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  1. #1
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    Coaching Search Continues

    Monday, January 9, 2006

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    It has been a week since the Rams parted ways with head coach Mike Martz. While a lot has happened since and there has been some progress made toward the hiring of a new coach, there is still plenty of work to be done.

    At this point, there is plenty that is known about who the potential candidates are, what the Rams are looking for and which teams they are competing with to get the right man for the job.

    Team President John Shaw is conducting the fourth interview in the past four days today when he and the Rams’ contingent meet with Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis in New York.

    It appears that this decision won’t be made hastily as Shaw made a point of saying that the team would give the search the proper amount of time and thought before coming to a conclusion.

    Some of the names on the list have completed their resume and can be hired at any time, while others are still making their case in the playoffs.

    As the playoff season kicks into high gear with the Divisional round next week, here’s a look at where the Rams stand with potential candidates and what could be next in the coming weeks.

    Tim Lewis – Giants Defensive Coordinator

    Lewis is probably the most experienced candidates the Rams have looked at. He brings an impressive resume with a solid defensive background. His interview was scheduled for today, one day after the Giants were blown out by Carolina in a wild card playoff game.

    That game didn’t do much to help Lewis’ case as the Panthers punished the Giants defense on the ground, something Rams’ fans have been accustomed to seeing in the past few years.

    Carolina running back DeShaun Foster gashed the Giants for 151 yards and the Panthers had the ball for an astonishing 42:45.

    "It was disappointing," Michael Strahan told the New York Daily News. "We picked the most inopportune time to have one of our worst games of the season."

    But it would be unfair to hold Sunday’s loss against Lewis as a potential coaching replacement. He was working with a banged up defense that was missing key components, particularly at linebacker without the help of Antonio Pierce.

    Sunday’s loss aside, Lewis has an impressive list of accomplishments in the league and has run some of the better defenses around. After working as the Steelers’ secondary coach from 1995-1999, Lewis became the defensive coordinator there from 2000-2003.

    In that time, Lewis never had a defense ranked worse than ninth in the league and led the NFL’s top-ranked unit in 2001 when Pittsburgh allowed just 258.6 yards per game.

    Lewis moved on to New York in 2004, taking over soon after the hiring of Tom Coughlin. His first defense in New York finished 13th. The group took a step back this year, finishing just 24th in the league while allowing 327.5 yards per game.

    In fairness to Lewis, this year’s unit struggled with injuries all year and did finish third in the league in takeaways. Perhaps more important, Lewis has shown the ability to develop players into key contributors.

    Defensive end Michael Strahan has long been one of the best pass rushers in the league, but this year he was overshadowed by fellow end Osi Umenyiora. Umenyiora finished second this season in sacks with 14.5.

    While most coaches are known for some sort of gimmick or staple defense such as the Cover 2 or the 46, Lewis is a multiple coach who disguises blitzes well and comes up with exotic packages making it tough to know where the defense is coming from at a given time.

    Lewis has been close to landing a top job in the past, finishing as a runner up to Jim Mora Jr. in Atlanta two years ago. He is also in the mix in Detroit and Green Bay.

    Ron Rivera – Chicago Bears Defensive Coordinator

    Rivera emerged early as the first name to be revealed on the Rams’ list and is one of this year’s hottest coaching candidates. And with good reason.

    The Bears defense this season has been one of the most dominant in recent memory, attacking with the front four and blanketing receivers in the Cover 2. Chicago finished second in the league in total defense and first in points allowed.

    Under the tutelage of head coach Lovie Smith, Rivera has learned the nuances of the Tampa 2 defense, but has been critical in the development of some of the game’s brightest young defensive stars such as linebacker Lance Briggs, cornerback Nathan Vasher and defensive end Alex Brown.

    The biggest question about Rivera involves his experience or lack thereof as a coordinator in the league. Rivera is in just his second season as the coordinator for the Bears and many wonder how much of the defense’s success is because of him and how much of it is a result of Smith’s influence.

    But make no mistake, just because Rivera hasn’t been a coordinator long, doesn’t mean he hasn’t been around the game long enough to be a head coach.

    In fact, Rivera has spent the majority of his professional life in the company of some of the game’s great defensive minds. He was a linebacker for the Bears from 1984-1992, playing for head coach Mike Ditka and defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan.

    From Ditka, Rivera no doubt learned about mental toughness and picked up the type of hard edged work ethic Ditka became famous for. From Ryan, he learned plenty about the intricacies of the 46 defense as well as how to handle hotshot young defenders such as himself.

    He took his first NFL coaching job with the Bears as a quality control coach for the defense in 1997-98 before coaching linebackers for the Eagles from 1999-2003. With the Eagles, Rivera was once again given the opportunity to learn from one of the best, Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jim Johnson. Johnson has long been recognized as one of the most creative blitzing minds in football and Rivera picked up on pieces of that.

    So, needless to say, though Rivera doesn’t have the experience of a Johnson or even a Lewis, he has learned from some of the best.

    "When you're around a guy like Lovie Smith, too, there's a lot to learn, and in two years, I've learned an awful lot from being around Coach. He's been another tremendous influence and has had a great impact,” Rivera told the Chicago Sun-Times. “Being around Andy Reid, there's another guy that, just the way he does things, has had a tremendous impact on my life, as well.''

    Rivera’s defense is also pretty multiple, though it is centered on the Cover 2 that Smith has long been known for. But Rivera isn’t afraid to mix in elements of the 46 or even other packages that are difficult to recognize.

    Rivera has also received interest from Green Bay, but it is unknown when teams will be able to talk to him again. He interviewed with the Rams last Friday, but the Bears are set for an NFC Divisional Playoff game this week and Rivera won’t be available for a potential second interview until Chicago is done in the playoffs.

    Scott Linehan – Miami Dolphins Offensive Coordinator

    Linehan is the first and only offensive coach the Rams have talked to thus far, but that doesn’t preclude him from being a potential candidate. In fact, Linehan was believed to be rather impressive in his meeting with the Rams last Friday.

    In his fourth season in the NFL, Linehan had a dramatic impact on a poor Miami offense. Soon after the Dolphins hired Nick Saban as head coach, Linehan was brought into cure Miami’s ailing offense.

    He did just that, taking a team that starts Gus Frerotte at quarterback and improving it from 29th in the league in total offense a year ago to 14th this season. Linehan is known for running a balanced offensive attack that mixes the run and pass with equal aplomb.

    Linehan would certainly have some fun working with the Rams offensive talent considering the way he succeeded with the multitude of weapons he had in Minnesota. He led the Vikings to the top-ranked unit in the league in 2003, finishing fourth in passing and rushing. He followed that with a ranking of fourth in 2004 with the No. 2 ranked passing team in the league.

    While it is believed the Rams are searching for a defensive-minded head coach, Linehan would be a good choice if they choose to go with an offensive coach who can bring in a talented defensive coordinator.

    Linehan has been in contention for jobs in the past and is also being considered by the Texans for their vacant coaching position.

    Mike Zimmer – Dallas Cowboys Defensive Coordinator

    Zimmer was the first of the coaches to speak with the Rams, meeting with club officials last Thursday and apparently setting the bar high. Zimmer’s experience in the league is on par with Lewis and he has shown that he can be flexible with his defense but still have success.

    This year, the Cowboys finished 10th in the league in total defense, allowing 300.9 yards per game. If nothing else, the Dallas defense has been consistent in Zimmer’s time there, whether he has been the coordinator or the secondary coach.

    This season was the seventh time in his 12 years the defense has finished in the top 10 in the league. Zimmer is well respected in league circles and has become somewhat of an institution in Dallas after breaking in with the team in 1994.

    Zimmer prefers a more basic 4-3 defense, but was able to make the switch to the 3-4 this year and did it with a fair measure of success. He helped develop a young group of defenders into the 10th best in the league despite myriad injuries.

    He would likely go back to the 4-3 wherever he might land this offseason, but his willingness and ability to adapt earned him more points with Dallas coach Bill Parcells. Parcells has long been known for producing excellent coaching prospects and Zimmer certainly fits that mold.

    Zimmer has not interviewed with any other teams at this point, but has gotten interest in the past, including from the University of Nebraska.

    Other Possibilities?

    For now, the above foursome is the group that seems to have emerged and as it stands, there are no more interviews lined up right away. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be more candidates in the near future. One name that has consistently popped up is Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. He has gotten steady interest from a variety of teams, but is another coach that will have to wait because of the Steelers’ postseason run.


  2. #2
    Tony Soprano's Avatar
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    Re: Coaching Search Continues

    As far as Making excuses for Lewis, whom was fired in Jan 2004 by the Steelers,
    consider this:

    The Redskins in their playoff game on Saturday didn't have their best corner in Shawn Springs he was out injured.

    Their Starting DE broke his arm (Wynn) early in the first quarter.

    Their best DEF player (Sean Taylor) was ejected in the third quarter.

    The REDSKINS STILL WON WITH AN IMPRESSIVE DEFENSIVE PERFORMANCE.

    You can only measure victories.

    Larry Marmie lost two starting Linebackers this year. Should we give Marmie another shot based on the injuries and other crazy events the Rams Organization encountered this year.

    I think this article has large holes in it. In regard to Lewis, it mentions how Lewis develops defensive players and then Michael Strahan is mentioned. Strahan SET THE NFL SACK RECORD long before Lewis came to New York. Guess he "developed" Strahan.

    The article doesn't mention his Firing by the Steelers after the 2003 season. In 2003, the Steelers were 15th in the league in points allowed.. They FIRED LEWIS and the very next year, with the same personnel, the Steelers were number 1 in points allowed and yards allowed too!

    .

    Would you take the 24th ranked DEF coord from this year or the #1 ranked DEF coord from this year - Rivera.

    #24 versus # 1 not a difficult choice.

    .
    Last edited by Tony Soprano; -01-09-2006 at 08:26 PM.

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    tanus is offline Registered User
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    Re: Coaching Search Continues

    do you guys hear a broken record?

  4. #4
    Tony Soprano's Avatar
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    Re: Coaching Search Continues

    Did you guys hear the Redskins won a playoff game DEFENSIVELY with

    Their Best corner OUT - Injured
    Their Best DeF Player - EJected
    Their Starting DE broke his arm at the beginning of the gam.e

    How did the Redskins do it, if it can't be done?

    .

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    Re: Coaching Search Continues

    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Soprano
    Did you guys hear the Redskins won a playoff game DEFENSIVELY with

    Their Best corner OUT - Injured
    Their Best DeF Player - EJected
    Their Starting DE broke his arm at the beginning of the gam.e

    How did the Redskins do it, if it can't be done?

    .
    It can be Tony, just not today and not by the Giants.

    But we won't Judge Strahan and the gang on the basis of one game or season and you can't judge Lewis on that basis either. He's a legitimate candidate who, if Bernie is to be believed, has as big a shot at this gig as anyone.

  6. #6
    Tony Soprano's Avatar
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    Re: Coaching Search Continues

    If they take the #24 ranked DEF COORD this year whom was fired just 2 years ago OVER the #1 Ranked DEF COORD (this year) there's going to be some splaining to do.

  7. #7
    tanus is offline Registered User
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    Re: Coaching Search Continues

    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Soprano
    Did you guys hear the Redskins won a playoff game DEFENSIVELY with

    Their Best corner OUT - Injured
    Their Best DeF Player - EJected
    Their Starting DE broke his arm at the beginning of the gam.e

    How did the Redskins do it, if it can't be done?

    .
    jesus christ, do you ever give it a rest? my god. seriously, go outside and take a walk. did you ever think that maybe another professional was able to beat him on that day? good lord.

    here is food for thought as well. its pretty damn tough for you to win when you offense puts up a goose egg.

    im gonna have to go buy beer now, my god.

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    Fat Pang's Avatar
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    Re: Coaching Search Continues

    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Soprano
    If they take the #24 ranked DEF COORD this year whom was fired just 2 years ago OVER the #1 Ranked DEF COORD (this year) there's going to be some splaining to do.
    I know you like Williams Tony but he's gone. Judge Lewis against the guys still in the race like Rivera,Zimmer, Linehan etc and show me someone who hasn't been fired, had a bad season or been *****ed about by a player.

    Besides it's far too early here for beer.

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    Re: Coaching Search Continues

    whoa whoa whoa whoa!

    never ever say its far too early for beer. the way i see it, its gotta be 5pm somewhere.

  10. #10
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    Re: Coaching Search Continues

    Quote Originally Posted by tanus
    whoa whoa whoa whoa!

    never ever say its far too early for beer. the way i see it, its gotta be 5pm somewhere.
    Too true....................LOL

  11. #11
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    Re: Coaching Search Continues

    I think I'll be okay with either Rivera or Linehan (from what I've read so far anyway)

    Rivera - when you hang out with guys like Ditka, Buddy Ryan, Jim Johnson, Andy Reid, and Lovie Smith......chances are you know a thing or two about good defense

    Linehan - As long as he could get a solid DC, I'd be fine with Linehan. His results speak for themselves in Minny and Miami......and according to Bernie, anyway...his interview was the best.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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