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How the Rams overcame a week of ‘horrors’

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When the door to the Rams’ locker room slammed shut late Sunday afternoon, there were three people not accustomed to being there among the players, coaches and football staffers. In the middle, as usual, was coach Sean McVay. On this day, he talked emotionally about the 36-31 win over Seattle. But he saved his most genuine, heartfelt words for people who are foreign to headlines.

McVay said he was giving out four game balls.

“Sophie Luoto and Kristen Lee!” McVay tossed each a ball.

“Bruce Warwick and Kate Kost!” McVay tossed Warwick a ball. (Kost, in Colorado preparing the Rams’ trip to practice there this week, in advance of their game in Mexico City next week, will get hers this week.)

All four work in football administration and operations for the Rams. When approximately 90 Rams players and staffers were evacuated from their California homes because of the wildfires that came within three miles of their workplace in Thousand Oaks (northwest of Los Angeles), Luoto and the crew found lodging for them (sometimes two or three lodgings, because hotel after hotel in the area got evacuated too), reunited families, found a Saturday practice facility, and kept the train moving. In the end, no one cares about your problems in the NFL. The ref was going to flip the coin at 1:20 Sunday afternoon, and the Seahawks were going to be ready, and you’d better be too.

“Somehow, we got ready,” Rams tackle and leader Andrew Whitworth said Sunday evening. “Pretty amazing, to be able to win a football game in circumstances like this.”

Circumstances like this.

Thursday morning, about 4:10. The cellphone on Whitworth’s night table kept vibrating. He picked it up to text from two former Bengals teammates, including NFL Players Association president Eric Winston. Like: Are you okay? Can’t believe what happened? Whitworth had no clue what happened, but he checked online and found there’d been a shooting at a Thousand Oaks nightclub. The place was four miles from the Rams’ training facility. There were deaths and injuries, perhaps many of each. Whitworth and his wife stayed up, trying to figure out what it all meant, particularly for their four children and school. And for what they could do to help whatever this latest mass shooting left in its wake.

Thursday, 10:35 a.m. McVay and Whitworth spoke to the team about being good community members in a time of crisis. Whitworth was at LSU when Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and said to his teammates, “Do something.You’ll never regret trying to help in a tragedy.”

Thursday, about 1 p.m. Before going out to practice, Whitworth decided to put his money where his emotion was. He called his wife, Melissa, and said he wanted to donate his gamecheck, about $60,000 after taxes, to a fund established to help the victims of the shootings, and their families. “I’m in,” Melissa Whitworth said. “One hundred percent.”

Thursday, about 3 p.m. At practice, two separate mega-fires popped up, visible for the players and coaches to see. “Those are pretty close,” Whitworth said. They were about three miles away from the practice facility, as it turned out. In a few hours, firefighters would dig a trench across the street from the Rams’ facility, the kind of trench that gets dug when firefighters are trying to stop a wildfire from advancing. Before Whitworth left for the day, he learned the 101 freeway, which he uses to get to and from his home in nearby Sherwood, was partially shut down. But he got home, as did most of his teammates.

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Why Bill Belichick isn’t retiring anytime soon

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Bill Belichick turned 67 the other day, which is about the time most normal human beings are seriously pondering retirement. There’s no indication Belichick is. With 56 more coaching victories (regular season and postseason), Belichick would become the NFL’s all-time winningest coach. Top three in wins now: Don Shula 347, George Halas 324, Belichick 292. Shula coached 33 seasons and Halas 40; Belichick has coached 24, and in fairness to the leaders, Shula coached half of his career in 14-game seasons, and the majority of Halas’ years were 12-game regular seasons.

What’s interesting to me is how few of the best coaches ever coached this late in their lives. In fact, 12 of the 15 winningest coaches have not coached, or did not coach, at age 67 or older. Belichick will make that 11 of 15 this fall.

Looking at the top 15, and how many seasons they coached after turning 67:

1. Don Shula: 0. Coached last game at 65.
2. George Halas: 6. Went 47-33-5 and won one NFL title after turning 67.
3. Belichick.
4. Tom Landry: 0. Coached last game at 64.
5. Curly Lambeau: 0. Coached last game at 55.
6. Chuck Noll: 0. Coached last game at 59.
7. Andy Reid: 0. He is 61.
8. Marty Schottenheimer: 0. Coached last game at 63.
9. Dan Reeves: 0. Coached last game at 59.
10. Chuck Knox: 0. Coached last game at 62.
11. Bill Parcells: 0. Coached last game at 65.
12. Tom Coughlin: 3. Went 19-29 after turning 67.
13. Mike Shanahan: 0. Coached last game at 61.
14. Jeff Fisher: 0. Coached last game at 58.
15. Paul Brown: 1. Went 11-4 after turning 67.

Belichick doesn’t talk about how long he’ll coach—surprise!—but those who know him say they think he’s not close to walking away from football. My take: Halas coached his last game at 72. I would not be shocked if Belichick matches that; nor would I be shocked if he coaches two or three more years and ends it. I never sensed the record mattered to him … but if it does, that means he’ll coach six more years. Seems like a stretch, but those who have been around him say he never shows the signs of stress even during big moments of big games that have made some great coaches walk away. Does he look or sound like a 67-year-old man? Not to me. 

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Why these NFL teams should take a chance on Josh Rosen

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So I believe the Cardinals, should they—as I suspect—choose Kyler Murray number one overall, will be inclined to make the best deal they can for the quarterback they picked last year 10th overall, Josh Rosen. It’s easy to say Rosen’s a big boy and he’s going to have to get over the biggest snub job in recent NFL history. But he heard Kliff Kingsbury take the job and say on several occasions, Josh is our quarterback, or words to that effect. Now you draft a guy number one overall and asked Rosen to be a good soldier and carry the clipboard and help Kyler Murray win games for the team that misled him about being the quarterback under the new coach? Awkward.

I don’t know how the draft is going to fall, but if Miami or Washington or the Giants do not draft a quarterback high in the draft, what seems fair to me is offering a third-rounder (78th overall by Miami, 95th overall by the Giants, 96th overall by Washington) to Arizona for Rosen. And Arizona, I’m assuming, would strongly consider doing the best deal it could at that point.

I’d be really interested if I were Miami. Imagine trading the 78th pick and having a year to see if Rosen has a chance to be the long-term guy. If the Dolphins are unconvinced at the end of 2019, they could use a first-round pick (plus other draft capital if need be) to draft the quarterback of the long-term future in a year when the quarterback crop is better than this year.

There’s also this matter: In the last four-and-a-half years, Rosen has been coached by six offensive architects. At UCLA beginning in the fall of 2015, Rosen had Noel Mazzone, Kennedy Polamalu and Jedd Fisch, followed in Arizona by Mike McCoy and Byron Leftwich last year and Kingsbury this year. Imagine Rosen having the same system and coach for two or three years in a row. It hasn’t happened to him since high school. Seems worth a shot to me.

This is going to be a very interesting week in the history of the Arizona Cardinals, but also in the personal history of Josh Rosen.

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