By Jeff Gordon
STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
Monday, Jan. 02 2006

It’s official: Rams president John Shaw is looking for a new head coach.

This can be an unpredictable process, full of strange twists and turns. Shaw
went the veteran route with John Robinson and Chuck Knox back in Los Angeles.

He tried the college circuit with Rich Brooks as the franchise moved to St.
Louis, then returned to the “legends” circuit by hiring Dick Vermeil out of
left field.

The hiring of Mike Martz was a promotion from within, a move to keep another
team from swiping him while Vermeil mulled his future.

So what will he do now?

Your cyber-correspondent is not on the inner circle, so Shaw doesn’t seek my
counsel. I’ll have to submit my wish list via the Internet.

Operating on the assumption that the Rams should hire an up-and-coming coach to
take the team in a new direction – one that involves tackling -- here are the
choices:

Ron Rivera, defensive coordinator, Bears: The Rams have already sought
permission to chat with him during the bye week. Given his work under former
Rams defensive coordinator Lovie Smith in Chicago, he is an obvious choice.

But he figures to get many interviews; the Texans and Vikings have also been
mentioned as possibilities.

“The last couple years have been a great growing experience for me,” Rivera
told the Arlington Daily Herald. “I’m in a situation right now where I think I’
ve matured as a coach and most certainly would look forward to an opportunity.”

Tim Lewis, defensive coordinator, Giants: He interviewed for the Falcons job
that went to young Jim Mora. He just turned 44, so he fits the mold of an
up-and-comer. The Giants rave about his efforts to restore their defensive roar
this season.

“Tim is experienced, he's experienced success, he's an articulate leader and
he's a great-looking guy,” agent Bob LaMonte told the Newark Star-Ledger. “And
he has a body of work, a successful pattern.”

Jim Schwartz, defensive coordinator, Titans: His Tennessee teams have been
consistently stout against the run. His coaching lineage traces back to Bill
Belichick and his tutors include Gregg Williams and Jeff Fisher. He is a young,
charismatic coach on the rise.

Shaw seems intrigued by Fisher. So if Jeff stays put, Schwartz could be an
obvious selection.

Gregg Williams, defensive coordinator, Redskins: He did a fabulous job coaching
against the Rams during his audition game at The Ed. His head coaching
experience at Buffalo, however unsuccessful, has to be a plus. At least he
wouldn’t be surprised by any aspect of the job.

Jerry Gray, defensive coordinator, Bills: He is a former Ram, so John Shaw is
obligated to take a good look at him. He coached against the Rams in Super Bowl
34 as the secondary coach in Tennessee. His five-year run as Buffalo’s
defensive coordinator produced strong results.

If only the Bills were better offensively during that time frame . . .

Shaw believes his has an attractive job to offer any and all coaching
candidates. “I think it’s an attractive place to coach,” he said.

“I think the team is in a better position than when we hired Dick. This is a
better job.”

Shaw will face fierce competition while trying to hire his next guy. Houston,
Green Bay, Minnesota, Detroit, Kansas City, Houston and New Orleans have
openings and Oakland should be next. Buffalo, Dallas and the New York Jets
could also end up in the marketplace.

“Everything in our business is competitive,” Shaw said. “I assume the hiring on
our head coaching will be competitive.”

Hey, if you need any help, we’re here for you!