IRVINE, Calif. -- Sean McVay has just finished a long and feisty joint practice with the Chargers in his first NFL training camp as the youngest head coach in NFL history, and his team is quietly working on a blockbuster trade for receiver Sammy Watkins during a fairly frenetic time, when he notices a kindred spirit nearby.

McVay, 31, just wrapped up his daily session with Southern California media and moments later he is engaged in an animated conversation with Bob Bradley, one of the most accomplished in managers in American soccer history who led the U.S. Men's National Team to the 2010 World Cup and who just took over MLS expansion team LAFC.

McVay, never one to miss out on an opportunity to chat up another coach and glean whatever he can even from a brief and chance meeting, is always in pursuit of knowledge. He didn't rise through the NFL assistant ranks to become Los Angeles Rams head coach this quickly by not listening closely, by not trying to absorb as much as he could from those successful men he's worked under, by not taking advantage of opportunities that arose.

McVay has pedigree for greatness

While he hasn't yet coached an NFL game, McVay has drawn quite a buzz already around the league. He's something of a phenomenon, a force of coaching nature, who has an innate feel for people and an advance eye for offense. As execs from rival clubs have been around him a bit now, dating back to the spring owner's meetings, he is making a strong impression -- "I kinda wish he wasn't in our division," one exec recently told me, adding, "That guy is a gonna be a stud" -- and he's already won over the Rams' key veterans. McVay can blend the old school philosophies of men like his grandfather, former top NFL exec John McVay, with theories at the vanguard of the modern passing game.

While the Rams are still a ways away from contention, McVay might be the man to finally get then back there.

"What this opportunity provides is a great platform to be able to learn, and that's the biggest thing," McVay told me. "What I've been flattered and blessed and humbled about is that these other leaders that you can connect with are so willing to share. Even going back to some of the other coaches that you talk to at the owner's meeting in the NFL, and being able to reach out to others. And meeting (NBA coach) Doc Rivers and some different guys like that who have had that platform and done it the right way for a long time. It's still pretty unique."

Besides his bloodlines, McVay has direct coaching ties to Super Bowl winners like Jon Gruden and Mike Shanahan, as well as Don Shula, who for a long time was the youngest coach in NFL history himself after taking over the Baltimore Colts in 1963 at age 33. McVay is always trying to seek that type of knowledge and is open to suggestion from those who have made this walk at a similar age.

"I have been able to talk to him about this," McVay said of Shula, "and really one of my closet friends on our coaching staff is Chris Shula (Don's grandson and McVay's college teammate), so Don is a guy who I got know and spend some time with, and Chris's dad David Shula was a coach at 32 years old, so I think it's been a great opportunity when you realize how small the network of people is who are involved in this game.

"And that's when you realize what a blessing it was when you get done playing to get in with the Bucs and work for a Jon Gruden, work for (Washington coach) Jay Gruden and Mike Shanahan. So for me, I couldn't say enough about the mentors who have invested in me, and I've been lucky with the timing as well."

Buzz building for McVay and his staff

The Rams' players and execs are not hesitant to boast about what they believe they have in their head coach. Despite his youth and inexperience, McVay is able to extend outside of the Xs and Os bubble that engulfs so many of his peers. He understands the need to build bonds and express his vision to the entire building and not just retreat to a cocoon of offensive meetings trying to turn Jared Goff into an NFL quarterback. He wants to infuse the entire organization with a young and dynamic energy, which you can see when he's racing around the field with players in a modified rugby drill.

"I don't know exactly how to describe it, but I do know this, about eight minutes into the first interview you knew the guy was special," Rams general manager Les Snead said. "And then probably every day since then he's exceeded those expectations. He's legit. And you know what I found most interesting -- you can be a smart offensive coordinator, and we've seen a lot of young, bright guys get the chance (to be a head coach), but I do think that Sean has that ability also to see the bigger picture and be a real leader in the organization and not just to your players, but the way he develops his staff, the way he collaborates, the way he include the building in things. There are some bigger-picture leadership skills he has that you don't often find.

"We always joke around here that we don't have any life skills, but we've got football skills. But there is an intelligence there of football and beyond, and especially of football recall. I mean this guy, he can talk about a play from three years ago in a certain game, go to the video, and go right to play 58, and bam, there it is. And it's like, 'How did you just do that?' And he's like, 'I just remember that play.' And it might not even be his team, he might have just been studying something."

McVay has surrounded himself with talented people in L.A. USATSI

McVay also already had a network of highly qualified assistant coaches who wanted to join his staff, and he has assembled an overall group far superior to the prior regime. Jeff Fisher, who has struggled to develop quarterbacks, was never one to agonize over advancements in the passing game, and he churned through coordinators after the great Mike Heimerdinger passed away from cancer. Last year's Rams staff was weak on that side of the ball -- figuring out who would work with Goff seemed almost an afterthought -- and McVay's staff is much better equipped to cultivate an offense.

McVay kept highly-regarded special teams coach John Fassel from the former staff and landed Wade Phillips to run his defense, with Gregg Williams leaving for the Browns job (McVay is very close with Phillips' son, Wes, who was also on Washington's staff). The offensive staff also includes Matt LaFleur, a fast-rising young coach who was also with McVay in Washington and who was Matt Ryan's quarterback coach during his 2016 MVP campaign.

McVay said the most overwhelming thing about his new gig is the sheer volume of issues, requests and queries that come across his desk each day, but his peers are trying to help as much as they can.

"Before you get the chance to be the head coach, you can only imagine what it's like," said Fassel, who took over as the Rams' interim head coach when Fisher was fired in-season. "And then having opportunity to do it even for only three weeks, start to see all the different things that come across the table of a head coach.

"So really what I've done for Sean is just say, 'I only did it for a couple of weeks, but if there is any burden I can carry for you, no matter how insignificant, I think that's an important thing. Because you have so many responsibilities, and it's hard to do any of them'. I told him, 'If you want me to get you dinner, and you forgot to eat because you have so much stuff going on. I'll bring you a (Styrofoam) box to eat.' Anything. Because it becomes pretty heavy, and I've learned that if there is anything I can do to help him, that's what I'm going to do."

Getting the offense on the right path

For all that he contributes to the organization, much of McVay's initial success in this rookie season will be tied to the quarterback position. I'm still decidedly a Goff skeptic, but the infrastructure will be much more conducive to success.

"Having this staff is invaluable from the start, and (Goff) coming from Cal and that offense there, there is an element of rewiring your hardware you have to go through.," Snead said. "And I can't think of a better one to do it that than Sean.

"You take him and bring in a coach who coached the NFL MVP last year, and also add Greg Olson, who has been a coordinator with rookie quarterbacks and he's coaching out quarterbacks. And (free agent left tackle Andrew) Whitworth, who mentored Andy Dalton (in Cincinnati). And you bring in (veteran backup Dan) Orlovsky, and he was Peyton (Manning's) lieutenant (in Indianapolis), and (coach Jim) Caldwell brought him to Detroit to pass some wisdom to (Matt) Stafford.

"So we've surrounded our young quarterbacks, and that's Jared and Sean (Mannion) with some wisdom. Now let's go climb the hill."

McVay's success could depend on his young quarterback's performance. USATSI

There are some who have been around this camp who believe the climb would actually be shorter for Mannion than Goff, but given the bounty the Rams paid to jump up from No. 15 to land Goff atop the 2016 draft, well, let's just say he's going to be given every opportunity to show he can be a starting quarterback. It's not uncommon to see Snead even just a few feet from Goff during training camp drills -- jobs are very much on the line here in the front office; not for the coaches who inherited this project -- and the sight of errant passes hitting the ground isn't exactly rare, either. Given his work with Kirk Cousins and others, however, McVay certainly has a chance to harness something here.

There will be schematic alterations to the run game as well, McVay told me, given the woes of highly-talented back Todd Gurley a year ago. Upgrades to the offensive line should help, but McVay will use the preseason to cater certain things and look for ways to put the runners in better position to win matchups as well.

"Ultimately, it's about figuring out what our players do best," McVay said. "What does Jared do best? What do our linemen do best? What scheme is Todd most comfortable with? These are things we're continuing to figure out, and then you also attack the defense in different ways based on things they're doing front and coverage based."

High praise from the locker room

Rams players told me they could sense, early in the spring, that McVay was someone who would be working as hard as he could to put them in the right spots. They believe in his offensive mind, and he's shown an ability to connect with defensive players as well. 

Whitworth, a critical offseason addition to what was a horrible offensive line, is five years older than his coach but said he doesn't make a big deal about or bust McVay's chops much.

"I'm sure he hears that stuff a little bit," said Whitworth, who stayed 30 minutes after a recent walkthrough diligently working on footwork and hand placement with three young linemen despite his wife and children milling about the practice field, a coach-on-the-field vitally imperative to a young coach. "But I'm not one of those people who just keeps saying things that you hear every day to people.  

"But I really haven't heard a lot that stuff, because the reality is, if you hear him in front of a group of people or in front of a room of players, age kind of goes out the window when you hear him speak. And he handles himself in a way that you realize quickly that he's a guy who is so sharp and ahead of the game and you give him that instant respect."

Whitworth, who played for Nick Saban at LSU, sees a lot of that legendary coach in McVay. The dedication to their process and their work ethic and the consistency of their message cuts through the clutter. High praise and comparisons for a man who has yet to coach a regular season NFL game, but one who I fully expect to be doing just that for the next 20 or 30 years of his life if he so chooses.

"Nick Saban is one of those guys that epitomizes that, day-in and day-out being the same guy and having the same process," Whitworth said. "Nick is very successful with that, and I think Sean is a lot like that, with who he is and the way he handles communication. It's the same every day.

"Those kinds of people, they earn a lot of respect from a locker room because that's one of the biggest things that guys want. You know as a player you want to be as consistent as possible, and you want coaching and everything else in the building to be consistent to where you know what to expect and you know what's expected of you. That's the best thing you can do, and that's what Sean does."