By Jim Thomas
Thursday, December 27, 2007 11:00 AM CST
The Rams beat writer goes one-on-one with readers on Thursday from 11 a.m.-noon in a live chat.
Just wanted to say thank you very much for doing these chats and putting up with our rantings. I hope you'll do some live chats in the off-season.
Jim Thomas: Thanks. It's good to be back. And we will have offseason chats, although I'm not sure about the schedule. Please stay tuned. A word about last week: Last Friday's scheduled 1 p.m. chat had to be canceled at the last minute. Sorry for any inconvenience. Normally, the press conferences involving Linehan, Olson, and Haslett the day after games takes place at 4 p.m. But Friday's press conferences after the Pittsburgh game were moved up to 1 p.m., which blew me out of the box.
T-Man: happy holidays, Mr. Thomas....
The Rams organization is obviously undergoing tremendous change....my question....does the organization have long-range plans and goals in place or, in your opionion, is everything done by the seats of their pants? Is there a secret, well-thought process that will be shown to fans over the next year or so or will the instability continue?
Jim Thomas: It may not look that way, but sure there's planning. Jay Zygmunt, for example, always plans out the salary cap two, three years in advance. That's one reason why the Rams never seem to get in salary cap hell like sometimes. One reason why Linehan is coming back for Year 3 is the very fact that Shaw thinks changing coaches ever two years is not the most stable way to run a franchise.
Gus: Thanks for answering my question beforehand Jim.
What type of draft pick will the Rams get for the FA losses of Shaun Mcdonald and Kevin Curtis? Curtis is leading the Eagles in rec. yards while Mcdonald is lead the Martz-Run Offense in receptions and rec yards. From those stats, could we expect 3rd rounders for both? Im expecting a 5th or below for each of them. Thanks again Jim.
Jim Thomas: The formula for compensatory draft picks is complicated, and involves not only production but takes into account (I believe) how much the free agents will be paid. So the signing of Drew Bennett to a $30 million contract will work against the Rams somewhat. The signing of LB Chris Draft will work against the Rams as well to some degree. So I'm not sure that getting a third-round pick for each is a realistic assessment. However, TE Randy McMichael (who was cut by the Dolphins before the Rams picked him up)and return man Dante Hall (acquired in a trade) don't count because they weren't unrestricted free agents. The compensatory picks aren't announced until the owners meetings in March.
JR: I think I speak for a lot of other Rams' fans with this question. We all now know that the health of our owner, Ms.Frontiere is not good and from what we have read, she won't be with us much longer. The question is how long will she survive? This is NOT a death watch, merely a question to try to ascertain what may happen with this team in the off season. IF the management has their hands tied, could we possibly see a lame duck coach and administration until the team is sold? Thanks for your reply.
Jim Thomas: Well JR, you have asked one of the all-timers. How long will a person live? All I can say is the long-term prognosis isn't good.
JR: Do you think the sale of the team has been in the works for at least a month or so? IF so, are any names being mentioned? Thanks
Jim Thomas: I still think Kroenke would like to own the team, but because of the NFL's cross ownership rules, he must first divest himself of the Denver Nuggets NBA team and the Colorado Avalanche NHL team. If (and when) Georgia Frontiere passes, Chip Rosenbloom will own the team at least for the short term. But obviously Shaw has begun thinking about possible buyers.
Todd W.: Although, I do think the Rams defense has improved, I still think we are one of the worst defensive teams in the league. What is our immediate needs on Defense in your opinion?(Wow can't believe I asked a defensive question, I usually only care about us scoring tons of points)
Jim Thomas: The Rams still rank 17th in the NFL in total defense despite the terrible outing against Pittsburgh last Thursday. However, only two teams have allowed more points than the Rams' 390. I think the defense has played better than the numbers would indicate; their offensive woes and frequent special teams mishaps have put the defense in a bad way most of the season.
That being said, I think the main defense needs are still 1.) DE (James Hall hasn't brought much to the table and Hall and Little are both approaching their mid 30s); 2.) DT (Yes, DT. Wroten is a bust; Glover will enter the final year of his contract next season). 3.) LB (particularly if Chillar goes elsewhere in free agency); 4.) Safety (The Rams need to start grooming a replacement for Chavous. 5.) CB (Because you can't have enough corners, and I'm far from sold on Wade so far.
Mark Giardino: Jim, you guys do a great job, and thanks for letting us vent. I am so disappointed in Shaw, however. I am sure Linehan is a great guy. Unfortunately, it hasn't worked out for him. First we all watch Mark Bulger "roll his eyes" after talking with Linehan and then Torry Holt, of all people, YELLS at the coach on the sideline. Doesn't that tell Shaw that the players do not respect the coach anymore? I haven't even gotten to the point where we discuss the inept offense, poor play-calling, and second-half collapses!
Also, it is obvious this owner does not care about football. I have always questioned her commitment, ever since she took a shot at LA after winning the Super Bowl.. "This proves leaving LA was the right decision". What the %*@# does that have to do with winning a Super Bowl! I have been a Ram fan since the early 70's, and this team has stunk ever since CR died, except for three good years. I don't have a problem with the front office for the most part, except when they let Vermeil go. I think they would have won at least one more if they weren't so afraid that Martz would have left. I liked their draft picks though. I was very excited every year. However, if Linehan stays, I don't care if they draft the next Marshall Faulk. It won't matter. What a shame that good fans have to get totally disgusted (read "stop spending their money") in order to get soemthing to change around Rams park.
Thanks Jim! And may you and all the rest of the writers at the Post have a Happy New Year!
Mark in NY
Jim Thomas: Mark--To me the Holt screaming match shows that there are some underlying problmes between many of the skill players, Linehan, and the offensive system. If Shaw isn't aware of this, and concerned by this, he needs to be.
As for Georgia Frontiere not caring about football, I think you're wrong. Again there's a difference between wanting to win, and knowing how to win. Particularly, in the past couple of years, her health has become more and more of an issue. The woman is 80 years old, after all.
If memory serves, the three finalists for Rams head coach a couple of years ago were Scott Linehan, Cam Cameron and Ron Rivera. Scotty won the job but may lose the war if he doesn't get things turned around next year. Cameron is probably done after one disastrous year in Miami. The Bears thought so much of Rivera that they dumped him as their defensive coordinator. I'm thinking we might be where we are now no matter which of the three was selected to be HC. I don't trust Shaw and Zygmunt to pick a coach that can lead us back to the playoffs and long-term success. It may be a blessing in disguise that Shaw can't or won't replace Linehan now. If Linehan fails, a new regime will hire the next HC, and they can't help but do a better job of it than these clowns. Am I right? Thanks.
Jim Thomas: You are right: Linehan, Cameron, and Rivera were the three finalists. Linehan is 11-20; Cameron is 1-14 as NFL head coaches. I still think Rivera could be an effective head coach. I've spent a little time with him _ not a lot _ and I think he has the "it" factor. The Bears have hardly flourished in his absence.
But picking young, unproven assistants/coordinators _ which seems to be the trend these days _ is risky business. Mangini makes the playoffs his first season with the Jets; they're 3-12 this year. McCarthy seems like an uninspired choice in Green Bay; suddenly he looks like a genius this year because Brett Favre is playing better.
JustMe: How will free agency be affected given the current ownership situation? Will the Rams be able to extend contracts or go after any free agents this offseason?
Jim Thomas: Good question. But I think it'll be business as usual. No matter what happens with ownership, the salary cap is still the salary cap. In other words, there are parameters in place no matter who owns the team.
Brian from Vegas: Jim,
Looking back at the Rams draft class of 2006, how can anyone in the Rams front office keep their jobs? The Rams had 5 of the first 93 picks, and NONE of these players will be playing a significant role in next weeks game. (Hill, Klop, Wroten, Alston, Byrd). Who is the single person responsible for these picks? Someone has to be the ultimate decision maker, whoever that person is, he or she must be fired or never allowed near a draft room again. If the same Ram draft "team" is in place for the 2008 draft, why would any Ram fan be optimistic? Oh, and our 3rd round pick last year, Jonathan Wade, was horrific against the Steelers.
Jim Thomas: I think it's unfair to lump Hill in that group because he's hurt, and I think Hill will be a pretty good player. Otherwise, your point is well taken. That, by the way, was Charley Armey's last draft with the Rams. I think this is one reason why the Rams do need a veteran personnel man calling the shots on draft day (with major input of course from the head coach). But I have my doubts as to whether that will happen.
Billy C: Are you going to print the last 2 discussions ? Thanks Billy C
Jim Thomas: I don't know what you mean about the last "two" discussion. But there was no chat last week for reasons I talked about in my first post today.
Mike H.: If the decision to hire Linehan as head coach was because of his strong offensive background and Shaw's desire to keep the "high-powered" Ram offense in tact, why didn't Shaw require Linehan to hire Ken Zampese, John Ramsdell (former Ram assistant coaches) or even make Henry Ellard the O/C?
If a head coaching job doesn't open up for Haslett, does he come back next year? Who do you see as O/C options next year and once Olsen gets a pink slip?
Jim Thomas: I'm guessing the answer is because Shaw _ like most team owners or executives _ basically gives head coaches the opportunity to hire their own staffs. Also, Linehan wanted to call his own plays.
Haslett will come back next season, if he doesn't get a head-coaching job. I'd love to see the Rams hire an OC to call plays. I think Zampese and Ramsdell would be interesting possibilities, but Linehan seems to have an aversion to keeping Martz assistants around.
michael gordon: hey jim,
can you give me a report about the progress of the rookies, which ones will be useful next year and which ones will not make it out of training camp...
Jim Thomas: Obviously, DTs Carriker and Ryan are keepers. With continued development and improvement, I think they could have good runs in St. Louis. Overall, Leonard is what the Rams thought he would be in terms of versatility, toughness, and football instincts. However, I'm a little bit disappointed in him as a blocker on blitz pickup (too much diving at the legs of DEs and LBs) and a little bit disappointed at him as a pass catcher (not much run after the catch). I've also been a little surprised that he has barely gotten a handoff since Antonio Pittman has emerged as the No. 2 back. I think Pittman has shown some progress, and will be back next year.
CB Jonathan Wade needs a lot of work on coverage and tackling. To me, he was also a big disappointment on special teams. But he has speed and good size for a corner. C-G Dustin Fry needs to get stronger and remains a fringe player until he shows otherwise. (Look at all the o-line injuries the Rams have had, and Fry still hasn't played from scrimmage. Obviously, the coaches don't think he's ready.) Seventh-rounder Derek Stanly opened some eyes as a kickoff returner against Pittsburgh. But he's small and needs to really polish up his receiving skills to make the team next year. But it's clear that he has moved ahead of Marques Hagans.
That leaves LB Quinton Culberson, who has done some nice things on special teams but has a ways to go before he can be a contributor on defense. (He missed a tackle on Najeh Davenport on the 5 against Pittsburgh after Brandon Chillar suffered the calf injury.)
Pete: hi jim. I was looking at the rams roster and thinking that about the only positions where we dont have impending free agents or need help are DT and HB. Does that take Darren McFadden and Glenn Dorsey off the board or do the rams have a trend to take BPA (even with our NUMEROUS needs)
Jim Thomas: Boy, how do you pass on McFadden (although a trade-down, I guess, is possible) if you're staring at him on draft day? Keep in mind, Jackson is scheduled for unrestricted free agency following the '08 season.
As for DT, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I think that is a position of need because Wroten has done nothing and Glover will be 34 in July and is entering the final year of his contract in '08.
I firmly believe the Rams are squandering a golden opportunity for a good, possibly very good, 2008 season by bringing back Linehan. The players play hard because of proffesional pride, but when you don't believe in your coach (and these players clearly don't) it just doesn't work out in the end. By cleaning house management would send a positive message to players and fans. With the Rams playing in the weakest division in the NFL and having a last place schedule a huge turn around is possible, but not with the current coach. Remember the 2006 Saints? A team that had talent, brought in a bright new coach, played in a weak division with a last place schedule. The 2008 Rams could have been similar, but won't. I know this season isn't over, but what's your gut feeling about next year Jim?
Jim Thomas: First of all, the "last-place" schedule is a myth. It's not like it used to be. Only two of the 16 games on a team's schedule have anything to do with where a team finished the previous season. In other words, 14 of the 16 games on the '08 schedule will be the same for Seattle and the Rams; or in the AFC East, for New England and Miami.
But you do make a point about Linehan. Unless there's some communication and fence-mending on offense between Linehan and some of the key players, I think it's fair to have doubts about whether this thing can work next season.
DBQIA: Any comment on Jon Alston's season?
Jim Thomas: Haven't checked on him. I know he's listed as No. 3 on the depth chart at OLB.
klent: Could i get your opinion on a few things...
Do you think Olsen will be back next year? Haslett? Roberts? Are there any positional coaches that you think will be fired? Do you think the Rams will eventually become a 3-4 team? And what do you think the biggest problems are that need to be addressed? Oh, one more thing, if we release Bruce do you think we will look for a free agent or rookie slot receiver or just bump up the # 4 receiver?
Jim Thomas: Haslett's back if he doesn't get a head-coaching job. Not sure on Olson or Roberts, the strength and conditioning staff, or o-line coach Boudreau. I know some staff changes will be made. As I look at it, I can't say with certainty that any position coaches deserve to be fired. OK, you could say Roberts on special teams. But the Rams have tried seemingly every special teams coach in America (proven veterans such as Bobby April, Mike Stock, Larry Pasquale, etc.) and they've all failed here. St. Louis seems to be the black hole of special teams.
Based on what we've seen with Little out, I'm beginning to think a 3-4 would make more sense. But you'd need more linebackers.
If something happens with Bruce, the Rams would look either through free agency and the draft. They wouldn't bump up the No. 4, who's currently either Dane Looker or a healthy Dante Hall.
Ray: Hi Jim.
I have two questions......
Will the Rams wake up and smell the roses and rearealize that Marc Bulger will never take this team tothe promise land? He has taken a beating this year and is quickly becoming the Jim Everett of the modern day Rams. The Rams need a stronger armed QB to fire the ball downfield. How many times have we seen him under throw the receivers who have gotten behind the d backs?
Will The Rams ever go back to the Blue and Yellow uniforms that brought them a Super Bowl? The Blue and Gold have brought them nothing but misfortune and loss after painful loss!
Every highlight of the Super Bowl year and back brings back so many fond memories and besides...there is too much Gold already in the NFL, why keep something that really does not look that good!
Thanks for your time, Happy 2008,....here's to a strong armed QB in the draft along with someone to protect him and a bonified pass rusher from the outside!
Jim Thomas: When you sign a QB to a $65 million contract, you are basically committing to him for at least the next few years. So Bulger's not going anywhere. What the Rams need is a line to protect him.
THere are no plans to change the Rams uniforms that I'm aware of.
morris Puma: Rams are almost last in points scored and almost last in points given up, I think they need to get rid of the whole coaching staff. I don't see how they can complete with that kind of stats. What do you think?
Jim Thomas: There are a lot of numbers that do no reflect favorably on Linehan, including the team's second half performance, the overall performance of the offense this season, the team's record in division games, and the team's record in close games (7 points or less) this season. But Linehan is coming back. So it doesn't matter what I think.
james: So Linehan will return for another season. What do we as Ram fans have to look forward to? Another season of second half ineptitude, bad coaching, a front office not concerned with football(the owners illness), and most of the football team not believing in the coaching staff. Yah baby!
I just hope that the team will be sold and someone that actually cares and doesn't run it from Los Angeles comes in. We currently have the #2 pick in the draft. I would like to see us trade down and pick up more picks, perhaps even a first rounder next year. I think it's safe to say that next year will be more of the same. I see us at .500 or worse. Even with an influx of new free agents and draft picks, the team still has to believe in what the coaches are doing.
This team will probably not be good until the year after next and even then we'll see whether the concussions will affect Bulger by then. I am resigned to another very average year next year.
I just hope the new owner will look at this team as not just a business but something that only 31 other people have, the greatest sports business in the world.
To all other Ram fans out there, I feel your pain.....
P.S. Stop talking about bringing Martz back, he stunk.
Jim Thomas: You have a strange definition of "stunk." Martz was 56-36 as a head coach.
Bryan: Any word on whats happening to Georgia, and the whole ownership situation? Hopefully it doesn't some how screw up the offseason for the Rams.
Jim Thomas: Georgia is so-so, still hospitalized. I don't think the long-term prognosis is good. But details remain sketchy.
David: If teams end up restructuring a player's contract at the end of it anyway, why would they even give out such a contract in the first place? It especially doesn't make sense if a player keeps up his rate of production consistently, such as Isaac Bruce.
Jim Thomas: Sometimes they're purposely structured in a way to make the team and the player's agent get together for a renegotiation after a couple of years. (Such is the case with Leonard Little and his $7.2 million roster bonus that he's due this offseason.)
For the team, it's a hedge against declining production, advancing age, or injuries. That's one reason why contracts are frequently "backloaded" _ with higher base salaries at the end of deals. And it's one reason, why players get as much guaranteed money (signing bonus, base guarantees, etc.) as possible.
Joe Stafford: Jim, If the Rams get a chance to coach one of the teams at the seinior bowl in Mobile Al, Would Losehan have enough sense to go for it? Being that we're stuck with him for another year, the least he could do is make an honest effort at being a head coach. Heck maybe he might get it figured out and we would want to keep him. Miracles do happen once in a while.
Jim Thomas: I'm sure the Rams would go if afforded the opportunity. That's how San Fran became so enamoured with Patrick Willis a year ago.
David: Also, I read in Bernie's blog that Shaw was going to leave soon...I guess due to retirement, or what other possibilities are there, since this is the first I've heard of it? Does Zygmunt get bumped up and we get an actual GM, or does Zygmunt stay in place and Shaw's office go away, or does none of this happen until ownership changes hands to Chip or beyond?
Jim Thomas: The first you've heard of it? Shaw has been talking about leaving since the Rams moved here in '95. (I swear, there are quotes from Shaw in '95 after the move was announced about the possibility of him taking a different career path.)
So we'll see what happens. A part of me will believe it when I see it.
RamFan in Seattle: Linehan is TERRIBLE and must GO! We know that. I do not, however, understand all this talk about how great Haslett is and that he should be the Rams' next head coach.
Are you folks kidding? Haslettís defense is TERRIBLE!
Game-by-game, they have allowed 27, 17, 24, 35, 34, 22, 33, 27, 29, 9, 24, 16, 19, 33, and 41 points. That is an average of 26 points per game. They are ranked almost LAST in the NFL. And there are Ram fans who think that is good?!
The games in which they allowed only 17, 9, 16, or 19 points were against teams with a combined record of 12 wins and 29 losses. Hurray for the Rams because their dominating defense CRUSHED teams with a mere twelve wins between them? You folks canít be serious! There are 4 teams which have that many wins each! Big Jimís D really showed the NFL what they can do to the bottom of the league.
Take away those displays of defensive dominance against the cellar dwellers, and the immovable object known as the Rams D has allowed an average of nearly 30 points per game. Ouch!
Nice job of adjusting in the second half, Jimbo. Somewhere between wheezing and limping (way to go strength and conditioning ďcoachĒ LeDuc) through minutes 31 through 60 of each game, the Rams have demonstrated their prowess for allowing teams to score time and time again in an amazing display of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Quit blaming the offense for bad defensive field position. The D must stop an opponent's offense no matter where they are on the field.
Did it ever dawn on the Haslett backers that New Orleans bade him farewell for a reason?
Take a long walk out of St. Louis, Jimster. If you are too tired Iíll carry you AND your buddy LeDuc.
Those of you who want to stop me from lugging those incompetents away are encouraged to line up the starting Rams defense between us and the exit. No doubt Iíll find a way to break through with ease.
Jim Thomas: Just an example: Against Green Bay, the Packers ran 41 of their 53 plays in Rams' territory. How can you blame this on Haslett? To use a baseball analogy, it's as if you put Brett Favre on second base _ or halfway home _ every time he stepped to the plate.
Although the Packers are an extreme example, that kind of stuff has been happening all year.
Glenn: Since it looks like Linehan will be retained, are there any assistant coaches that may be in danger of losing their jobs? Are there any who have failed, in your opinion?
Jim Thomas: I'm sure some will go. But as I mentioned in an earlier post, I don't think I can name any who definitely deserve to lose their jobs.
What are the chances Issac Bruce will be back with the Rams next year? If he isn't, do you think he will be retired, or be playing in Detroit with Martz?
Jim Thomas: I'd say it's 60-40 or 70-30 that he won't be back. Bruce will not retire. I'd say the odds would be pretty good that he'll find a way to reunite with Martz. After what Martz did for the pass-catching careers of Mike Furrey and Shaun McDonald, how many passes do you think Bruce would catch with Martz?
dodgerram: Hey Jim,
IMHO the Rams should use Sundays game to give some of our young players like Pittman , Culberson, Stanley and also Berlin more playing time and see what they got. We need to find out if they can help us down the road or not. We have so many holes that we have no margin for error in free agency and the draft. If those guys can fill some needs that much better but first we have to identify their value in live games. Stanley for example is very fast so maybe he can give us the deep thread at WR we are looking for.
Thanks and keep up the great work.
Jim Thomas: This is the NFL. Teams play to win. Seeing what unproven players can do is why you have preseason games in August. Besides, plenty of young players have gotten a chance to play this season because of injuries.
David: Happy Holidays Jim! Here are my suggestions to management for winning back our fans:
- Don't question the St. Louis fans commitment if you STILL live in LA. It is considered an insult and increases fan apathy.
- Have better promotions and in game entertainment. Faulk's retirement could have been used as a much bigger affair if it had been planned better. I don't think we even got a giveaway item that game. The Blues gave away a Al MacInnis highlight dvd for his Hall of Fame ceremony, didn't they? Anyway, they could have came up with something to ensure the Rams fans kept their tickets.
- Be more interactive with the season ticket holders and Rams fans in general. Have a promotion to recognize the best Rams game day costume. Encourage the fans to get a little crazy and reward them for it.
- Do more things before and during the game that lets the fans know you care. Work with neighboring businesses to encourage better Rams pregame activities. During the game, cut to the fans a lot more and run more fan contests.
- Get a mascot. Denver has one. KC has one. I think quite a few teams have one. This is another chance to offer a promotion for the best fan idea for a mascot.
- If you are going to make a controversial decision like keeping Linehan, be prepared to really sell the idea to the fans. Yes, this calls for facing the fans who may be angry but I'll bet they would appreciate that more than these "hit and run" comments made before John heads back to LA. Don't get me wrong, I actually like John Shaw but I think he is dropping the ball big time if he doesn't dig in his heels and make some major changes in the way he and the rest of the team does business.
- Whatever he does with the Head Coach, make it clear to the fans and the coach that he is on a short leash and be prepared to force him to make changes. For example, Scott should work on his "stage presence". He doesn't have to communicate like Ronald Reagan but he can at least project some confidence. If he can't trust Olsen to run the offense then maybe John should make him fire him and hire a big name offensive coordinator (I know John was counting on Linehan to be the offensive strategist but that isn't working). If you don't do that, at least get rid of the ultra conservative mentality. It is killing the attitude for the offensive players. Have some fun, throw the ball downfield and design some more explosive plays than the 2 yard sideline pass!
- Linehan needs to reestablish himself as a leader of the team if he stays. Too many coaches and players gave the perception through ignoring him, rolling of the eyes, arguing, etc. that he has lost their confidence. He needs to earn their confidence back!
- Get a new marketing campaign. I loved the Blues commercials "Whatever it takes!" they want their fans back. The Rams need this attitude. Send those players out in the community more than ever this off-season.
OK, I will stop but these ideas, whether good or bad, didn't take very long to think up. If your multi million dollar business revolves around such issues you should do a lot better than what we got this year. I don't blame John Shaw for the injuries. I blame him for the poor response to what I believe is a crisis situation. What is your take on how the Rams management is responding to the anger of Rams fans? Do they care enough to show us? After all, they need to understand this is the "Show Me" state!
p.s. All John Shaw has to do is ask us for help if he wants more ideas on getting Rams fans back in the dome! Please John, show us you care!!
Jim Thomas: Lot's of interesting ideas here. You may not believe it, but John Shaw does want to win. And he does care. But I'm not sure he's aware of the depth of the fans' discontent.
Larry Thomas: I have looked at the stats and the special teams have improver! We need to improve the running game, along with the rest of the team. We need to use our draft picks well.
Jim Thomas: I'm back. Had to break off for the end of practice and the locker room. FYI, neither Fakhir Brown (stomach virus) or Brandon Chillar (calf) practiced again on Thursday. Linehan was a lot less optimistic about Chillar's availability for the Arizona game. It's looking more and more like rookie free agent Quinton Culberson will start against the Cardinals. Also, in what could be his final game as a Ram, Andy McCollum will start at center.
As per your comments, the Rams return game has improved, but kickoff coverage is as lousy as ever. No. 32 in the latest stats. The Rams need improvement in just about every facet.
andrew russell: re: Orlando Pace: what is his progress/recovery? prognosis for next season? does his prognosis impact our #1 draft choice selection this year?
Jim Thomas: All indications are that Pace is on schedule in his rehab and should be healthy in plenty of time to get ready for the '08 season. The Rams need to develop another tackle anyway, so I think they'll take an OT at some time in the early to mid rounds, although I'm not sure about the first round.
Tackleberry: I have my own theory on what will ultimately happen with Scott Linehan, but all theories aside, how is the decision to fire Linehan not the EASIEST in Rams history?
I know that the "financial card" is about to be played here to answer my question, but please wait on that, because a franchise who has done just about everything else wrong in its tenure in St. Louis will break my heart if it starts going the way of DeWitt & Co. when it comes to evaluating an opportunity to make this team better.
Can we just examine three things that make this decision a no-brainer:
1. When you close your eyes and imagine this offense with a healthy Orlando Pace, a newly drafted Jake Long, a healed Incognito, and an injury-free Bennett, do you really feel like that will make this bland offense that much better? The play-calling won't change that much. The last 3 games the Rams should have been a lot more productive that they were, the personnel was there.
2. If Ben Roethlisberger, Willie Parker, and Hines Ward had all butted heads with Mike Tomlin, for example, our local sports media would be making light of that situation constantly. Why? Because it is awful and it is a sure sign of a problem that goes beyond just a hiccup in the organization. It is embarrassing, and the ignoring of it makes it that much worse.
3. Finally, you have a fan-base that has been all but eroded by the lack of the success of this team. The one problem with this franchise, since it landed in the gateway city, is that it is either boom or bust there is no in between. That was fine when there was boom to complement the bust, but we have beeen "boom free" now for four seasons. We need a string of 9-7 comptitive seasons.
No matter what the motivating factors are, this team needs to be sold to an ownership group who cares. Not Jerry Jones level of caring necessarily, but a level that motivates them to evaluate the talent from the waterboy to the GM and install a staff of coaches and front office personnel that will help create a successful franchise and not just hire "freinds" and then be too timid to let them gowhen they fail the franchise.
Jim Thomas: Don't know how to answer this except to say: LINEHAN IS COMING BACK. Deal with it however you want.
Jim: Hi Jim: do you feel the Rams will stick with their high draft choice and select one of the Long boys, or try and trade down to pick up a couple extra picks? P.S. Please don't even mention Dorsey as a possibility.
Jim Thomas: Dorsey is a possibility. It would have to be a heck of a trade in order for the Rams to trade down from a top five pick.
A question about Rams award winning leader Corey Chavous. If he studies so much film and is a mentor to the younger players, why is he caught out of position so often? Is it a case of trying to do too much? If so, when will he learn that doesn't work and just concentrate on his assignment? Thanks.
Jim Thomas: Please quantify on what you mean by being "caught out of position so much. I'm not aware that's this has been the case.
Chavous missed more tackles than usual this year, and his relative lack of speed gets him in trouble at times. But he's almost always in the right place at the right time.
Mike Dietrich: Does it look as bad on the inside as it does on the outside?
With the owner health being critical, Linny being a lame duck coach, even if Shaw wants changes what coaches or free agents would come to this organization that is in its current state.
As a fan, I am also almost writing off 2008 already.
Thanks for all the great info!
Jim Thomas: The same two things that get free agents to go anywhere: Money and a chance to play.
donsods: Jim--please decode Bernie's last missive. Is he saying that, now with Goergia ill, Shaw won't even do the "re-examination" discussed a month ago? No chance of a football GM? Linehan still with a free hand to draft more Bryds & Wortens? Linean allowed to dish out patronage jobs on the coaching staff? This is scary. Please tell me it isn't so! At least tell me Chip Rosenbloom is a football fan and wants to own a team that is a winner.
Jim Thomas: I think all Bernie is saying is that Shaw is preoccupied with Georgia Frontiere's illness and the possibility of searching out a new owner. There will still be a "summit meeting" out west in January, the possibility of a football GM is still a possibility. We'll see what happens.
DJ: Simple question. Has this team given up on Linehan? Also, Is Haslett coming back? Bulger never seemed to buy into this system. His body language seems to say, "I knew that wasn't going to work." There doesn't seem to be enough big plays in this offense. I know Jackson and Holt weren't healthy all year, but they never really threatened big plays. If Linehan comes back can we actually get the team ready for the season next year? Why would you spend 2 draft picks and a free agent pickup in 2 years on a position you don't use (TE)? Vermiel turned it around in year 3, but he had to give up total control and listen to others (read--get rid of Tony Banks among other things) Can we at least hope for that?
Jim Thomas: No, I do not think the team has given up on Linehan. Obviously, there is some communication that needs to take place with Linehan and some of the offensive veterans. If Bulger never seemed to "buy into" the system _ why did he have a career year last season? A career year that got him voted to the Pro Bowl and helped him get a $65 million contract. So I'm not buying that premise, although I'm not denying that this year there appears to be issues between Linehan and Bulger.
In terms of no big plays by Jackson, are you watching the same games I am? He had TD runs of 50-plus in back-to-back games just a few weeks ago. He had another (non-scoring)run of 50-yards plus against Cincinnati, and had a 46-yard run against Green Bay. Although I will agree on Holt that his knee injury has robbed him of the acceleration needed to be a deep threat.
Dave McGruddy: Hi Jim,
As a Rams fan living in Philadelphia since the days of Roman Gabriel. This is most "PATHETIC" piece of coaching I have ever seen(john robinson,rich Brooks).Does anybody in upper managent have any football knowledge. Bring back Vermiel as director of football operations and save this Titanic.
Jim Thomas: I think Vermeil is very happy doing what he's doing.
gus: I live in the west coast and I have been a ram fans since1979, I have yet to see any team that has had this bad of a coach, but my question is. What I saw in the outburst between Holt and the so called coach was beyond things that are going on, I saw desperate coach trying to keep his job by passing the ball to his boy drew, so that he could turn around and tell management that he is proven him self. It was so clear and it makes me sick. I am frustrated!!!
Jim Thomas: Listen, I'm not going to say that the Holt tirade wasn't startling. But Holt was thrown the ball 13 times against Pittsburgh. Some didn't get there, some were off target _ he had only 3 catches _ but there were 13 plays intended for Holt.
Jim_ in_ Pa: Good morning Jim!
Would Marshall Faulk be a good fit in the Rams front office if indeed the rumors come to fruition? Can you see him being the GM? Thank you for your time.
Jim Thomas: I'm not sure how Faulk would do in the front office. I'm really not sure he'd be interested in all the trips to out of the way campuses. The hours spent grinding tape. That's what real personnel men do. It's a lot of hours, and not very glamorous. Even Ozzie Newsome of the Ravens spent several years in lesser positions learning the ropes and getting experience in personnel before becoming Baltimore's GM.
Anthony Azzara: Hey JT,
There should be no possible way the Rams cut Isaac Bruce. This needs to be addressed even more than it has. Bruce is far from the problems this team has encountered. I shouldn't even have to mention what he means to our organization and the city. It would be one thing if he had an empty tank, but we all know that's far from the truth. Bruce has earned the right to retire a Ram more than anyone who has ever worn the blue and gold. IF Shaw, Zygmunt, and Linehan do this, count me and my entire family (18 in all) of season ticket holders to walk away from this putrid situation. This is one of those rare situations that goes way deeper than money when it comes to a special player. Please tell me you and others feel my pain.
Thank you for all your hard work during this painful season.
Jim Thomas: I agree that Bruce deserves to retire a Ram, or at least finish out this current contract. But if Bruce can be cut, as was the case two years ago, it can happen again.
Darren: What are the chances the rams take McFadden with their number one pick and trade Steven Jackson for maybe another number one pick
Jim Thomas: Fascinating question. I'm not sure of the answer. But I do know that Linehan likes Jackson very much, and would like to continue building the offense around him.
RamHntr: Jim-Happy Holidays to you and your family. All year you have been bombarded with questions and/or criticisms about the Rams poor performance. Ram fans are frustrated with all aspects of the team's makeup-from poor coaching (especially during second half meltdowns), player performance, and poor leadership from upper management. As in any business, success begins and ends with strong and correct leadership from the top. I solely place the blame on the current state of this franchise with the owners and it's chosen management group.
Due to recent circumstances, it now appears the ownership situation may be heading for a time of change. I am hoping that a stronger owner will eventually take over the reins of this once proud franchise and hire a winning management team-a move that is certainly long overdue. We Ram fans will be watching very closely!
Jim Thomas: We'll see what happens. It should be an interesting offseason.
J Smith: It's looking like a lock the Rams will pick 3 in the draft's first round. This has been an area where the Rams haven't done well in the past. Who should they pick?
Jim Thomas: Actually, the Rams have done pretty well with top 10 picks since they've been in St. Louis. Kevin Carter, Orlando Pace, Grant Wistrom and Torry Holt were all hits. The only miss was Lawrence Phillips.
It's very early in the process still. The underclassmen have yet to declare. Right now, I like DE Chris Long of Virginia. But I don't know what I would do if McFadden was available.
Glenn Turner: Stanley - nice to see him get some time. Does he have the skill to be a legit WR in the NFL?
Jim Thomas: He's awfully small, so he's probably not an every down player. But he has some speed, and elusiveness.
Snake: How excited are you for this season to be over? I will miss knowing that betting against the Rams v. the spread each week is a consistent way to rank up some dough.
Jim Thomas: I enjoy my work, win, lose or draw. I love the game and being around the game. And the pay's the same, whether the team is 3-13 or 13-3.
Mandy: Hi Jim,
One of the things that has driven me crazy all season is the way the Rams will play a good game in the first half and then fall apart in the second half. It seems to me that we're not making adjustments at the half, but the other team is. Do you think that's what is going on? Why is this? Thanks!
Jim Thomas: I have no answer for you. It's one of the most mind-boggling things I think I've ever seen in football. The Rams have actually outscored the opposition in the first half (161 to 156), but have been outscored by an astounding 234 to 83. I'd say it's partly adjustments, partly the more talented team eventually winning out. But I'd say part of it's mental. There could be a conditioning factor at play as well. And part of it could be that the Rams have a relatively simple offensive playbook (at least compared to Martz) and once the opponent takes the Rams' best shots, they're able to react and adjust.
Dennis from Montana: Jim
I am a 30 year ram fan from montana and I visit the st louis today web site all the time to keep up on news of the rams. Very disappointed in the season but as always am looking forward to next year and of course the upcoming draft. Wanted to mention a name for the rams to look at in the draft. Please pass it on: Kroy Biermann, defensive end for the University of Montana Grizzlies. 6'3" 241 lbs., winner of Buck Buchanan award as the top defensive player in the football championship subdivision, formerly 1AA, only 2nd Big Sky Conference player to win this award, the other was Jared Allen in 2003. Has a non stop engine and is a tough montana kid. What do you think? I'd appreciate you passing this info on to the coaches (if they are still around)and the player personnel people, do we have any?
Dennis, Ram Fan forever!
Jim Thomas: I'll try to look him up at the NFL Scouting Combine, and see what the Rams' defensive coaches think of him. Thanks for the info.
Frank: Hello Jim -
So I guess Bernie's article says it all, eh? Is it safe to assume that we won't see significant changes in the Front Office until the Georgia/Shaw/ownership question is settled?
Also, whom do you see taking control if Georgia sells/passes and how does that affect Shaw and Zygmunt's status? Thanks!
Jim Thomas: As I mentioned in an earlier post, I think Kroenke remains interested in buying the team but there are cross-ownership issues as well. If the Frontiere family no longer owns the team (and I'm including Chip Rosenbloom here), it's much less of an incentive for Shaw and Zygmunt to stick around.
BrotherBri: Thanks for all you do to keep us informed. Those of us out of state appreciate it more than you know.
Any word on the Big O's recovery? And any chance the Rams might take Jake Long with an eye towards moving Barron inside (a la Gallery)?
Jim Thomas: See my earlier post on Pace's recovery. I'd have to assume at this point that Jake Long is a possibility. Barron doesn't have the frame to play inside.
Blue Boy: Jim -- First, the obigatory, PC-friendly (yet sincere) "Happy Holidays to you and your family...".
Like everyone else I had high hopes for this year's squad: injuries, a number of missteps by the head coach (I'm being very kind here...) and the football gods have seen fit to put the kibosh on this year's season.
My question is this: Absent any injuries, is there reason to believe that next year's offensive line will be any good? Pace has now proven to be oft injured and likley on the downside of his carreer. Barron is in no way a dominant; he is average at best with a propemnsity of making the untimely mistake. Setterstrom did not "wow" me before he got hurt. Incognito is a wild-card both literally and figuratively. And whoever plays center (McCullom or Romberg) are, in my eyes, merely "average".
Is there a possiblity that next year, this unit -- if intact -- will perform better than the sum of the individual parts? Or does this unit need ot be overhauled completely?
Jim Thomas: Couldn't agree with you more on the o-line. I don't expect McCollum back. What do the Rams really have in Romberg, Setterstrom, and Incognito? Injuries cloud the evaluation on those three. Will Pace make it through a full 16 games? Those are all tough questions to answer. My instinct tells me the Rams need at least one new interior line starter, and a third tackle who's more prospect and potential starter than journeyman veteran.
Jeff: Any chance after this weekend when Warner passes for 400 yards and 4 touchdowns that Shaw will change his mind on Linehan? Seems like now would be a good time to look for a long term coach with names like Cowher and Shottenheimer available. Guys who can make a complete culture change within the organization, which is what this Team needs.
Jim Thomas: L-I-N-E-H-A-N I-S C-O-M-I-N-G B-A-C-K!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Jim_ in_ Pa: Hi Jim,
If indeed the Rams are sold sometime this year, who would you like to see buy them? Throw out some possibilities, so we can start dreaming.
Jim Thomas: Have no idea. As I mentioned earlier, I think Chip Rosenbloom would own the team for at least the short term. Kroenke is interested but has cross-ownership issues.
Ken: Hi Jim,
With all the uncertainty surrounding the Rams, do you think Steven Jackson will want to resign here or even entertain the thought of a contract extension before next year?
Jim Thomas: I think Jackson would like to stay here. Linehan has made him more of the focal point of the offense, and has made sure that Jackson gets the ball.
Mike: What are the chances Isaac Bruce is back with the Rams next season with a reworked contract?
Jim Thomas: Edit--see my previous post.
Mike: What front office and coaching changes do you think will take place in the offseason?
Jim Thomas: See previous posts.
Mike: Is it a definite, as Bernie suggests, that a change of ownership will take place in 2008? Is there a chance that Kroenke will become the majority owner eventually?
Jim Thomas: See previous posts.
Fred: Happy Holidays Jim.
With 2008 being a make or break year for Linehan,
changes obviuosly need to be made. What do you think
Linehan will do? Will Shaw step in and force changes?
Jim Thomas: See previous posts.
Ken: Hi Jim,
Since Coach Linehan will most likely be back next year, do the players play Synday like the game matters or just going through the motions.
Jim Thomas: If you go through the motions in the NFL, you're much more likely to get hurt. I think the players _ or at least most of them _ will play like it matters.
Mike: Does Ellard get a shot a coordinator position in '08, with or without the Rams? Do you know if his offense would resemble the Martz offense?
Jim Thomas: Interesting question. I'm not sure if Ellard even wants to be a coordinator. He's very good at what he does.
Kim, St. Louis: Jim,
There has been a lot of speculation regarding whether or not Bruce will be a Ram next year. I certainly hope that he will - what if anything have you heard about this?
Jim Thomas: See previous posts.
JD: Thanks for doing the chat, Jim. As an out of stater, I really appreciate the time you spend to answer questions. Here is mine, we know the ownership is in the process of going through some changes. How do you think this will affect Shaw and his offseason plans? Will he hire a new GM to make personel decisions? Will the Rams not be active during free agency because the front office doesn't want to commit large dollers before an ownership change? It looks to me that we may be looking at a inactive year whith the potential ownership change, which is unfortunate, as this Rams team needs a lot of work.
Jim Thomas: See previous posts.
What do you think will happen when the St. Louis Rams Football Club plays the Arizona Cardinals Football Club in a game of American rules tackle football on Sunday, December 30, 2007 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona in the Southwestern region of the United States of America, a country in North America which is one of seven continents on the planet Earth which is one of the nine planets in the solar system?
Jim Thomas: University of Phoenix Stadium has become a difficult place to play. In most cases, the home team that is based in the Phoenix area _ the Arizona Cardinals _ usually score more points than the visitors. They get their share of touchdowns, which are worth seven points, and field goals, which add three points to the total. I figure it will be a close game. I haven't decided on a winner yet. I have until Friday afternoon, Central time, Dec. 28, in the year 2008 to make my selection for the Sunday, Dec. 30 publication.
Jim_ in_ Pa: The past two games at the "ED" really shows how far fan participation and this team in general has fallen. What can the front office do to get the fans back? A winning season would be the most obvious, but this team might be two years away from even that. Please let me know your thoughts?
Jim Thomas: I think there's a lot that can be done to improve the dome atmosphere. How about a mascot? A pep band? Have commercials tied to fan participation. Better music.
Do not raise ticket prices.
But most of all, it's winning. Pure and simple.
I have held season tickets since the beginning, and I have moved to better seats twice when "fair weather" fans gave up on our Rams. I always looked down my nose at them. I am the one usually screaming to the last, trying to get my section to stand up (I'm in the first row), but honestly, after this year, and Shaw's stand (it's a stand, not a stance) regarding Linehan, I don't know any more. These are "discretionary" dollars I am spending for entertainment, would someone ask Mr. Shaw if he would choose to spend his limited entertainment dollars on this product?
Jim Thomas: Here's what Shaw would say: That until this year, the Rams have been merely mediocre _ not bad _ since the 2001 Super Bowl season. He would point out the the Rams were 42-41, with one division title and two playoff berths from 2002-06, so he would stick with the team.
Can you please explain the power structure with the Rams ownership/front office? Does Kroenke have any input about the way things are being run? Or is it all up to Frontiere/Shaw?
What is Kroenke's take on how things are going with the Rams?
Jim Thomas: Kroenke is consulted on all matters, but it's really Frontiere/Shaw. Haven't talked to Kroenke in quite some time. He's almost never at Rams Park, and doesn't attend all of the games.
Ken: Hi Jim,
Do you believe the Rams are better suited in the 3-4 or 4-3? Which way should they approach the draft?
Jim Thomas: After watching what has happened since Little went down, and the Rams went almost exclusively to 3-4 looks in passing situations, I'm beginning to think the Rams might be able to pull off the 3-4. But they'd need a couple of more linebackers, Carriker almost certainly would be moved to DE, so they'd need another DT to complement Clifton Ryan, and probably would have to draft another DE or sign one with some size.
Bill: Hi Jim, I don't know how this could work out, but I'd love the Rams to come out of draft day with Brady Quinn and Darren McFadden as replacements for Bulger and Jackson. I'd like to see a fresh new start for the Rams. Also, do you see the Rams going full time to the 3-4 next year? I'd like to see that, and also, in your opinion, if a team goes to a 3-4, does that allow a team to stay in it's base defense more often when going against 3 wideout sets? thank you very much
Jim Thomas: Brady Quinn?
I'm sure I missed the reasoning, but what explaination did Linehan have on not going for it on 4th down in the 4th quarter of the Steelers game.
Jim Thomas: In what was then a one-score game, he was hoping for a defensive stop and a chance to tie the game. Didn't quite work out that way, did it?
Mike: Other than Brown and Atogwe the Rams secondary is terrible. Hill has been less than spectacular and has been injury prone. Don't you think the secondary should be a higher priority in the offseason than DT or LB?
Jim Thomas: I think Hill has been coming on. Bartell has steadily improved. This hasn't been Chavous' best season, but he hasn't been terrible. But you can never have enough corners, and I wouldn't mind seeing the Rams select another corner.
Dave- from Troy ILL.: Am I way off base on this one or is Mr Bulger like one good hit away from ending his career (see Steve Young, Joe Montana and Troy Aikmann). With all the talk on the needs of the Rams during the off season and draft, doesn't it make sense to draft a decent QB NOW ??? I tell ya, I really like the dude from Missouri, Chase Daniel if he makes himself eligible.
And another thing... I am soooo sick and tired of the wide receiver diving twins we have. Yes Ike Bruce has been around a long time with the Rams and has moved up the record ranks with the best. However he immediately ruined Holt with the same trademark while so many other players make extra efforts after the catch. I won't be sorry to see Bruce go. It's such a contrast watching other teams players.
One last thing. I think when PLAYERS turn on their COACH as did three "high profile players" did this season... I think that is a MAJOR SIGN that the players do NOT respect who they have to play for. Not something that will pass and get better .."next year"... I believe
Jim Thomas: Bulger does appear to be showing signs of becoming gun-shy. I do think the Rams need to find a developmental QB to at least be the No. 2 after next season. It doesn't have to be a high draft pick, just somebody that looks like he has an upside.
Yeah, Bruce and Holt have been terrible disgraces. If only they had accomplished anything in their careers or been in some playoff games. They're disgusting human beings.
As for the sideline outbursts, they are alarming. I can't disagree with you there.
Mike: Not to take anything away from Marshall, he was a great player and deserved the honor of retiring his jersey, but don't you think the timing could have been better? It seemed to be just a ploy to generate some interest in a bad season and get Rams' fans back in the seats. A ceremony like that needs more planning and attention and shouldn't be something put together at the last minute.
Jim Thomas: I don't think this was a "last-minute" thing as has been suggested. Ever since the NFL schedule came out last April, and it was known that the NFL Network would handle the Pittsburgh game, I think the Rams eyed this game as a good time to officially say "good-bye" to Faulk. I don't think the ceremony was that bad. Remember, NFL halftimes are only 12 minutes long. I think if the team had been 11-3 instead of 3-11 entering the game, nobody would've complained.
SoulardX: Jim, why would the Rams NOT resign Chillar?
Jim Thomas: Because he's their No. 3 LB, not their No. 1 or No. 2, and if he's looking for a lot of money there may be better options out there in free agency.
Any truth to the rumor that there is friction between Linehan and Haslett, to the extent that Haslett will not return in 2008? I heard (secondhand) that Marshall said somethingto this effect on the NFL Network.
Many thanks...and Happy New Year!
Jim Thomas: Actually, I think Haslett and Linehan get along pretty well. Linehan gives Haslett a lot of leeway, which Haslett appreciates. I think if you put the truth serum in Haslett, he would say he'd do some things differently than Linehan. But they have a good enough working relationship.
Put this into context any time Faulk says anything about Linehan. Faulk is no fan of Linehan's because Linehan made the commitment to Jackson at the time Linehan's career was winding down.
Murat from PA: Hello Jim;
When do you think the Rams will make a long term contract with Steven Jackson? Will the Rams keep Atogwe if any other team is interested?
Jim Thomas: Interesting question about Jackson. I'm wondering if they're going to wait a while to see who the draft (McFadden) unfolds. I do know Linehan is a big fan of Jackson.
I expect the Rams to make a first-round tender offer on Atogwe, which will dissuade some teams from making an offer. After that, it all comes down to the offer.
Hire Marshall Faulk for G.M.: I can't believe we would let Bruce go! I am not suggesting we break the bank, but if we wanted to restructure I am pretty sure he would be willing. Just another mistake by Shaw.
Jim Thomas: It's not really up to Shaw. It's more Linehan's call.
That's it for now. I must go to work on tomorrow's issue. Happy New Year to all, and we'll see you next week.