Shaw's concerns go far beyond Linehan
By Bernie Miklasz
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Sports Columnist Bernie Miklasz
Yes, Rams President John Shaw heard the booing Thursday night during the halftime ceremony for Marshall Faulk.
When Bob Costas introduced Shaw and general manager Jay Zygmunt on the podium, it drew a hostile reaction from the crowd at The Ed. This prompted Costas to intervene and calm the noise by saying, "Now, now, now."
Was Shaw offended by the audience response?
"Not at all," he said. "I said to Costas, 'You shouldn't have cut them off so quickly.' It's OK. I've been around too long to take things personally. When you're having a bad season, as we are, your fans are going to be upset. And they're going to express themselves."
Shaw heard you.
But that doesn't mean he's listening.
Scott Linehan will be the Rams' head coach in 2008.
Shaw wasn't budged by the 41-24 loss to the Steelers. He wasn't moved by Torry Holt's sideline denunciation of Linehan in the waning moments of a
defeat that dropped the Rams to 3-12.
"It's unrealistic to change coaches every two years," Shaw said. "And we're not going to do that. Any coach that is losing, there's going to be an issue. But things can change quickly in this league."
Shaw mentioned Dick Vermeil's 9-23 record after his first two seasons; the Rams won the Super Bowl in DV's third year. Shaw pointed to Cleveland coach Romeo Crennel, who is 9-5 this season after going 10-22 in his first two years. Shaw also brought up NY Jets coach Eric Mangini, who was 10-6 in his first season, but only 3-11 this year.
"I'm sure there was a lot of yelling about Crennel in Cleveland the first two years," Shaw said. "And weren't fans calling Mangini a genius a year ago?"
I asked Shaw if he feared that ticket sales would plummet in 2008, and he said he's aware of that. "But sometimes you have to do what you think is right," Shaw said. "And we want to be fair to Scott."
OK, I'm going to offer another theory here.
I don't believe Shaw is willing, or able, to deal with the stress of firing Linehan and conducting another coaching search.
This franchise is in complete turmoil, and Shaw is burdened by an overwhelming load of responsibility.
Sadly, the health of Rams owner Georgia Frontiere, 80, is deteriorating. She remains hospitalized in the Los Angeles area with an undisclosed illness. Frontiere is said to be fighting hard, but the prospect of recovery is not promising.
Shaw, hired by Frontiere in 1980, is close to the owner. Shaw plans to spend part of the Christmas holidays at Frontiere's side. And sources tell me that Shaw is assisting Frontiere's adult children, Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez. He's lending moral support as the family braces for the inevitable.
Shaw declined to discuss anything regarding Frontiere's health or the future of the Rams, but multiple sources tell me he has been immersed in preparing for the transfer of the franchise to Rosenbloom. Because of tax issues, it's a complex and difficult process. And after that, the sources said, Shaw might be asked to find a buyer for the franchise.
So while Rams fans are understandably angry over Linehan and this dreadful season, Shaw is more consumed by life-and-death matters and the fate of a loved one and her family. Besides, with Frontiere rendered unable to make a decision, Shaw may lack the authority to dismiss Linehan on his own. And even if Rams GM Zygmunt could fire Linehan, he wouldn't. The coach and GM are tight allies.
Understand that the foundation of the Rams franchise will soon be in play.
When Frontiere passes, we do not know how the transition will impact the Rams' long-term future here. Will a new owner demand a new stadium? Will a new owner threaten to move the team after the 2015 season, when the Rams can reopen the stadium lease?
In the grand scheme of things, amid all of this sadness and uncertainty, Scott Linehan is the least of John Shaw's worries.