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Thread: Burwell: Firing the coach could be a mistake

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    eldfan's Avatar
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    Burwell: Firing the coach could be a mistake

    Burwell: Firing the coach could be a mistake
    Firing the coach could be a mistake
    BY BRYAN BURWELL, Post-Dispatch Sports Columnist STLtoday.comWednesday, December 14, 2011 12:30 am


    On the same dark Monday when two NFL owners were busy firing their head coaches, Rams owner Stan Kroenke watched from a distance as his team put on a rather unsightly nationally televised show on "Monday Night Football." The populist sentiment in St. Louis seems to be building toward a dramatic action by Kroenke. The populist opinion is demanding that Kroenke impose a "ready, fire, aim" approach to solving whatever ails his failing football team.

    Just do something, anything, just as long as you do it in a hurry to soothe the angry Internet advocates who are screeching from behind anonymous avatars that they will stop buying their imaginary season tickets unless Kroenke responds immediately to their demands.

    But Kroenke has promised no such approach. He has promised a meticulous scrutiny of the situation, and with three weeks to go in this lost season, he seems to be holding firm to his promise. But I wonder what he gathered after absorbing this snoot full of mess from Monday night's 30-13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

    I wonder what he and whatever football people he has employed within his circle of trust were able to cull from this latest disaster. It's important to understand that Kroenke has been in the NFL for a long time as a minority owner and knows a lot of smart football people. He has built relationships with owners and other football executives and no doubt is using those relationships now to help do a lot of evaluations of what is working and what is helping to create this disaster.

    And in the process of all this careful intelligence gathering, I am pretty confident that he has picked up on this bit of advice from more than a few NFL wise guys who might offer some hints about how he plans to move when this gawdawful season is done:

    The key to the long-term success of some potentially gifted first-time NFL head coaches is having the ability to survive their early mistakes.

    Whether it's mistakes with handling players, mistakes with handling personnel, mistakes with assembling a staff, mistakes with handling the media or public perceptions, some coaches are lucky enough to overcome their disasters or find someone willing to give them a second chance.

    It's possible that a coach can struggle mightily when faced with a bad situation, then turn into a great coach. I'm not ready to compare Steve Spagnuolo to New England living legend Bill Belichick, but it bears repeating that the best coach of this generation was regarded as a failure in his first head-coaching stint in Cleveland (36-44 record between 1991 and 1995).

    In Belichick's five seasons with the Browns, he went 6-10, 7-9, 7-9, 11-5 and 5-11 and was fired just before Art Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore. Six years after being fired in Cleveland, Belichick won his first Super Bowl as head coach of the Patriots.

    Was New England owner Bob Kraft crazy, lucky or brilliant when he saw something special in Belichick and gave him a second chance as a head coach? Kraft relied on his own instincts, went against conventional wisdom and hired a man who most NFL people deemed a failure as a head coach.

    Is there something special that Kroenke sees in Spagnuolo that with some major tweaking of the people around him could make him worth salvaging? One thing that puts Spagnuolo ahead of Belichick's development as a head coach is the way he manages his players. Belichick in Cleveland alienated his veteran players. Not until he got another crack at being a head coach did he learn the fine art of getting his players to play for him.

    But looking back at Belichick's years in Cleveland, it's really difficult to understand how things didn't work out. Unlike so many first-year coaches who tend to put together inferior coaching staffs the first go-round, Belichick didn't have to overcome the weaknesses of his coaches or personnel departments. Belichick was surrounded by a coaching staff and front office that makes it even more unfathomable that he failed in Cleveland. His coaching staff was filled with some heavy hitters. Nick Saban, Kirk Ferentz, Pat Hill, Al Groh, Woody Widenhofer and Rod Dowhower. In the personnel department were people you also might have heard of. Ozzie Newsome, Scott Pioli, Mike Lombardi, Phil Savage, Jim Schwartz and Tom Dimitroff Sr.

    But now here he is more than a decade later, a certain Hall of Famer and the best coach of his generation.

    So miracles can come out of the rubble.

    I don't know what's on Kroenke's mind, but if he thinks about keeping the best pieces of this coaching staff or personnel department, he shouldn't worry about how it plays with the public or how it will affect ticket sales to a marketplace that has turned lukewarm to the Rams.

    Here's how you sell tickets to Rams games. You put together a coaching staff that makes players get better, not decline precipitously. If you already have some of them in house, you retain them. If you have some on staff who are not pulling their weight, you show them the door and you go out and aggressively scour the landscape until you find the best assistants out there. If Spagnuolo can upgrade his staff to the point where the Rams are going into games in a fair fight, it won't matter much if the fans don't accept it right away.

    We've already seen what happens when you go into a season with high expectations and low results. The stands start full but empty fast. I would prefer to see how things work out if they switch things around a bit. If they under-promise and over-deliver, I will be delighted by that. If no one buys into the offseason moves enthusiastically, that is to be expected because of more than a decade of less than satisfying results. But if Kroenke makes the right decisions and puts the proper people in place to help the ones who are already here who know what they are doing, and this results in winning football games once the regular season starts, that will not only put people in the seats, but keep them there.

    :ramlogo:

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    Re: Burwell: Firing the coach could be a mistake

    For the record, Burwell has always been the apologist.

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    Re: Burwell: Firing the coach could be a mistake

    The problem with the "let the coach learn" strategy is that it requires the coach to "learn". Spags is pretty much making the same gameday mistakes he made when he first came to St. Louis. Why should we continue to hope for change?

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    Re: Burwell: Firing the coach could be a mistake

    OK, so this is saying as long as Spags is learning from this the Rams should keep him? Fair enough... so how about this:

    If during these last 3 games, Spags and the coaching staff show us they have learned a lot and they now know what needs to be done to turn this team around... keep them.
    If during these last 3 games, Spags and the coaching staff show us a team that looks as bad as they have been this year and a few years ago... fire them.

    How can they show us they have learned? Let's see a whole new gameplan (because the other ones this year obviously haven't worked), let's see necessary changes in personnel (need I say Justin King?), let's see better game management. I'll be looking for the little things in this last part of the season to see if there really is any hope in this coaching staff.

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    Re: Burwell: Firing the coach could be a mistake

    I have listened to several of Spags' press conferences and media interviews and I am not convinced he has what it takes right now. When you have Spags' refusing to acknowledge that punting to Patrick Peterson over and over again might have been a mistake, it shows a certain inflexibility. When you kick it to their best player and say "beat us" and he does, you may need to re-think that strategy.

    Spags sounds like a great guy, but we can't and shouldn't accept him being out coached every game. Why is Bradford running a naked bootleg when his leg is about to fall off? It stupid little stuff like that which is killing the Rams quarter after quarter.

    I would love him as a defensive coordinator, but I think it is clear he has trouble managing a whole team.
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    Re: Burwell: Firing the coach could be a mistake

    Two quotes stand out that just make me disregard the article

    In Belichick's five seasons with the Browns, he went 6-10, 7-9, 7-9, 11-5 and 5-11
    best coach of this generation was regarded as a failure in his first head-coaching stint in Cleveland (36-44 record between 1991 and 1995).
    Spags has only 9 less losses in two less years coaching (with 3 more losses on the way mind you)...To compare Spags to Bellechik is just silly considering Bellicheat had more wins in one of his years as HC then Spags has in 3 total.

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    Re: Burwell: Firing the coach could be a mistake

    He is not learning, that's the problem...

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    Re: Burwell: Firing the coach could be a mistake

    I don't know, I can see a fair bit of sense in Burwell's piece and I've never sensed an apologist in him as he's capable of barbs when he feels the need.

    I've said before that I feel that Spagnuolo will be a successful HC somewhere someday and if you ask me to quantify that opinion I'm not sure I can. If I were to try, I'd point to the fact that his players haven't shipped on him a la Linehan, that he has maintained his composure on an off the field, he hasn't thrown anyone under a bus and he has made visible strides defensively compared to where we were.

    It seems to me that yes, he's struggling under an unholy tidal wave of injuries, his second year QB has regressed alarmingly in the demands of the McDaniels scheme, he's made some poor gameday decisions and some poor personnel decisions through the course of the season.

    I can see the argument for change and have even called for it.

    But I have had this nagging feeling that we may not be seeing everything there is to see here and Burwell's missive has provoked it once again.

    Be interesting to see what else it provokes.
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    Re: Burwell: Firing the coach could be a mistake

    Quote Originally Posted by Fat Pang View Post
    I don't know, I can see a fair bit of sense in Burwell's piece and I've never sensed an apologist in him as he's capable of barbs when he feels the need.

    I've said before that I feel that Spagnuolo will be a successful HC somewhere someday and if you ask me to quantify that opinion I'm not sure I can. If I were to try, I'd point to the fact that his players haven't shipped on him a la Linehan, that he has maintained his composure on an off the field, he hasn't thrown anyone under a bus and he has made visible strides defensively compared to where we were.

    It seems to me that yes, he's struggling under an unholy tidal wave of injuries, his second year QB has regressed alarmingly in the demands of the McDaniels scheme, he's made some poor gameday decisions and some poor personnel decisions through the course of the season.

    I can see the argument for change and have even called for it.

    But I have had this nagging feeling that we may not be seeing everything there is to see here and Burwell's missive has provoked it once again.

    Be interesting to see what else it provokes.

    You know, Fat Pang, you've once again eloquently stated a number of things and in doing so touched upon a feeling I have that worries me a bit: That we might keep Spags. I would think that the record of futility and the fact that it appears Spags has not really grown as a head coach (in my opinion) would be enough to enact change after three seasons. But the fact that Kroenke didn't fire him after yet another poor performance on national TV while three other teams fired their coaches and have a jump on the big name coaching candidates gives me reason to think that Spags being let go is hardly a foregone conclusion.

    Yes, Spags seems like a nice guy and he has resisted the urge to boil over in the face of injuries, adversity, fan criticism and on-field futility. He also has done a decent job with the defense. And certainly there is something to be said for continuity. I just have the sneaking suspicion that we caught Spags too early in his coaching career- that he is not yet ready but will indeed resurface shortly down the road and be a success, having learned from his mistakes in his maiden voyage as head coach. Unfortunately, this does not help the Rams now. And I don't have confidence that he is the guy to lead us.

    It appears Kroenke will indeed wait 'till seasons' end to make a decision one way or another. As a fan, it will be a long three weeks.
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    Re: Burwell: Firing the coach could be a mistake

    Quote Originally Posted by NJ Ramsfan1 View Post
    You know, Fat Pang, you've once again eloquently stated a number of things and in doing so touched upon a feeling I have that worries me a bit: That we might keep Spags. I would think that the record of futility and the fact that it appears Spags has not really grown as a head coach (in my opinion) would be enough to enact change after three seasons. But the fact that Kroenke didn't fire him after yet another poor performance on national TV while three other teams fired their coaches and have a jump on the big name coaching candidates gives me reason to think that Spags being let go is hardly a foregone conclusion.

    Yes, Spags seems like a nice guy and he has resisted the urge to boil over in the face of injuries, adversity, fan criticism and on-field futility. He also has done a decent job with the defense. And certainly there is something to be said for continuity. I just have the sneaking suspicion that we caught Spags too early in his coaching career- that he is not yet ready but will indeed resurface shortly down the road and be a success, having learned from his mistakes in his maiden voyage as head coach. Unfortunately, this does not help the Rams now. And I don't have confidence that he is the guy to lead us.

    It appears Kroenke will indeed wait 'till seasons' end to make a decision one way or another. As a fan, it will be a long three weeks.
    Logically, I think, if in fact Spags is gone, Devaney will be as well. It wouldn't make much sense for Spags to be fired mid-season, then not fire Devaney. If Kroenke wanted Devaney all along, I think we would've seen Spags fired. Of course, the other end of the spectrum could be this: both are retained.

    Either way, if we do keep Spags, I'd like to think that Burwell might be on to something.


    Always and Forever a fan of the St. Louis Rams

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    Re: Burwell: Firing the coach could be a mistake

    Not firing him could be an even bigger mistake.


    P.A.S.S.
    Last edited by Tampa_Ram; -12-15-2011 at 11:40 AM.
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    Re: Burwell: Firing the coach could be a mistake

    Howard Balzer was saying the exact same thing, in his phone in slot, on 101 ESPN last week. He strongly disagreed with the notion that Spags was responsible for this season's regression. Blaming the lockout, injuries, system change, and the quality of the players at Spags disposal. Balzer also pointed out to caller's, that sacking the coach is the easiest thing in the world to do, but WHO do you replace him with.? "The Rams cant keep changing coach's at the first sign of trouble, if were not careful were going to end up like the Oakland Raiders." is how he wrapped it up.
    Last edited by GROUND DOG 39; -12-15-2011 at 11:31 AM.

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    Re: Burwell: Firing the coach could be a mistake

    Quote Originally Posted by Fat Pang View Post
    But I have had this nagging feeling that we may not be seeing everything there is to see here and Burwell's missive has provoked it once again.

    Be interesting to see what else it provokes.
    I have to agree. I see a problem and want a simplistic solution. And I think I'm pretty much like the next guy in this regard. There is a tendency to have a knee jerk reaction to solve the problem. In the Rams case we decide that the head coach has to go (I feel that way myself) but what else is going on beneath the surface? Purely speculation on my part, but it just may be that the solutions are as simple as making tweaks with the assistant coaches (O Line for example), having a good off-season, and being smiled upon by the injury gods next year that begin Spags ascendance in the Pantheon of coaching greatness. It stretches my imagination to say this but maybe it will be the moves Stan doesn't make that turns this Rams train to perdition around.

    Thanks Brian, your article has made me feel a little better. Not much, but a little bit.

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    Re: Burwell: Firing the coach could be a mistake

    Is there something special that Kroenke sees in Spagnuolo that with some major tweaking of the people around him could make him worth salvaging?
    I could see bringing in a Holmgren type as President. Restructure the Rams operations. Have the President hirer a GM if he felt that was necessary. Keep Spags and upgrade his coaching staff, and see what happens next year. If next year we still see no growth the President/GM brings in his guys.

    The changes needed are far deeper then just replacing Spags. Are the Rams going to hirer a former big name HC and give him complete control? That's what it might take to get a big name coach here. I would not be feeling this move... I prefer a former big time HC possibly Dick Vermeil as President to oversee the operations, help put the coaching staff and scouting department together ect.

    I hope we do more then just firer an hire a new HC.
    Last edited by Rambos; -12-15-2011 at 12:35 PM.

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    Re: Burwell: Firing the coach could be a mistake

    Quote Originally Posted by GROUND DOG 39 View Post
    Howard Balzer was saying the exact same thing, in his phone in slot, on 101 ESPN last week. He strongly disagreed with the notion that Spags was responsible for this season's regression. Blaming the lockout, injuries, system change, and the quality of the players at Spags disposal. Balzer also pointed out to caller's, that sacking the coach is the easiest thing in the world to do, but WHO do you replace him with.? "The Rams cant keep changing coach's at the first sign of trouble, if were not careful were going to end up like the Oakland Raiders." is how he wrapped it up.
    Considering that all NFL teams had to deal with the lockout and several implemented new systems along with rookie QB's like Cam Newton and Andy Dalton, other teams had key injuries like 3 starting OL in Seattle, the Texans are on their 3rd QB and have 12 starters on IR(including 2 PBers) yet are 10-3......it's just the usual excuses and apologist mentality. Is it all spags' fault? No. Is it even mainly his fault or is it Devaney? It's both and I am sure hoping neither will be back.
    THOLTFAN81 and GROUND DOG 39 like this.

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