For Rams coach Sean McVay, keeping all of his offensive playmakers involved is a good problem

For Rams coach Sean McVay, keeping all of his offensive playmakers involved is a good problem
Rams coach Sean McVay reaches out to congratulate receiver Tavon Austin after a first-quarter touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Sean McVay got his wish before his first season as an NFL coach.

Through free agency, the draft and trades the Rams acquired playmakers to surround quarterback Jared Goff and prevent opponents from loading up to stop running back Todd Gurley.


But five games into the season, McVay appears to be facing a predictable challenge: how to keep all of his playmakers happy.

McVay characterizes it as "positive problems."

He said his father Tim, a television executive, taught him a valuable lesson.

"My dad always used to say, 'Sometimes leadership can be lonely,' " McVay said. "And you've got to make decisions that, unfortunately, you can't always make everybody happy."

McVay dealt with the first public demonstration of frustration after Sunday's 16-10 defeat to the Seattle Seahawks.

Receiver Sammy Watkins, reacting to comments on social media, posted some of his own. He came off as unhappy with his recent role.

Watkins, who is in the final year of the rookie contract he signed with the Buffalo Bills, had only one catch against the Dallas Cowboys two weeks ago. Against the Seahawks, he was targeted four times and did not catch a pass.

It was only the second time in 42 NFL games that he did not have a reception.

On Wednesday, Watkins said his posts were "nothing personal against the team." He reviewed film with McVay and better understood why the ball went to other teammates on certain plays.

"I don't know a player or wide receiver that's not frustrated throughout the game if you're not getting the ball," said Watkins, who has 14 receptions for 211 yards and two touchdowns. "But each week it could change."

McVay gave Gurley plenty opportunities in the first quarter of the season. The third-year pro averaged nearly 27 touches per game as the Rams went 3-1 and shot to the top of the standings in the NFC West.

Gurley carried only 14 times against the Seahawks. He was targeted four times and caught two passes. He fumbled near the goal line and finished without a touchdown for the first time this season.

"You can't get the ball every time," Gurley said after the game. "We have a lot of great playmakers."

After deploying receiver Tavon Austin mainly as a decoy in the first three games, McVay appeared to make a conscious effort to involve him more as a running back against the Cowboys, and then increased his targets significantly against the Seahawks.


"All of us want the ball," said Austin, who is earning nearly $15 million this season, adding, "It's all about whenever you get it — got to produce."

Receiver Robert Woods, who signed a five-year, $34-million contract in March, said there was no problem with the makeup of the Rams' skill players.

"You want personalities that always want the ball, every time," said Woods, who has 17 catches for a team-best 252 yards. "In our offense, the ball is spread, so you know when the ball does come to you, you better do something with it because who knows when the next time might be."

McVay has said that the responsibility for distributing touches falls on him as the play-caller, not on Goff.

The No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft is instructed to go through his reads and progressions on each play and make the best decision about where the ball should be delivered.

In a Week 3 victory against the San Francisco 49ers, Goff completed six passes to Watkins, two for touchdowns.

But Watkins was targeted a combined five times in the last two games.

On one play against the Seahawks, Watkins slowed down on a deep route and then could not catch up to a pass from Goff.

"It wasn't an effort thing," Watkins said, "It was definitely I just thought [safety] Earl [Thomas] was playing it a certain kind of way."

Goff welcomes more opportunities for Watkins — "He is one of our dangerous players with the ball in his hands," the quarterback said — but will not force the issue.

"Definitely want try to get him more involved," Goff said, "but by no means am I going to change my approach play in and play out."

Watkins said he was working to gain Goff's and McVay's confidence.

"That's my focus," he said, "to put everything on film, and hopefully me and Jared start clicking."

Does being in the final year of his contract make the situation more urgent?

"I've got enough money," Watkins said, laughing. "I just want to have fun and ball."

It's up to McVay to make that happen.

Making decisions that are in the "best interest of the team" and communicating with players are the keys to managing egos, he said.

"Our players have been receptive to that," McVay said, "and that's going to be the theme that we'll continue to do moving forward."

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein