BY JEFF GORDON
STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
01/20/2006


New Rams coach Scott Linehan made a wonderful first impression.

We knew his reputation as a gunslinger. His Minnesota Vikings offenses were aggressive, generating periodic complaints that he called too many deep passes and designed too many gadget plays.

Surfing the Internet, you can find complaints that he got too creative in the red zone and was too quick to abandon the run.

It was as if they were complaining about Mike Martz. Perfect!

In person, Linehan reinforces that ambitious image. He uses words like “aggressive,” “attacking” and “relentless” quite a bit while discussing his football priorities.

He said the Rams' defense and special teams must be as vigorous as the offense. “There is unity in that,” Linehan said during his introductory news conference at Rams Park on Friday morning. “We approach it the same way.”

We’re certain Rams Nation enjoyed hearing that.

He constantly stressed the need to motivate players, lead them and make them better. “We want to be one of those feared teams,” he said, “one of those teams you don’t want to play.”

Linehan is obviously a high-energy guy. He seems exacting in his expectations. He clearly knows what he likes and doesn’t like. “By nature, I’m not a real patient person,” he admitted.

He can make himself abundantly clear. After watching Friday’s presentation, we’re guessing he is persuasive, too.

But he seems amiable, too, and willing to play nice with the rest of the Rams hierarchy. He is respectful of the success the Rams have enjoyed since 1999.

He doesn’t seem smug. He doesn’t come off as a know-it-all. His face is a smirk-free zone.

He has plenty of confidence, for sure, but he doesn’t project it with an edge. We’re guessing that Terry Bradshaw and the rest of the Fox gang will like him.

Linehan admits he will have to grow into this job. He will have to call on all of his experiences as an assistant coach and coordinator. He will have to call on his mentors, old bosses like Nick Saban, John L. Smith and Dennis Erickson for advice.

He will have to develop a detailed plan for the Rams with his staff. He will have to hire a strong defensive coordinator and give him the autonomy to run that unit.

He likened it to making the jump from college to the pros, when Vikings coach Mike Tice gave him the opportunity to coordinate that highly skilled offense.

“(Daunte) Culpepper, (Randy) Moss, Matt Birk . . . I felt more nervous walking into that room for the first day of OTAs than I did for the opening kickoff of the season,” Linehan said.

It didn’t take long for Linehan to win over the veteran Vikings. The numbers put up by that offense speak volumes about his ability to adapt to a new challenge and grow as a leader.

In Miami, he transformed a dreadful offense into a competitive unit -– employing two power running backs, rookie Ronnie Brown and comeback kid Ricky Williams, and getting great mileage from journeyman Gus Frerotte down the stretch.

Based on what we saw Friday, we expect the Rams to have a spirited training camp in 2006. Practices will have great tempo, or else. And during games, we expect Linehan to have a fiery sideline presence.

The offensive philosophy may not change a lot, but with the new guy at the helm, we expect the atmosphere will.

“This is going to be an family environment here at the Rams, OK?” Linehan said. “We will do things cohesively as a group, as a unit, and make decisions as a team from Day One. That’s how things get done properly.”