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Hope for change is apparent in Shaw's smile
By Bryan Burwell
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Sports Columnist Bryan Burwell
It took barely a minute for John Shaw to return to the shadows Friday morning. Just as quickly as he came through the auditorium door, that's about how long it took the Rams' president to deliver the introduction of new head coach Scott Linehan, then swiftly slide right back out of the spotlight.
The introduction wasn't quite name-rank-and-serial-number brief, but succinctness clearly was the order of the moment. Shaw does not like working in the bright lights; that's not his style. Yet never confuse his discomfort with attention for a reluctance of authority. Because even as Shaw unveiled Linehan as the new public face and voice of this franchise, he also emphatically re-established that there is a clear distinction between the public face and the private power.
If the lines of authority were blurred in the dysfunctional final days of the Mike Martz era, they have been strongly redefined once again by Shaw. Just in case anyone forgot, the soft-spoken Brooklyn-born, California-bred attorney reminded us how he became one of the most astute, well-connected and influential power brokers in the National Football League. What everyone should have learned from how Shaw handled the Martz mess and Linehan's hiring is that Shaw never has been uncomfortable with the power of his position.
As Linehan spoke during his initial news conference, he made it clear that he understands how things will work around here. "We will do things cohesively as a group, as a unit and make decisions as a team from day one," Linehan said. "That's how things get done. That's how things get done properly. That's the most important thing that I feel needs to be established right away. ... We're going to start by unifying as a team, and that's in all areas. What I think that we have to understand is that we're going to do things together, we're going to make decisions together and we will come to the right decision. We're not always going to agree, but we're not going to be disagreeable about it. That's what the most important thing is, and that's the plan in all phases of the organization."
The moment Linehan said that one line about disagreeing but not being disagreeable, Shaw didn't stop smiling. If Linehan keeps that attitude - and for that matter, if all the front-office types abide by the same credo - the Rams already are moving in the right direction.
But there is a big difference between the public face (Linehan) saying that and the private power (Shaw) insuring it. The way things fell apart over the past five years have allowed Shaw to re-evaluate how he did business, too. And the best thing I heard Friday in the private Rams Park corridors makes me hopeful that Shaw seems to have learned from the process.
Not in words, but in behind-the-scenes actions, the "new" Shaw is acknowledging that some of Martz's complaints were valid. That's why he's on the verge of hiring a much-needed new pro-personnel director. That's why there is sure to be another high-ranking football operations hire that could mean that venerable general manager Charley Armey is on the verge of retirement. That's why there better be an aggressive shopping spree for a defensive coordinator like Jim Bates, and if it means getting into a bidding war with the Houston Texans for his services, so be it. The Rams have gone to the bargain bin before to build a coaching staff, and it set the franchise back three or four years. If Bates is as good as advertised - or if Dom Capers is still available - then the Rams ought to make sure that the Texans or anybody else don't outbid them.
The NFL is a coaches' league. We see every year that quick and dramatic turnarounds happen with the hiring of impressive new coaches (John Fox, Marvin Lewis, Lovie Smith) or proven older ones (Bill Parcells, Joe Gibbs). Great coaches and serious staffs bring championships. Great coaches have clear value. So if the Rams are willing to waste millions of dollars on Brandon Manumaleuna, why would they hesitate to spend millions on a coordinator who will help them win more games than a mediocre tight end?
If Shaw has the confidence of ownership, and if the Rams are willing to use this round of hiring as a litmus test for his presidency, than they better provide Shaw and Linehan with everything they need to flourish in this new era.
Re: Hope for change is apparent in Shaw's smileThat's why there better be an aggressive shopping spree for a defensive coordinator like Jim Bates, and if it means getting into a bidding war with the Houston Texans for his services, so be it.
So if the Rams are willing to waste millions of dollars on Brandon Manumaleuna, why would they hesitate to spend millions on a coordinator who will help them win more games than a mediocre tight end?