Q&A: Rams General Manager Les Snead talks rookie Coach Sean McVay, draft needs and free agents at the Senior Bowl

Rams General Manager Les Snead speaks at Coach Sean McVay's introductory news conference on Jan. 13.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

For the second time in two years, the Rams are in the midst of major transition.

In 2016, the franchise moved from St. Louis to Los Angeles. The Rams drew more than 90,000 to the Coliseum for an exhibition against the Dallas Cowboys, but fan interest waned by the end of a 4-12 season that included the firing of coach Jeff Fisher.

New Coach Sean McVay, 31, is in the process of assembling his staff and assessing a roster that could have a far different look when quarterback Jared Goff, the top pick in the 2016 draft, begins his second season. McVay has hired veteran Wade Phillips to coordinate the defense.


Rams General Manager Les Snead attended Senior Bowl workouts this week in preparation for the NFL draft, which is scheduled for April 27-29 in Philadelphia. He sat down with Times reporter Gary Klein in Mobile, Ala., and answered questions about several topics.

What’s it been like to work with Sean McVay?

Exciting, because you see the young head coach but you also see him bring this unbelievable energy and passion to the job with that thought of how he wants to put together his staff and the puzzle there and what he’s trying to accomplish. … You’re working together to problem-solve, come up with solutions, come up with decisions and try to come up with what’s best for the Rams…. You can feel the chemistry developing based on just rolling up your sleeves and going to work and making your first decisions together.

You’ve dealt with people in your peer and age group and coaches who were older. This is a young coach. Has that been different for you?

My wife has joked, ‘Who are you going to hang out with more, him or [69-year-old] Wade?’…. It’s just a joke but what’s interesting is this is a young man’s sport, so in our business some of the most important people in the organization are, heck, 21 or 22. You’re used to being around and feeling youth. …. I know he’s young, but he seems like 40-something, and that’s probably in maturity and the way he goes about his business and his knowledge of football.

Another young guy: Jared Goff. When you look back on how he did this season and where he is going, what is your sense?

What he went through is only going to be positive in the future. It goes back to experience. … He knows what it’s like now. … What you got back is a very poised player — and adversity doesn’t rattle him. … Looking forward to seeing him grow because he’s felt and seen Sean come in and implement his offense, and Sean is really big on the quarterback. Jared’s chomping at the bit.

What are the biggest needs to be addressed or filled going into draft and the free-agent season?

I don’t know if I want to tell you exactly because it might tip hands, but I think philosophically I can tell you it’s probably, duh, right? We’ve got to figure out how to improve the offense and how that looks and what position groups you start attacking first. We want to move the ball, we want to get first downs and we want to score points. That’s going to be addressed at all angles.

At the Senior Bowl last year we talked about the offensive line. Coming off last season when you drafted linemen that played well, you felt like that had been solved. What happened?

It’s probably more complicated than just the sophomore slump…. I’m looking forward to working with Sean and his staff and if you want to call it sifting through and figuring that out…. We did acquire some young players but I’m a realist to know some might not be there yet, some might be on their way to getting there and some of them might not be who we thought they are.

If you’re a fan or watching this team you’re going, ‘What about the receiving corps?’ Kenny Britt is going to be a free agent, Brian Quick is going to be a free agent and Tavon Austin has a hefty extension. Is it fair to say you’re going to be looking at receivers?

Definitely fair, and it’s interesting with the receiving group because we already know a good bit about what Sean would like in his receivers. They’ve been described many times like a basketball team. And what that means is you probably don’t field five point guards, five shooting guards. …. With our pending UFAs I think it’s very safe to say we’ve got to sit down with the offensive group and see what they bring to the table and do they exactly fit us with the guys that are already on the team.

Fans want a home-run hitter. They want a legitimate No. 1 guy. You have cap space but in the last few years have not been real aggressive making a big-time splash through free-agent acquisitions. Is this a year, with receivers like DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffrey out there, that you might become more aggressive?

This is the year because we do think, ‘Hey, our young team’s at the point where we’re re-signing people and they’re into their veteran phase of life.’ Now you sprinkle in veterans, and it doesn’t have to be a huge splash, but it might be two players for one that help. If you’re talking about receivers in the passing game, one’s great but maybe two actually help it better.

On the defensive side, Wade — at least traditionally — likes to run a 3-4 scheme. You guys have been a hybrid 4-3. Do you make draft and free-agent decisions based on the kinds of defense he wants to play?

Our job, going back to the beginning, has got to be symbiotic relationship. We need to go find the players that fit the description of what he wants that position to look like. That’s our job and we’re all working together to get this thing done.

There are not a lot of linebackers on the roster. Do you have to acquire more?

You look at your ends and which ones will be more the 3-4 [outside linebackers]. … We’ll get to all that. It will be a big project we do in the first month of transition. … How do they fit and what is a fit? And at that point we have to merge our scouting department with our coaching so our scouts are finding players that fit the coaches’ schemes.

Cornerback Trumaine Johnson played under the franchise tag this season. What’s happening with him going forward?

That will be a big decision. Wade, like a lot of [defensive coordinators], likes good players on the outside. Trumaine fits that category…. Trumaine is a larger guy with good ball skills and all things like that. Is it a square in a square, a triangle in a triangle or more a rectangle in a square? … That’s probably one of the top priorities when Wade walks in the door because, obviously, the magnitude of what his contract will look like and the magnitude of what another franchise tag looks like and everything in between.

What about receiver Kenny Britt?

We have a new scheme. He had his best year. Now you’re going to come back and decide does he fit. If he does, what kind of price and does that fit the model? And again that’s going to be working with the offensive staff to try and figure that out.

And safety T.J. McDonald?

You have to put brakes on all these decisions so that you can get the new group in and figure out who fits. And if they fit what the price is. And then, at that point, are there other additions from the outside that we’d like to add and does that push someone out.

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein