NFL coaches get a lot of blame when their team's lose. It's arguably the second most important part of any team after the quarterback. Good coaching can elevate teams while bad coaching can sink teams.
Last week, you might have seen an image making its way around social media that showed that Kyle Shanahan, Sean McVay and Matt LaFleur were all once assistants on the same coaching staff in Washington. Three of the league's brightest minds leading teams into the divisional round of the playoffs as head coach were all once on the same staff.
LaFleur's Packers were eliminated last week, but McVay's Rams and Shanahan's 49ers are meeting in the NFC conference championship. The two are friends and used to work together. Now, their teams are division rivals and going head-to-head for the opportunity to go to the Super Bowl. Both men have taken their team to the Super Bowl in recent years but fell short in the big game. They look for another opportunity to exact revenge.
Shanahan owns McVay
In the wild-card round of the playoffs, a lot was made about the fact that Sean McVay dominated a fellow NFC West coach. Entering the playoffs, McVay was 5-1 against Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury. Now, McVay holds a 6-1 record against his counterpart.
The shoe is now on the other foot.
In early 2017, McVay was hired to become the head coach of the Rams while Kyle Shanahan was hired to be the new front man for the San Francisco 49ers. As divisional rivals, the two were set to meet twice every season.
It started off fine for McVay as he and the Rams went 3-1 over the 49ers in his first two seasons. However, the three seasons since then have been rough.
Shanahan and the 49ers have won six straight games against the Rams. The Rams have not beaten the 49ers since 2018.
Shanahan is 7-3 against McVay both straight up and against the spread. What makes this even more impressive is that Shanahan and the 49ers have been the betting underdog in eight of these games. The 49ers are in the underdog role again this weekend. Los Angeles is a 3.5-point favorite in the NFC championship game.
McVay is 58% against the spread against coaches not named Kyle Shanahan. He's just 30% against Shanahan. McVay is also 45-1 straight up when his team has a lead at halftime. The one loss? Week 18 of this past season when the 49ers erased what was at one point a 17-0 Rams' lead in order to clinch a playoff spot.
How does Shanahan do it?
We know that Shanahan has the Rams' number, but how exactly does he do it?
First and foremost, there is a commitment to the run from the 49ers. In their two games this season, the 49ers have out-rushed the Rams by 175 yards. Over the past five meetings between these teams, the 49ers are out-rushing the Rams by an average of 44 yards per game.
The 49ers have run the ball 85 times over the two games this season. Elijah Mitchell has 48 carries for 176 yards. Deebo Samuel has 13 carries for 81 yards, which doesn't even account for his yards-after-catch ability in the passing game.
The ability to run the ball on this Rams' defense has resulted in the 49ers being able to win the possession battle and keeping the Rams' potent offense off the field. San Francisco has won the time-of-possession battle in five of the last six games between these teams.
When the Rams offense is on the field, the 49ers defense has been able to get pressure and turn the ball over. In the two games between these teams this season, the 49ers have sacked Matthew Stafford seven times, pressured him 21 times and picked him off four times.
The narrative of Shanahan owning McVay is out there. Shanahan has the blueprint on how to beat McVay. The question now becomes if McVay has the ability to adjust and right the ship. If not, the 49ers at +155 on the moneyline might cash for bettors.