Sean McVay vs. Zac Taylor: Which Head Coach Has the Edge in the 2022 Super Bowl?
While the players on the field will ultimately decide who wins the 2002 Super Bowl, the head coaches on the sideline will play a major role. While the Super Bowl coaching battle is always a chess match, this year will be even more interesting to watch as the matchup is between two coaches who know each other well: The Los Angeles Rams‘ Sean McVay vs. Zac Taylor of the Cincinnati Bengals.
As these two familiar foes face-off in the Big Game, let’s take a look at who they are, how they got here, and who has the upper hand in Super Bowl 56.
Sean McVay: The Tale of the Tape
Sean McVay seems destined to become a football coach. He is the grandson of the legendary John McVay, who coached the New York Giants in the 1970s. He was also the general manager of the San Francisco 49ers in the 1980s. John served as the GM for the Niners during five Super Bowls in the ‘80s and 90s.
Sean started his own coaching career at the age of 22, joining Jon Gruden’s staff on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After leaving for a season in the UFL, Sean returned to the bigs and hooked up with Mike Shanahan, then with Gruden’s younger brother Jay in Washington. There, he worked under offensive coordinator (and now 49ers head coach) Kyle Shanahan.
After working his way up from assistant tight ends coach to offensive coordinator, Sean McVay became a hot name during the 2017 hiring cycle. On January 12, 2017, at the age of 30, the LA Rams named him the 23rd full-time head coach in franchise history, per TheRams.com.
The youngest coaching modern NFL history found immediate success in LA. He went 11-5 in his first season and, in season two, improved to 13-3 and made the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl 53 was a wake-up call for the young phenom head coach. Bill Belichick outcoached McVay, and the New England Patriots won 13-3.
The young Ohio native has produced a winning record during every season as a head coach in the NFL. After trading for quarterback Matthew Stafford, pass-rusher Von Miller, running back Sony Michel, and signing wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr, this season was Super Bowl or bust for McVay and company, and they delivered.
Zac Taylor: The Tale of the Tape
Zac Taylor started his career in football as a QB who led the Nebraska Cornhuskers to the 2006 Big 12 Championship Game. The NFL didn’t draft Taylor after his spectacular senior season. However, he did have a failed tryout with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2007 (missing Sean McVay by a year).
Taylor’s playing days ended after one season in the Canadian Football League. After that, he hooked up with his father-in-law (and head coach of Texas A&M), Mike Sherman, in 2008 as a graduate assistant.
The QB-turned-coach spent four seasons in Texas before joining Joe Philbin’s staff as quarterbacks coach with the Miami Dolphins. Upon Philbin’s dismissal, Taylor returned to college to become OC for the Cincinnati Bearcats in 2016.
A year later, a young, first-time head coach hired the then-34-year-old Taylor as assistant wide receivers coach with the LA Rams. McVay promoted Taylor to QBs coach the following season. From that spot, Taylor earned a shot as a head coach. The Cincinnati Bengals hired him as their 10th head man in 2019, per Bengals.com.
His first season in Cincy was rough. The team went 2-14, but that record did earn them the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Taylor and company took LSU QB Joe Burrow, and now, they are in the Super Bowl.
Sean McVay vs. Zac Taylor: Who has the edge?
Sean McVay and Zac Taylor, now part of the youngest head coaching matchup in Super Bowl history, obviously know each other well after working together closely for two seasons. They also have similar offensive styles, which will make for a fascinating battle in the 2022 Super Bowl.
The key to the game will be, who can break tendencies and show the other something a little different to throw them off their game?
Both coaches use 11 personnel (one TE, one RB, three WRs) more than anyone else in the NFL (h/t CBS Sports). With these types of formations, both Taylor and McVay want to pass and run the ball occasionally to set up the play-action pass.
These former coworkers are two of the best in the game at scheming, designing, and calling passing plays.
Taylor’s biggest issue is in the running game. Fans have accused the head coach of calling predictable, perfunctory running plays, even with Pro Bowl RB Joe Mixon in the backfield.
As for McVay, his problems are with making adjustments. As Belichick showed in the Super Bowl three years ago, McVay has a hard time coming up with a Plan B if you take away his bread and butter. This is evidenced by the fact that McVay is a staggering 45-1 when leading at the half, but 8-25 when down heading into the locker room.
The Zac Taylor vs. Sean McVay matchup should play out early in the Super Bowl.
If McVay can out-McVay Taylor, who learned from the master, the Rams will win. If the protégé can teach his old boss some new tricks early, Taylor will back McVay into a corner, which rarely turns out well for the Rams.
Now all that’s left is to roll the ball out on Sunday and see what happens.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference