PALM BEACH, Fla. _ Sean McVay, still head coach of the Super Bowl champion Rams, conqueror of the Improbable Dream Bengals, proud member of Miami of Ohio's Cradle of Coaches, isn't a TV analyst just yet.
So he's not going to offer any advice to Bengals head coach Zac Taylor in the aftermath of last month's classic Super Bowl that pitted the two friends in a game of euphoria and heartbreak in the last minute.
But there is life after a tough Super Bowl loss. McVay, with Taylor as his quarterbacks coach, led the Rams into the Super Bowl and saw their celebrated offense dominated in a 10-3 loss to the Patriots. Three years later, McVay told Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald to make a play, Donald took Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow to the ground with 39 seconds left and the Rams were champs.
"They were a lot more competitive than we were the first time. I don't think he needs my advice," McVay said Tuesday at the NFL annual meetings. "He was a big part of a lot of the things that have been good with LA in the five years we've been here. I'm rooting for the Bengals unless we see each other."
Taylor has modeled his organizational structure and player-friendly approach much on the McVay Way. Now he's got another template as the Bengals try to win it the second time around.
'I think every opportunity you go through, whether it be good or bad, is a learning opportunity," McVay said. "I've heard Troy Aikman say this, and it really resonates with me: "Humility is only a week away." You've always got be able to learn, adjust and adapt. When you lose the Super Bowl, it's a tough thing for you, but each season is a new season."
If it sounds familiar, it is. Taylor said much the same thing at his media avail here Monday.
"Starting over is the wrong word. We have to re-establish ourselves going into the offseason," Taylor said. "We did a lot of work last season to get to where we are. To think we're going to pick up where we left off is the wrong way to go about it. These guys need to come back as hungry as ever, some of the new pieces we have, the draft, we need everybody to re-create a lot of the things we were able to do last year."
The year after the Rams lost to the Patriots, they needed to win their last game to go 9-7 and still missed the playoffs. Then in 2020 they went 10-6 and won a Wild Card before losing in the next round.
"What was really challenging about 2019 was the expectations," McVay said. "It was like 'OK, let's get back there' and we don't even make the playoffs. But in a lot of instances, you end up taking the most from those learning opportunities that don't go your way. Setbacks can be setups for comebacks. I think that's the way our team has looked at it, and all those things are really a testament to being around the right people. And Zac is certainly one of those guys I was around those first couple of years."
There's just not much you can say to one of your good friends after you barely beat him in the biggest game of your lives.
"More than anything, (that I) just appreciate him. Our time together was really special," McVay said. "He's such a great coach. Just the resilience. The way he's led. It's been so impressive. Some of the adversity they've been able to overcome is a real credit and testament to his leadership. I just told him, loved him, really appreciated him and they're going to be a really good team for many years to come."
NEW OT: It didn't apply to the Bengals' win in the AFC title game back in January, but on Tuesday the owners approved the change that allows both teams to have a possession in the overtime of a playoff game. The regular-season format, where a team wins if they score a touchdown on the first possession, remains the same.
Calling it "a unique day," Rich McKay, chairman of the competition committee, said there wasn't enough agreement on overtime in the regular season, but passed easily when the proposal was amended to include just the playoffs. It was reported the Bengals were one of three teams to vote against it.
McKay pointed to the data. In the dozen playoff games since 2010, the team that has won the coin toss is 10-2. The Bengals' 27-24 victory in Kansas City was one of the two, driven by safety Vonn Bell's interception of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes on the first possession. The Bengals converted it into a field goal, a scenario that remains.
"Those 12 games are as important as any games those franchise are ever going to play in history," McKay said. "Each one ended somebody's season and for us this was something that needed to be changed."
McKay said the game before the Bengals played the Chiefs, Kansas City's win over Buffalo in the AFC Divisional secured on a first-drive touchdown, was a big factor.
"No question that started the discussion," McKay said. "What typically happens is it tends to lose momentum as you get further away from the game. But that did not happen in this instance."
MORE ZAC: Taylor did everything but give defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi the gold watch. It doesn't sound like a deal is looming after Ogunjobi flunked a $40.6 million physical with the Bears and the Bengals made B.J. Hill the starting three technique with a three-year, $30 million deal.
But there is a lot of regard for Ogunjobi at Paul Brown Stadium after his career seven-sack season was cut short by a broken foot in the Wild Card.
"We feel like Larry was one of us. He was only here for a year, but what he did for us this past year was spectacular," Taylor said. "I'll always feel that Larry, in a lot of ways, is a Bengal for life. So it was unfortunate to see what happened because I know he worked so hard. Your heart breaks when something falls through like that. We've all been in touch with Larry since this happened, just to support him. Because again, he's one of us even though he was only here for 10 months, he did a lot of special things for our coaching staff."
They flirted with vet D-tackle Jarran Reed before the La'el Collins deal took them out of the market, so Taylor indicated the depth at that spot is largely coming from within in the wake of nose man Josh Tupou's two-year re-signing and the red shirt rookie year of fourth-round pick Tyler Shelvin. But they're also looking.
"Josh has been a consistent player for us. We're excited to have him back in the mix," Taylor said. "And then Tyler Shelvin is coming along. That doesn't mean (we're done). You're always looking for depth at all positions. It's something we continue to survey, defensive tackle and stuff. We're always looking for ways to improve, just at any position on the football team. At the same time, we've got some veteran guys at that spot and some young guys that have got to come on."