Rams' McVay admires Niners' boldness in McCaffrey pursuit

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Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay argues a call during the first half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Jayne Kamin-Oncea)

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Rams are used to making the NFL's boldest moves and getting the big-name players they want.

So when the defending Super Bowl champions were outbid for Christian McCaffrey last week, the experience was a bit unfamiliar for Sean McVay.

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As an added disappointment, the Rams have to see what they missed out on this Sunday when the San Francisco 49ers visit SoFi Stadium.

When the Rams (3-3) got back to work Monday, McVay could only shrug his shoulders at failing to add Carolina's star running back to Los Angeles' ailing ground game after the Rams and the Niners were both finalists for a deal. McVay admits his first reaction last week wasn't quite so serene.

“They get another great player?” a smiling McVay recalled, acknowledging his initial thoughts also contained an expletive.

“As a competitor, you say, ‘Hey, they’ve got him,’” McVay added. “We’ve got to be able to move forward accordingly, and it just so happens that they’re on the schedule this week.”

McVay and general manager Les Snead know their San Francisco (3-4) counterparts made the move at least partly with the Rams in mind.

Niners coach Kyle Shanahan called it “definitely a bonus” to keep McCaffrey off the Rams' roster: “It’s also nice to keep a good player away from the team that we have to compete with year in and year out.”

The rivalry is fierce, but McVay and Snead clearly admire the hustle of Niners GM John Lynch and Shanahan to get the deal done.

McVay and Shanahan have been close friends since their time together on Washington’s coaching staff.

“The thing that I respect is there’s a good competitiveness,” McVay said. “We have a lot of relationships in this business. It’s a small business, but it is one that’s got a bunch of very competitive people in. Sometimes some of the moves are made with, No. 1, it benefits your team, but it’s also not trying to help strengthen others, and I think that’s just a sound approach.”

The Rams already faced McCaffrey in their most recent game, a 24-10 victory over Carolina on Oct. 16. McCaffrey racked up 158 total yards, although Los Angeles kept him out of the end zone and mostly contained him after a prolific opening drive.

“I think he’s a phenomenal player, obviously,” McVay said. “I’ve always had respect for his game and the versatility. That’s your first inclination, and then you know what a great job Kyle and his staff do in maximizing and utilizing offensive weapons.”

The Rams have played a major role in redefining how the NFL values both veteran stars and draft picks, which were long considered sacrosanct.

Snead has moved all of his first-round picks from 2017 to 2023 in deals to acquire Jared Goff, Jalen Ramsey and Matthew Stafford, while he has used other picks and aggressive recruiting tactics to get everyone from Sammy Watkins and Brandin Cooks to Von Miller, Dante Fowler Jr. and Odell Beckham Jr. in recent years.

The Rams still had nearly enough capital to land McCaffrey — and while the league debates whether the Niners overpaid for a running back, Los Angeles clearly could have used a major boost to a running game that has been mostly terrible this season.

Los Angeles is in disarray at the position with the continued absence of Cam Akers, who is being actively shopped for a trade after he fell out with the coaching staff for undisclosed reasons.

Akers has been just as ineffective this season as the rest of the Rams' rushing offense, which ranks 31st in the NFL with 71.5 yards per game.

While McVay continues to claim Akers might return to the Rams, the coach acknowledged Akers is likely to stay away from the team this week, and he's unlikely to play Sunday.

While their running game remains a problem, the Rams are getting help at other positions as they attempt to end their seven-game regular-season losing streak against the 49ers.

Center Brian Allen, receiver Van Jefferson and cornerback Troy Hill are all expected to return from injuries this week. They returned to practice Monday along with linebacker Travin Howard, who made the interception that clinched the Rams' trip to the Super Bowl with a victory over San Francisco in the NFC championship game.

McVay also confirmed Alaric Jackson will be the Rams' replacement at left tackle for Joseph Noteboom, who is out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon. Jackson, an undrafted free agent, was filling in at right guard before moving to left tackle — his position in college at Iowa — when Noteboom got hurt against Carolina.


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