Liam Coen ready to "plant roots" during second stint at Kentucky

Nick Roush01/12/23


Article written by:On3 imageNick Roush


Jacob Noger | UK Athletics

After bouncing back-and-forth between Los Angeles and Lexington, Liam Coen says he’s ready to plant roots and make an impact as the offensive coordinator at the University of Kentucky.

As successful as Coen was with the Wildcats in 2021, there are reasons for the BBN to be skeptical about his return. Maybe not necessarily from an execution standpoint, but will this guy actually stick around, or will we be stuck in another offensive coordinator search when he quickly runs back to the NFL?

I’m not in a rush to go anywhere,” he said at his re-introductory press conference. “I want to go try to make an impact and be around somewhere for a little while.”

This time a year ago he was elbows deep in preparation for the Wildcats’ upcoming season. The Rams continued to pile up wins until they finished with a Super Bowl victory. He had no plans of leaving Lexington, until Sean McVay gave him an opportunity he could not bypass. After just one season away, he could be elevated from assistant quarterbacks coach to McVay’s offensive coordinator, the go-to job for aspiring NFL head coaches.

“It’s a jump that’s not really normal and an opportunity that you’re like, ‘Man, and I don’t know if this is ever going to come up again.’ I looked at it as a once in a lifetime opportunity at that time,” said Coen. “You go through it, take the wins and losses out of it. I just want to kind of go somewhere, make a real impact and plant some roots a little bit, be somewhere for a few years, at least, that you feel really good about.”

After a series of events unfolded out of Coen’s control, he got a second chance to call-plays in Lexington. Once again, it was an irresistible opportunity.

“We truly did not want to leave Lexington. The opportunity to come back and coach for Coach Stoops, be around these players and have an impact in people’s lives was ultimately the right decision to come back and do this at a high level; couldn’t be more thankful,” he said.

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What Liam Coen Learned as the Rams’ Offensive Coordinator

This reunion was all made possible because of each team’s shortcomings. The Kentucky offense reverted backwards and then some, producing the most inefficient offense of the Mark Stoops era. Things were not much better on the West Coast. The Rams lost 12 games, more than any other defending Super Bowl Champ, after a plethora of injuries to offensive stars.

Liam Coen was a part of a lot of winning for a long time. This year he dealt with unprecedented adversity and those lessons might be the most valuable he’s learned as a coach.

“The plays, the scheme, all that stuff, everybody has for the most part, right? Well, when you lose players, you have to pivot… You scheme up all these great plays but at the end of the day, it’s truly all about the players; having to pivot and adjust to the type we were playing with throughout the season,” said Coen.

“They weren’t our starters. They didn’t know all of our offensive scheme from A to Z, so we needed to pivot at times. Now, was it always successful? No. Was the end result always what we were looking for? No, but it was about the process. The process was clean every week. And at the end of the day, that’s really all you can hope for, in terms of trying to create an environment and a standard to which these guys came to practice in meetings every single day with the right enthusiasm, right mindset because the culture is strong.”

This fall the Rams signed Baker Mayfield and prepared him to start a football game in two days. After the come-from-behind Thursday Night Football victory, Sean McVay saluted Liam Coen in the postgame interview for doing what needed to be done to win.

“When you go through some of these things, it gives you the perspective that it’s truly always about the players and you know when you have great ones, usually good things happen,” Coen said today. “When you have injuries, typically great things don’t happen. But we were able to pivot and somewhat evaluate week to week how we were going to move the football.”

His successor at Kentucky took a much different approach. Relying on his scheme, the inability to adjust to the players’ strengths in situational football is ultimately the most significant reason why Rich Scangarello was relieved of his duties, paving the way for Coen’s return.

Why Coaching College Appeals to Coen

As strange as it may sound, there are a couple practical reasons that actually make the offensive coordinator position at Kentucky more attractive than the one with the Rams. First and foremost, Sean McVay is running the show and calling plays in L.A. Secondly, the nature of coaching professionals is significantly different than coaching college kids. While some loathe the recruiting lifestyle and only want to focus on X’s and O’s, others value the role as a mentor in the lives of growing young men. Coen had a revelation while scheming up game-plans with Matt Stafford.

“You’re working with these guys and you realize pretty quickly they don’t NEED you but to help them schematically and help them continue to grow from a football standpoint…

“I missed helping when it was a little bit more than football. We missed as a family having players over for dinner and having the guys around. I have a one-year-old son now that I’m excited for him to be around the football facility and be around our players. That’s truly what we missed.”

It’s appealing for now. But don’t presume he’s a college football lifer. As happy as he is with the move for now, those priorities may change in the future.

But to say that I’ll never go back to the NFL at some point my career, I can’t say that. This is the pinnacle of our profession. And to be choosing to leave it is a difficult one to wrap your head around at times.”

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