McVay had served as Cousins’s strongest advocate in 2014, while serving as quarterbacks coach and coordinator when Cousins was a backup to Robert Griffin III. And McVay maintained faith in Cousins the following year — even though the quarterback had struggled in five starts in 2014 — and played a large role in the decision to permanently bench Griffin and name Cousins the starter.
And so for that, Cousins remains extremely grateful to McVay, even as he prepares to face McVay and the Rams in Los Angeles on Sunday.
“He was our play-caller for my two best seasons in the league. … It’s pretty self-evident why he’s had a big impact on my career,” Cousins said Wednesday. “He was there calling plays when I was struggling, and didn’t give up on me, encouraged me through that process and believed in me. I’m reading Bill Walsh’s book, ‘The Score Takes Care of Itself,’ and Bill says in the book that four of the most powerful words you can say to a player as a coach are, ‘I believe in you.’ Sean said that to me over and over again even when there weren’t many people that did. So, that certainly means a lot.”
Cousins’s gift and words meant a lot to McVay, who took the jersey from Cousins and hung it up in the theater room in his home in Los Angeles.
Shortly after Cousins praised the coach for his communication skills, passion for the game and leadership abilities, McVay tried to deflect the praise.
While speaking to Washington-based reporters via conference call at Redskins Park, McVay said that he benefited from the opportunity to work with Cousins and Redskins Coach Jay Gruden, and that paved the way for him to become a head coach at the age of 31.
“Any time you’re able to be involved in one side of the ball that’s had a good amount of success like we were able to do, and you have the quarterback playing at such a high level, a lot of times coaches or coordinators end up getting credit for it,” McVay said. “But I think it’s more that I was lucky to work with him. Because of the way he approaches the game … he makes you accountable as a coach because you want to make sure you have all the answers because he’s going to do such a thorough job. You want to make sure you do everything you can to help him succeed. You guys know how highly I think of Kirk.”
McVay spent the last seven years with the Redskins, serving first as an entry-level offensive assistant before progressing to tight ends coach and eventually offensive coordinator. Many around the NFL saw him as an eventual head coach, and those predictions came true in January when the Rams made him the youngest in the league.
But given all of McVay’s strengths, his rise didn’t come to a surprise to Gruden.
“He’s organized and detailed, No. 1,” Gruden said. “He was with me and my brother in Tampa, and he was with me in the UFL, so he knew what I like to run. Very Smart, very detailed. He also had a good grasp on what [Washington] did here in previous years with Robert [Griffin III] and Kirk [Cousins]. So, we tried to kind of mix and mingle our two systems together. He was a big part of that, so I felt good about him calling the plays. … I was a steady, good flow that he had about him.”