Rams offensive coordinator search: 6 run-first candidates to watch

Accepting the offensive coordinator job for the Los Angeles Rams is a double-edged sword: On one hand, you will immediately rise to the top of lists for prospective head coaching candidates in the future. It worked for Matt LaFleur and Kevin O’Connell, whereas Zac Taylor rose from QBs coach to leading the Cincinnati Bengals. On the other, the Rams’ OC job is mostly just a title and you’ll do as Sean McVay says you’ll do.

Is that going to be the case in 2023 though after McVay decided to return for another season despite serious consideration of early retirement? Should McVay be looking for someone who can actually take play calling and other duties off his plate?

It’s not likely that McVay will stop doing what helped LA reach two Super Bowls and win one, so probably not. But could McVay change gears a bit and find an offensive coordinator who might help take a little pressure off of someone else’s plate: Matthew Stafford, that is.

The Rams finished 28th in yards per carry and rushing yards in 2022, but Cam Akers had 63 carries for 345 yards and three touchdowns in the final three games alone. That could inspire McVay to keep mending fences with Akers and to continue building more of the offense around him similar to how he did with Todd Gurley in the beginning of his Rams career, even Akers is not of that same caliber.

But so far we’ve only heard of McVay getting rid of or potentially losing assistant coaches, not looking for new ones. LA has interviewed former Broncos offensive coordinator Justin Outten, but it would be surprising if he became the Rams OC so soon after the shocking disappointing of Denver’s 2022 season. Meanwhile, running backs coach Thomas Brown has accepted interviews around the NFL, as have offensive assistants Greg Olson and Zac Robinson, while Liam Coen was mutually parted with basically.

We’ve yet to hear a peep that McVay is looking to promote from within to keep the Rams from losing Brown, Olson, or Robinson.

Who are some external candidates to consider that the Rams would be able to interview if they’re able to offer them promotions outside of their current jobs? I’m purely speculating these names, but who isn’t these days? The dots are there anyway.

Andy Dickerson, Seahawks offensive line coach

The Seahawks “stole” Dickerson away in 2021 after hiring Shane Waldron off of LA’s staff that offseason to become their offensive coordinator. Geno Smith enjoyed a breakout Pro Bowl season at quarterback, running back Ken Walker III is in consideration for Rookie of the Year, and Seattle became the first team in decades to start two rookie offensive tackles in Charles Cross and Abe Lucas. Of the two, Lucas is a standout third round pick and arguably the top rookie offensive tackle in the NFL.

On one hand, Dickerson has done a great job with the offensive line, all things considered. On the other, he’s handed a long NFL career without a promotion, potentially even losing some duties in 2022 as Pete Carroll handed over run game coordinator responsibility to Chad Morton this year. Is he ready to be an offensive coordinator, even in name alone?

Chris Foerster, 49ers offensive line coach

Some NFL fans will only remember Foerster for the time he resigned from the Dolphins after a video surfaced of him “snorting white powder” and so I would be remiss not to mention it now before someone else does. As an NFL coach though, Foerster has rebuilt his reputation after four seasons under Kyle Shanahan since: He was promoted to OL coach in 2021, a job he held in the NFL for many years before his controversial video, and he became the run game coordinator in 2022.

If Shanahan doesn’t promote Foerster following the end of the 49ers current playoff run, he could lose him to an offensive coordinator or even potentially a head coaching position.

It would be surprising if the reason that an NFL team didn’t hire a coach is because he might have done drugs. Is it possible that Foerster is the only NFL coach to have ever done drugs? Is that possible?

The 49ers were not only eighth in rushing yards, 10th in yards per carry, sixth in points scored, and revived Christian McCaffrey’s career, they also have a longstanding history now of being an elite rushing team no matter who is in the backfield. Assistant head coach Anthony Lynn is also the running backs coach and could be a name to watch around the league again. Lynn was the Chargers head coach from 2017-2020.

Curtis Modkins, Vikings running backs coach/run game coordinator

McVay giveth O’Connell a job, McVay taketh away a coach?

Modkins’ first NFL job was as the Chiefs running back coach in 2008, a team that had Larry Johnson and a rookie named Jamaal Charles. He’s been with the Cards, Bills, Lions, 49ers, Bears, and Broncos, and this is his first season with the Vikings. Also his first as a run game coordinator, although that is a relatively new assignment that didn’t become popular on NFL teams until the last couple of years.

Minnesota was not a great rushing team, ranking 27th in yards and 26th in yards per carry, but the offense ranked 12th in points per drive and Dalvin Cook—the player most similar to Cam Akers—had 264 carries for 1,173 yards and eight touchdowns. Molding Akers into Cook was kind of the point when LA drafted him and Modkins could be an interesting candidate to carry that torch.

Dwayne Ledford, Falcons offensive line coach

Focusing back on the offensive line, why not pull from a team that surprisingly ranked top-5 in rushing despite not having the most talent and getting a 1,000-yard season out of rookie running back Tyler Allgeier? As well as molding Cordarrelle Patterson into a damn good running back after a career as a receiver and special teamer? And working for a head coach who helped turn Derrick Henry into a star?

Ledford had a fringe NFL career from 1999-2006, then worked his way up the coaching ranks for many years, eventually working his way up at Appalachian State, then NC Statethen Louisville, until being hired by Arthur Smith with the Falcons in 2021. After plucking Liam Coen back after a one-year stint at Kentucky, could McVay go the college route again by giving Ledford a chance to learn from him and to give McVay a chance to learn from someone who knows a thing or two about offensive linemen?

Ledford’s top receiver at Louisville? Tutu Atwell, of course. He also molded tackle Mekhi Becton into a first round pick and he had Javian Hawkins, who spent considerable time on LA’s practice squad.

The familiarity is there.

Duce Staley, Lions assistant head coach/running backs

He’s like Thomas Brown, but more famous. Staley’s 10-year career with the Eagles and Steelers included three 1,000-yard seasons and a lot more catches than I remember (287). He spent 2011-2020 as an assistant on the Eagles, spanning multiple head coaches because nobody wants to lose this guy. We saw that on Hard Knocks this year, his second job for Dan Campbell.

That intensity as a running backs coach inspired Jamaal Williams to LEAD THE NFL IN RUSHING TOUCHDOWNS (17) and 1,066 yards. Staley also wasn’t afraid to call out D’Andre Swift, once touted as a guy who could be the most talented back in the league, when he felt that Swift wasn’t making good decisions on the field.

Staley would be a fascinating choice for McVay, but it could be really hard to pry anyone off of Campbell’s staff. Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson turned down an interview opportunity for Carolina’s head coaching position and the Lions staff believes in their ability to do the improbable next year…make the Lions good.

Jeff Stoutland, Eagles run game coordinator/offensive line

Speaking of the Eagles, there’s no hotter coaching staff in the NFL now. A year after NFL media took every opportunity possible to make fun of head coach Nick Sirianni for his personality, he could lose both his offensive coordinator (Shane Steichen) and defensive coordinator (Jonathan Gannon) to head coach jobs when Philly’s playoff run is over.

There will also be a lot of interest in quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson, running backs coach Jemal Singleton, and soon enough, offensive assistant Alex Tanney. But Stoutland could be the hottest name besides Gannon.

The 60-year-old has been with the Eagles since 2013 and he’s been running game coordinator since 2018. Before that, he won two national championships as the offensive line coach for Nick Saban at Alabama. Can you pry Stoutland away from the Eagles?

It seems difficult.

But I had to try. Will McVay?

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