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Hierarchy may factor in Rams' job search
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
As the Rams begin the process of replacing Mike Martz, they will have plenty of questions for each head-coaching candidate. But in turn, the candidates may have a few questions of their own for team president John Shaw:
• Why was there discord between Martz and the front office?
• Why don't the Rams have a pro personnel director?
• What is Shaw's vision of a restructured front office at Rams Park, and how will it function in the future?
Stay tuned. At his news conference Monday to announce Martz's termination, Shaw provided few details.
"I'm not prepared to discuss any other future changes of the organization. . . . Our immediate goal will be to find a head coach," Shaw said.
Shaw played down the possibility that some head-coaching candidates would shy away from the Rams because of the public nature of Martz's troubles with the front office.
"We have tenured executives on our staff," Shaw said. "Between Jay (Zygmunt) and myself, we've been in the league 25 years or more. I think a lot of the coaches that we'll talk to will probably know us or know of us. I think that it might be asked in an interview, but I really have no concern that we couldn't get past those issues."
The mere mention by Shaw of Zygmunt's name Monday was a telling indicator that Zygmunt - the team's president of football operations - is going nowhere. In fact, Zygmunt is helping Shaw interview head-coaching candidates. Early in the 2005 season, during the height of the Martz-vs.-Zygmunt tension, it appeared Zygmunt was at least considering leaving the Rams. That no longer seems to be the case.
Meanwhile, Shaw's version of a "no comment" on the future of general manager Charley Armey was equally telling.
"I can't address it," Shaw said when asked about Armey's status with the club. "Like I said, I'm really not prepared to lay out any other organizational changes at this time."
Armey is under contract through the 2006 calendar year. Armey declined comment Wednesday when asked about his future with the Rams. Those close to Armey, who is in his mid-60s, said he is not contemplating retirement.
When all is said and done, it seems very likely the Rams will have someone new in the personnel department. Whether that's a director of pro personnel working with Armey, or a new head of the personnel department replacing Armey, remains to be seen.
But Shaw wants input from the next Rams head coach before hiring any new personnel department executives.
"This discussion about the front office will (unfold) as we are interviewing candidates," Shaw said. "That is something that will be addressed during the process. And at the time that we hire a coach, I think there will be some type of resolution."
Perhaps because the Zygmunt-Martz relationship deteriorated so dramatically, Shaw at least wants to know going in if the new head coach can work with any front-office candidates Shaw has in mind.
Over the past year, Martz made a big issue of the fact that the Rams didn't have a pro personnel director.
"I think that will be addressed," Shaw said. "That wasn't really so much an issue until this past year, and I'm not really sure what happened this past year where all of a sudden we didn't really have a pro personnel department. It wasn't an issue for the years before this past year."
In 2000, Mike Ackerley had the title of director of pro scouting with the Rams. But he joined the Tennessee Titans the following season. The Rams have not had anyone with that title, or a similar title, since Ackerley left.
Jack Faulkner has the title of pro personnel administrator, but he is semi-retired and living in Los Angeles, although he still breaks down film for the team.
Of the 32 NFL teams, the Rams are among only four clubs that don't list someone in their organization with the title of either director of pro scouting, or director of pro personnel. The others: Cincinnati, New Orleans and Oakland. The Bengals and the Saints are known cheapskates.
And the Raiders are the Raiders: They do things a little differently from everybody else. For example, the Raiders still use "bird dogs" - part-time scouts who file reports from a particular city. In St. Louis, a former high school coach attends every Rams home game and files some sort of report for the Raiders.
When Martz made an issue of the lack of a pro personnel director, Shaw did some preliminary interviews. Martz wanted Shaw to promote Rams scout Dave Boller to head a beefed-up pro personnel department.
But Shaw rejected that idea because he wants someone with more executive experience in that role. Along those lines, the Rams have interviewed Ron Hill, former vice president of football operations in Atlanta, and former Seattle general manager Bob Ferguson. The Rams have held more informal talks with former Miami general manager Rick Spielman.
Over the past couple of years, Martz felt Rams management - specifically Zygmunt - put too much credence into reports from an independent scouting group (known as Giddings). This past offseason, Martz and assistant head coach Joe Vitt did most of the legwork heading into the free-agency period, with a lot of help from their assistant coaches.
Martz also felt that Zygmunt appeared to gain increasing say in pro personnel matters. And in Martz's view, more control than met the eye since Zygmunt handles contract negotiations.
About a year ago, Martz handed a reporter a "flip card" from the Super Bowl game against New England after the 2001 season. On the Rams' defensive depth chart, he drew lines through the names of defensive players who were no longer with the club. Of the 20 names listed on the "two-deep," only six were still with the club at that time. Ten of the 11 defensive starters against the Patriots were no longer with the club.
Team management's reply is that they made no personnel decisions without Martz's blessings, giving him everything he wanted. Complicating matters in their view was the fact that Martz frequently changed his mind about players, making it difficult to know whom to pursue and whom to let go.
So this time around, it appears the Rams want to give the new head coach less power over personnel. More likely it's a return to the checks-and-balances system of the past that involved team management (Shaw and Zygmunt), the head of the personnel department (Armey, or a new hire) and the head coach.
Re: Hierarchy may factor in Rams' job search"We have tenured executives on our staff," Shaw said. "Between Jay (Zygmunt) and myself, we've been in the league 25 years or more. I think a lot of the coaches that we'll talk to will probably know us or know of us. I think that it might be asked in an interview, but I really have no concern that we couldn't get past those issues."In fact, Zygmunt is helping Shaw interview head-coaching candidates."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