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Haslett embraces new role with Rams
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Wednesday, Feb. 15 2006
The head man, Scott Linehan, showed up in suit and tie Wednesday for a Meet the
Coaches media get-together in Earth City.
All of his assistant coaches wore white golf shirts emblazoned with the
familiar Rams logo on the front. Well, all but one. Apparently, the Rams' new
defensive coordinator, Jim Haslett, didn't get the memo.
Haslett showed up wearing black, a fitting choice given his bad-guy status
earlier this decade as head coach of the New Orleans Saints. For several
seasons, Haslett was truly a villain to Rams fans.
Not many visiting coaches get booed during pregame introductions at the Edward
Jones Dome, but Haslett did. Maybe that's why Haslett was dressed in black
Wednesday. Perhaps he can't quite bring himself to wear blue and gold - yet.
"It's weird when you sit back and think that I'm coaching with the Rams,"
Haslett said. "Because I really did hate this team for a long time. The reason
you disliked them was because they were so good. They were such a powerhouse
and they scored so many points."
Between 1999 and 2004, the Edward Jones Dome was the toughest place to win in
the National Football League for visiting teams. During that span, the Rams won
43 of 53 regular-season and playoff games. But Haslett's Saints accounted for
three of those 10 home losses by the Rams.
"We just kind of matched up well against them," Haslett said. "We weren't half
as talented on either side of the ball. But we just played hard in those games,
and did a lot of things."
There was no better rivalry in the entire NFL in 2000 and 2001 than the Rams
and the Saints. This was true in part because of the contrasting styles of both
"I know it was a great rivalry," Haslett said. "You know all the things going
on in between (games). ... It was fun to be a part of it. It was a shame that
we had to split up divisions and move different ways."
There were some notable Rams-Saints donnybrooks in New Orleans and St. Louis.
At the top was the Saints' one and only playoff victory in franchise history, a
31-28 win in 2000. It was Haslett's rookie year as an NFL head coach. The Rams
trailed 31-7 before mounting a furious fourth-quarter rally that ended only
when Az-Zahir Hakim muffed a punt with less than 2 minutes to play.
"I almost passed out in that game," Haslett recalled. "It was probably the best
win in Saints history, and it came at the expense of the Rams."
The secret of Haslett's success against St. Louis?
"We always came in with the approach that we were going to be physical and get
after it," Haslett said. "We knew we were going to give up some plays and some
yardage. ... But you knew if you played well, if you played physical, then you
were going to get some turnovers. You wanted to stop the run early, and make
them throw the ball, and try to get after it a little bit."
Alas, the Saints moved from the NFC West to the NFC South as part of the
realignment that followed the 2001 season. The teams have met only twice since
Haslett and his one-time Rams counterpart - Mike Martz - found themselves out
of head-coaching jobs following the 2005 season. Interestingly, they will match
wits again next season, albeit on a different level as coordinators, because
Haslett and the Rams play host to the Detroit Lions, for whom Martz now works
as offensive coordinator.
In St. Louis, Haslett is being counted on to resuscitate a defense that sagged
to 30th in the league last season. His hiring created quite a buzz among Rams
fans eager for defensive improvement.
"Are they the same ones that were booing me?" Haslett teased Wednesday.
Probably. In a recent stltoday.com poll, more than 70 percent of respondents
gave highly favorable reviews to Haslett's hiring.
Haslett had every reason to be burned out following a tumultuous 2005 season in
which the Saints spent the entire season on the road in the wake of Hurricane
Katrina's devastation in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.
Haslett took about three days' worth of clothes when the Saints evacuated New
Orleans for San Antonio, where they practiced and played many of their "home"
games. For the first month of the season, he slept in his office at the
"We were kind of vagabonds," he said. "It was a long season. We didn't handle
it very well. Probably the hardest thing was being away from home for 4 1/2
months. Being away from the family. I'll probably be writing a book someday
about it, because there's some things that happened that probably will never
happen in this league again."
Haslett, 50, was fired after a 3-13 season. His original thought was to sit out
a year, reflect on everything that occurred, and then try to get back in the
league as a head coach in 2007.
Early this offseason, he dabbled in TV work.
"I flew out to Los Angeles and did a show (for FSN)," Haslett said. "It was a
one-hour show. It took 5 1/2 hours. I called my wife, I said, '(To heck with)
So much for a TV career.
But it wasn't long before Haslett's phone started ringing. He interviewed for
head-coaching jobs in Detroit and with the New York Jets. He turned down a
couple of other opportunities.
"I didn't want to be in the same situation I just got out of for the last six
years (in New Orleans)," Haslett said.
And then some guy named Scott phoned. Haslett's wife, Beth, picked up. When she
told her husband who was on the line, she kind of mumbled Linehan's last name.
Haslett wasn't sure who it was, and originally told his wife: "Tell him I'm not
But he talked to Linehan, who coaxed Haslett into coming down to the Miami area
to discuss the Rams' defensive coordinator position. This took place the
weekend of the conference championship games. Linehan and Haslett went to
dinner the first night and spoke for four or five hours. They met again the
next day for about four hours.
"When we first started talking, I liked him," Haslett said. "I just wanted to
make sure that he was going to try to do the right things to get the team back
to winning. Not just offense, but playing good defense and good special teams."
Haslett obviously liked what he heard.
"Before I left (Florida), I said, 'I'll take the job,'" Haslett said.
After signing a three-year, $3 million deal, Haslett is digging into his new
job. He's been in St. Louis for about a week.
Linehan said, "Hiring Jim, it was a stroke of luck. We're not going to have him
very long. He's going to be a head coach again soon."
But Haslett can't allow himself to think that way.
"We're going to make the defense better," Haslett said. "And we're going to try
to win enough games that we get in the playoffs. That's our No. 1 goal. ... I
just want to be a part of the staff that helps the St. Louis Rams win games."
Which qualifies as words you thought you'd never hear from Jim Haslett.
Re: Haslett embraces new role with Rams
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