BY JEFF GORDON
STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
11/01/2005


What do you know? The Rams have won two games under interim coach Joe Vitt. Neither was pretty, but that’s life in the NFL for most teams. With Marc Bulger, Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce and Leonard Little out -– and coach Mike Martz missing, too -– this team could have collapsed.

Rams Nation is most pleased with how the players and coaches responded to Vitt. Here is a sampling of the e-mail we’ve gotten here at “Letters To Gordo””


* * *

“Coach Vitt has done a good job since the illness to Coach Martz. I think the fans of the Rams should take note that this is the football team that coach Martz has created, not Vitt. I have enjoyed the last two wins against an average Saints team and a flat Jaguars team, but after all, we should beat these teams at home.

“Coach Martz has taken a beating in the press and within the Rams organization. He has endured mentally but physically it has taken a toll. For all that Coach Martz has done, thank you. While most media outlets credit ‘inside’ sources that he will not be back as the Rams coach, I hope this will not be the case. I have enjoyed Mad Mike's approach, which if anything else has been exciting, fast paced and record-setting football. Take care, Coach Martz, and Godspeed in your recovery. I for one miss you on the sideline.”

Ed Wernle, Coconut Creek, Fla.


GORDO: This team IS showing a lot of long-term promise, despite all the injuries. If this trend continues through the season, the Rams would be foolish to blow the whole thing up just because Martz and Jay Zygmunt can’t see eye to eye.

If Martz came back next year and built on some of the adjustments Vitt and Co. made in his absence, this team could roll. But I just don’t know if that is possible. The bridge is burning!


* * *

“I know that I and a lot of other Rams fans felt great pride and happiness for the Rams coaching staff and football team as they found a way to win a very important and some thought unwinnable football game against Jacksonville.

“I suspect as well that many of us want to just line up and take turns at booting the Rams ‘business management staff' in the rear end! I have in the past been a fan of John Shaw for a variety of reasons, and always thought him to have the Rams' best interests at heart, but we have to wonder if something has come between Shaw and correct priorities. For the sake of the Rams fans and the team, you need to go in tomorrow morning and immediately fire Jay Zygmunt, and whoever else cronies up with him, especially the "throat slasher" sidekick. They are an absolute cancer to this team and we are just stunned you cannot see this. What the heck is Zygmunt doing in the booth at all? You don't want the architect of the entire team and offense to call in, but you let this non-football business manager sit in the booth for the entire game? Get a grip.

“Right now, you may not like Martz and I am sure he is not an absolute saint in this situation, but his interview with CBS clearly communicates how he feels about this team and these players -- he is a true Ram through and through. If the Rams wake up at the end of this crazy carnival ride with having to lose what will be the most highly desired and pursued head coach next season, for the sake of some office fantasy football wannabes with visions of grandeur, you will have done yourself, the Rams and these fans a gigantic disservice.

“If for some reason we cannot understand Martz just can't be the head coach next season, what possible logic could you have to think that the Ziggy posse won't do this same back-stabbing to the next head coach? The fact is they will only be emboldened by the removal of Martz and take it as some perverse validation of their insurgent tactics. Please stop drinking whatever coffee or beverage that Ziggy and his evil minions keep bringing so you can get the poison out of your system and see this fiasco for what it is -- some power hungry hacks who have played dirty to serve themselves only!”

Doug Lacina


GORDO: Given that eloquence, I didn’t have the heart to run just an excerpt. Your point about the potential life after Martz was right on. Who would take the head coaching job knowing that this sort of chaos reigns in the organization?

Everybody needs to understand the organizational chart and chain of command. That is the only way a franchise can succeed over the long haul.


* * *

“I have been a diehard Ram fan for 35 years now. I’ve been following this team since the Roman Gabriel days. I tried to dump this team back in the '90’s and hook on with our local team, the Buffalo Bills, but it just didn’t work. Please tell me and the other Rams diehards that John Shaw’s comments, as portrayed by Chris Mortensen on ESPN, ‘that all the Rams need to do is be a .500 team with and occasional playoff appearance and that going to the Super Bowl costs the organization money,’ were made up or severely taken out of context. Are the Rams committed to winning or not? If these comments are in fact true, I’m gone!

“Who the (heck) is John Shaw, anyway, and what value does he really bring to the organization while residing in LA? The front office turmoil is disgraceful and embarrassing. Solution: Have Kroenke buy out Georgia Frontiere, fire Shaw and Jay Zygmunt, bring back Martz -– who truly wants to win -- and bring in a proven, hard-nosed defensive coordinator. Marmie’s schemes are maddening.”

Stephen Stokes


GORDO: Shaw wants to win. He does and says some odd things, but he does want to win. The Rams have spent well and wisely on talent once Dick Vermeil got the franchise on the right track.

But, yes, the front office turmoil is a disgrace and, yes, a Kroenke-run franchise would tolerate none of this lunacy. Stan’s track record with the Nuggets and Avalanche in Denver tell you that. But I don’t know that Georgia will ever want to sell her piece of the team. It’s who she is, even if she doesn’t come around anymore.


* * *

“Martz picked an offensive coordinator (Steven Fairchild) that had almost no NFL coaching experience; picked a second-string quarterback that was out of football (Jamie Martin); picked the replacement for Marshall Faulk (Steven Jackson); hired the interim coach (Joe Vitt) that everybody loves now, but never sniffed a head coaching job; has a former coach as a head coach (Lovie Smith) leading his division, and a secondary that is playing its third stringers as starters (Mike Furrey and Corey Ivy). These are imprints of a good head coach.

“Now Martz has flaws, but when I look at the job Jim Haslett, Don Capers, and Mike Tice have done as head coaches, I think we should endorse someone who found the right people to step in when his front-line people got hurt almost every year he has been a head coach. I mean, Bill Parcell just fired his kicker, but if he had kept his long snapper (Jeff Robinson) from last year for $1 million this year, the man would be 6-1 not 4-3. Check the tape. The Cowboys two losses were due to bad snaps on the FGAs.”

James Lane


GORDO: That is an excerpt from a longer e-mail Lane wrote in rebuttal to a FOXSports.com column ripping Martz. And his points are well-taken.

A few weeks ago, Martz was getting ripped as an architect of doom. Now that we’re seeing rookies Alex Barron and Ron Bartell make a big impact and Jackson and Kevin Curtis emerge as offensive weapons, the state of the franchise doesn’t look so bad. How many other teams would be 4-4 after taking the hits this team has?

The Patriots overcame this type of calamity under Bill Belichick’s watch, but how did the Packers fare under Mike Sherman once the injuries hit?


* * *

“The D-line did a lot better than given credit Sunday. The two long runs were the result of missed plays of the safeties. The wrong angle by the free safety on the shorter of the two runs can be corrected, given the limited time he has in this position. The strong side getting caught on a basic trap play is inexcusable!”

W.P. Lawton


GORDO: Vitt addressed those very points Monday, noting that Mike Furrey must learn to take better tackling angles and learn to make better tackles -– understandable, given his life spent as a wide receiver.

The other big run was the result of a defensive call, Vitt said. But your point about the defensive line was well-taken. Given the absence of Little, it held up well.