
That play is the first one shown in this recap video:
McVay’s 2018 play goes like this: Former Rams quarterback Jared Goff faked the handoff while wide receiver Kupp (lined up in the slot) disguises the route by going from a shallow crosser to trekking up field for the touchdown, seen here at the 2:30 mark:
McVay and Smith have had a similar coaching trek and mutual respect. While McVay admits to being a fan and copier of Smith’s style the last two seasons, the new Falcons head coach shared he’s a fan of McVay’s system.
“Obviously the respect is mutual. As I sit here, I also love watching Sean’s stuff,” Smith said.