With their lost season and an embarrassing finale behind them, the Rams on Monday went into overdrive to find a new coach.
In what is expected to be the first of several waves, the team has asked for permission to interview at least eight candidates who might lead the franchise after a miserable 4-12 finish.
At this stage, the Rams appear focused on initially speaking with offensive coordinators, some of whom are on the staffs of teams with first-round playoff byes.
The Rams have attempted to set up meetings with New England’s Josh McDaniels, Atlanta’s Kyle Shanahan, Washington’s Sean McVay, Arizona’s Harold Goodwin, Buffalo interim Coach Anthony Lynn and Jacksonville interim Coach Doug Marrone, a person with knowledge of the situation said. They also have requested permission to interview New England defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and Miami defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, the person said.
The Rams will have competition for those coaches and others.
The San Diego Chargers — who might soon be bound for Los Angeles — San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills also are in the market for new coaches.
And there could be more firings, and openings, coming.
Rams players spent Monday taking exit physicals, meeting with position coaches, turning in their team-issued tablet computers and cleaning out their lockers.
“I guess we really don’t know what’s going to happen,” defensive end Robert Quinn said a few hours before a final team meeting. “We just kind of sit back and cross our fingers and see how things play out.”
Players were still processing the aftermath of a season that began with a 28-0 loss to the San Francisco 49ers and ended with a 44-6 rout by the Arizona Cardinals.
Along the way, they won three games in a row for a surprising 3-1 start, then lost eight of their next nine and saw coach Jeff Fisher get fired. They finished with three losses under interim Coach John Fassel, the special teams coordinator.
“[Demoff] said to keep Monday evening, Monday night available to talk about the job and the future of the Rams,” Fassel said during a news conference. “It was a little bit open-ended, but I looked at it as just an opportunity to talk football, especially since it’s fresh in our mind, as far as what went right and what went wrong and how we fix what went wrong.”
Fassel said that building “chemistry” throughout the organization would be his top goal, along with establishing an identity.
After Sunday’s loss, defensive end William Hayes had said all players needed to “work their craft and when a new coach comes in here, we got to do everything we can to make sure he doesn’t get fired.”
On Monday, nearly a year after the NFL approved the Rams’ move from St. Louis, players were not so much looking ahead as preparing for a break.
“Everybody’s pretty much beat down mentally and physically,” offensive lineman Jamon Brown said. “We’ve been through a rough season. ... This is a time where we can take a step back and just get ready for the next step moving forward.”
Several players spoke about the need for accountability.
“You come into a new situation with a new coach, so it’s like you’re starting all over again, like you’re coming in as a rookie,” defensive tackle Aaron Donald said. “So that’s the mind-set you’ve got to have.
“So, hopefully, a lot of guys will be a lot more hungry.”
Safety T.J. McDonald, a pending free agent, said “the attitude around here” needs to be more about winning.
“Whoever comes in here next has to just demand the most of everybody and push everybody to the limit and really hold everybody accountable on both sides of the ball,” he said.
Players voted Donald the team’s most valuable player. Donald, a Pro Bowl selection in each of his first three seasons, finished with eight sacks. Linebacker Cory Littleton, an undrafted free agent, was voted top rookie. Fassel said Littleton did not miss a special teams snap in games or practice all season. ... McDonald said he would like to remain with the Rams. “I don’t know what the future holds for me here, but if the organization will have me back here I would love to be back,” he said, adding, “I always like to finish what I start.”