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Letters to Gordo: Fallout from Martz's firing
BY JEFF GORDON
STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
Well, the fun has started. Rams president John Shaw fired coach Mike Martz and began his search for his next head coach.
Naturally, Rams fans want to have some say on this matter. Here is the first sampler of electronic mail we’ve received on this topic:
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“I have mixed feelings on this one. Yes, it is nice for Martz himself to get away from this dysfunctional front office -– heck, John Shaw does not know what's he's doing, but wants to be part of the mix that determines team makeup in draft choices, etc. I can't see the next head coach taking control of everything, which I think he should, given the ‘too many cooks’ in this confused front-office bunch! Martz also wasn't very good in evaluating draft choices. How is this any different from the Bill Bidwill days?
“Yes, we'll miss Mad Mike's brash approach to the game, but when Jay Zygmunt got his nose in the fray, well . . . it's too bad that he never forgave Martz for losing the 2002 Super Bowl. When you don't have the support of the muckity-mucks, it's hard to get anything done no matter what the talent pool. We could be in for a long haul for the next few seasons.”
GORDO: Yeah, Super Bowl 36 was the beginning of the end for the “Greatest Show on Turf.” Injuries and free-agent defections hurt the Rams, as they hurt every team, but some screws popped loose after that game and neither Martz or the front office was ever the same.
Too bad, too, because there is no excuse for the fiasco that this season became -– even after Mike went down with his illness.
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“I’d just like to thank Mad Mike for all the thrills and spills! I hope the best for him and his family. Especially his health! I'm sure he is hurting inside. Tell him from us fans our Mad Mike is one of a kind and we love him.
“I just listened to the entire Shaw press conference. What a joke! When asked about NFL interview policies, he doesn't know the rules, just ‘that whatever the guidelines are the Rams will follow them.’ When asked specifically if they can ‘lock-up' a coach on paper whose team is in the playoffs he didn't know.
"Here is a corporate officer, president, in the league for 25 years, and he doesn't know? He says he spends all of his time on the Rams whether he lives in St. Louis or L.A., and he doesn't know league policies? Is dealing with people like this what made Mike ‘Mad’? Like you said, a management team must be in place to give the new coach 100 percent support and put everyone on the same page!”
Ed Chandler, Las Vegas, Nev.
GORDO: In fairness to Shaw, the league rules have changed since the last time the Rams searched for a coach. The NFL made adjustments to make sure assistant coaches on playoff teams didn’t get shut out of the annual head-coaching hunt. I'm sure he quickly got a handle on the proper etiquette as he began arranging interviews.
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“The Rams will be better off without Martz. Martz had success as an offensive coordinator with the Rams, however he lacked vision as a head coach. His playing style remained the same after losing key players and he couldn't manage the clock. In the NFL, you can't keep doing the same old thing week after week unless you have very good players.”
GORDO: I believe the Rams still had the weapons to play wide-open football. He did need to make better adjustments in his protection schemes to protect his quarterback while the offensive line struggled with injuries. His basic game management was never good enough and his selection of Larry Marmie as defensive coordinator helped doom him.
However, he still won a lot of games and left a high standard for his successor to meet.
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“I agree with you that the talent base is there, especially offensively, and the right coach could put the Rams back on top. However, as you pointed out in your article on Martz’s firing, the Rams need to address the entire front office situation. I am just wondering whether it is possible without a complete housecleaning? You didn’t mention the throat-slasher e-mail to Bernie Miklasz in your article and I wonder what happened to the guy (Samir Sulieman) that sent it and whether he would be retained in the ‘new’ front office? Wasn’t Sulieman Jay Zygmunt’s protege? I don’t see a new coach having much of a chance unless that element of behavior is eliminated from the front office. Or maybe that behavior is not only tolerated but promoted by Shaw?
“I know Shaw publicly denounced it, but that means little if he doesn’t take any action to eliminate it. And he is evidently standing firmly behind Zygmunt, judging from his press conference. I guess the good ol' boy network is alive and well. The only guy that I would like to see retained is Charley Armey and if he had anything to do with the backstabbing of Martz (I know there were reports that he did) he should probably go, too. I am probably in the minority, but I think Armey has done as good a job as anyone but perhaps the Patriots with the draft. Why can’t Armey be the GM as has been proposed in the past and find a coach who accepts that situation? I think coaches should have a great deal of input into the draft and free agency, but the GM should have the final word. Weed out the weasels and bring in some straight-shooters.”
GORDO: There is always a level of intrigue within a major sports organization, given all the egos involved. But Rams Park hosted an epic soap opera this fall as the whole operation fell apart. That many media members were sucked into the mess only made it worse.
If Shaw doesn’t want to work in St. Louis 24/7, then the organization needs a strong leader in that role to restore order.
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“Shaw’s press conference can give nobody confidence in the future of this team. He fired the best coach the Rams have ever had (with mumbling and stumbling answers) and he will continue to lead from L.A. and keep the same dysfunctional front office. Keep the pressure on Shaw and his performance in the future.”
GORDO: John has moved onto a limb by canning a relatively successful head coach. Martz went to the playoffs four times in five years. That is no easy trick in the NFL.
It’s reasonable for fans to expect even more success, since a change was made. So John better hire the right guy and make certain the organization gives him every opportunity to succeed.
Re: Letters to Gordo: Fallout from Martz's firingOriginally Posted by Gordo"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