An Enormous Head Start

“He’s only there because he’s a great football coach,” noted ESPN commentator Brian Griese about Los Angeles Rams head coach, Sean McVay, during a recent Monday Night NFL game.

Sean McVay is an excellent football coach who has amassed a career head coaching record of 49 wins and 18 losses (a .679 winning percentage). He took the Rams to the Superbowl! 

And he’s only 34 years old and has earned a reputation as a coaching wunderkind.

Griese’s comment, though, belies a misunderstanding of how success is achieved. McVay isn’t only there because of his coaching prowess. Sean McVay’s grandfather, John McVay, was an NFL head coach and General Manager for the 1980’s best team, The San Francisco 49’ers. The McVay’s were good friends with the Grudens, and Sean McVay’s first job was with Jon Gruden, one of the top head coaches in the NFL.

McVay is part of football royalty. 

He was afforded career opportunities unlikely available to others by pure accident of birth.

Griese can be forgiven for missing this. His dad, Bob, is also part of football royalty.

I don’t deny that McVay is excellent or deserves to be an NFL head coach. He does. And from what I’ve read, McVay carries himself with appropriate humility.

Though he uttered innocently enough, Griese’s comment underscores a blind spot in a society that values a “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” mentality — good birth fortune is like beginning a 100-yard-dash on the 50-yard line.

An enormous head start.

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