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Haslett talks a good game, but he's coaching losers
By Jeff Gordon
STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
Tuesday, Sep. 30 2008
Rams interim coach Jim Haslett said all the right things Monday after Chip
Rosenbloom introduced him as coach.
“I promise you they’ll play hard, I will say that,” he told reporters. “They
will play hard or they’re not going to be here. We’re going to give it
everything we’ve got. We’ll try to keep the mental errors to a minimum, but
they will play hard. That’s one thing I will promise you.”
OK, that’s a start. Rams fans will appreciate that pledge. But Haslett has a
lot to prove in a very short period.
Watching the Rams play has been painful. Losses in 17 of 20 games made this
franchise one of the biggest bummers in all of sports. This team lost its
spirit last season and couldn’t get it back this summer, despite the addition
of several hard-working rookies.
The Rams have had no life, no collective sense of purpose, no apparent
leadership on or off the field. The Buffalo Bills (4-0) have all those things
-– and the contrast between the teams became jarring in the second half of
“They have a couple things we don’t have right now and that is things we have
to get,” Haslett said. “They have great confidence, they have great swagger,
they have poise, they think they can win and right now we are not at that
How do the Rams get there? Haslett said his team must find ways to win games.
That will be difficult, because these guys are losers.
Haslett will have to win the players over. He must convince them that he can
lead them back if they are willing to follow.
This is a tall order, since Haslett failed to inspire sustained effort from his
charges during his two-plus years as defensive coordinator.
Were Haslett and his players victims of the organization’s overall ineptitude
and malaise? Or did they just fail?
Perhaps we’ll get the answer during the next 12 games. Haslett’s challenge is
to change the whole environment at Rams Park, which is no small task for an
He must rally people to this cause. By changing the atmosphere, perhaps the
revamped leadership group can coax progress from this hapless bunch.
Haslett will at least look and act the part of head coach. He can command the
room, unlike Scott Linehan. He gets your attention when he is mad.
On a base level -– where you have to get with some players -– Haslett seems
ready to rumble. He got in plenty of scrapes during his NFL career. He can get
in another man’s face.
But how does he separate himself from the failure of the past 2-plus seasons?
How does he move from being part of the problem to providing solutions?
How does he go from explaining away failure to eliminating it? Too often in the
past two-plus seasons, Haslett often excused or downplayed defensive breakdowns.
During Monday’s news conference, he was asked if he was satisfied by the play
of his defense this season.
“Come on,” he said. “The first three games we played poorly. I thought we
played pretty well yesterday, held a team down, gave up a couple of big plays,
but for the most we did what we wanted. I thought the guys played hard. That
one turnover . . . we had about three of four more chances for turnovers we
didn’t get. I thought they played the best game of the year and that’s
something we can build on. They had fun, they were running around jumping on
piles, like I said. The first three games, no. You know the answer to that, we
didn’t play very well.”
In reality, the Rams weren’t good enough Sunday, either. They played a great
half, then folded when the game turned against them. They did lots of good
things, then allowed one devastating big play after another.
The Rams were more competitive for most of the Bills game, but they didn’t play
winning defensive football. Buffalo outscored them 25-0 in the second half.
Haslett doesn’t want to beat down his players in public, given their battered
state. But they are what they are -– losers. They are 3-17 since the start of
last season and 7-24 since Week 6 of the ’06 season.
Maybe they are in a fragile emotional state. But this is football. There are
lots of Xs and Os, but it boils down to this: TACKLE AND BLOCK.
We all expect Haslett to jump ugly on these guys and push them way out of their
comfort zone. The Rams are used to losing. Most of them seem OK with it.
That has to change. Linehan is gone, so the Rams can no longer cite their
overmatched head coach as the problem. Now the Rams have a head coach who has
been through it all. They have a coach who has won games and earned individual
The players must respect his background. But will they respond to his coaching?
“Hopefully we can turn this thing around,” Haslett said. “I don’t know the
offensive players as well as I know the defensive guys, but I’ve been around
the offensive guys. I do know the makeup of most of the guys in the locker room
and I think they do have a thirst and they want to get this thing right and we’
re going to do the best we can at it."
Wish him luck.
Re: Haslett talks a good game, but he's coaching losers
Uh yeah, sorry about that second half guys. We were winning and we really needed to get scott out of here, so we just decided to let Buffalo make a few big plays, and wallah here we are.
Re: Haslett talks a good game, but he's coaching losers
I think he will do better than Linehan, but I doubt this team will win too many games.
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