Does Shanahan's Success Over McVay Have Any Impact On NFC Championship Game?

Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers will clash at SoFi Stadium in Sunday's NFC Championship Game. It promises to be a tightly contested affair between two common opponents who are plenty familiar with one another. The Rams and 49ers meet twice annually as NFC West competitors, and Sunday's meeting, their third of the year, obviously marks the biggest one yet. An appearance in Super Bowl LVI looms large.

On paper, and via the online betting odds, the Rams project to be the favorites for several reasons. Sean McVay's men won an NFC West-best 12 games en route to capturing the division title, besting the 10-win 49ers in the process. The four-seed Rams are playing at home for a chance to play at home in the Super Bowl. They understand what's on the line, and you couldn't ask for a better opportunity to capture a title.

Not so fast. 

The 49ers swept the season series, defeating the Rams twice throughout 2021, including an astounding second-half, come-from-behind victory in Week 18 that coincidentally granted the 49ers access to the postseason in the first place. Since the 2019 season, Shanahan’s 49ers have played McVay’s Rams on a healthy six occasions. Shanahan is a perfect 6-0 over that stretch, as McVay has yet to defeat the Shanahan-led 49ers. It represents an unfathomable, yet clear advantage for the 49ers that travels well beyond the mental aspects that may or may not be involved. San Francisco's advantage is largely due to football-related reasons, as opposed to some metaphorical mental block.

The fates of McVay and Shanahan have intertwined dating back to their shared days on Washington's 2013 staff (a fact you've tirelessly heard on every broadcast). Both coaches became inherently famous for their expert usage of the wide zone running game, which especially thrived when paired with their penchant for the play-action passing game that largely targeted the vacated middle areas of the field. Both coaches have adopted, evolved, and adapted different tendencies throughout the years as defenses became all the wiser to their game-planning inclinations. Shanahan's blemish-free resume against the Rams (and more importantly, McVay) offers him a clearer, more straightforward path to Super Bowl LVI.

Sunday afternoon's entertaining battle between the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals possesses the shootout variety potential to put forth points and touchdowns in abundance. But the evening duel between the 49ers and Rams? That's where the wizardry and masterfulness of professional football will truly be on display. 

The Rams must get over the 49ers hump. McVay acquired star quarterback Matthew Stafford in the offseason to help get the Rams across the finish line. When midseason additions were deemed necessary, general manager Les Snead acquired a pair of Pro Bowl-level talents in Von Miller and Odell Beckham Jr. The Rams have largely attempted to buy their way forward by paying top-dollar value (while parting with several draft picks) to high-end, household names. They won't be able to buy their way past Shanahan and the 49ers, though. McVay will have to outcoach and outscheme his way past Shanahan the old-fashioned way.

Another failure in that department would qualify as devastating for McVay and the Rams.

Written By:

Justin Melo

Staff Writer

Justin Melo is an NFL draft analyst that cut his teeth at The Draft Breakdown and USA Today's Draft Wire. He specializes in interviewing prospects, but also produces big boards, mock drafts, and scouting reports. He also covers the Tennessee Titans nationally for Broadway Sports Media and SB Nation.