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Letters to Gordo: Great Scott! Rams get their man
BY JEFF GORDON
STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
The Rams' coaching search unfolded in an orderly fashion. President John Shaw and Jay Zygmunt landed one of the game's hot young coordinators, Scott Linehan, as their new coach.
Reaction is starting to pour in from the four corners of Rams Nation. Here is a sampling:
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“Let's see how the next couple of weeks/months go (staff hirings and draft). Living in South Florida and knowing how selective Nick Saban was in hiring his ultra-expensive coaching staff, I have to lean towards giving the hire a thumbs-up. A neighbor of mine (Dolphin fan) yelled at me last night ‘Good luck, the guy lost 2 games for us.’ Well, say coach Linehan loses two games for us, the defense loses 2 games and our special teams lose one game (11-5)? Just a thought . . .”
Ed Wernle, Coconut Creek, Fla.
GORDO: Yeah, the Dolphins fans were vexed with Linehan earlier this season, when Miami really struggled. Some fans believed he abandoned the run too readily, if you can believe that.
But Scott’s offense really kicked into gear the latter part of the year, despite the glaring lack of aerial firepower. What, did people in South Florida really think Gus Frerotte was the second coming of Dan Marino?
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“I read your article about the questions you would ask Linehan and I tell ya, man, you ask the RIGHT questions! As you point out, there are so many weaknesses on this team caused by the pass-happy, single-minded philosophy that was so pervasive during the last few years of the Martz era. In my opinion, he needs to IMMEDIATELY correct the two most glaring flaws that killed the Rams during the Martz era -- namely, atrocious special teams play and matador tackling. If the Rams can stop the run and cover kicks, they can return to playoff contention. He has enough weapons on offense already in place, so logic would dictate that free agency signings and draft choices be 80 percent towards defense.
“The first step is to hire the best available person to serve as defensive coordinator and establish a defensive mindset under which the team will operate next season. Hopefully we'll sign a free agent or two and draft some good tackling youngsters to improve the defense. Whatever happens, I am very glad the have a new head man and I'm optimistic next season will be a good one.”
Mark Ferry, East Brunswick, N.J.
GORDO: Linehan will give his defensive coordinator plenty of room to work. But will the Rams draft enough tacklers to turn that ‘D’ around?
During his Friday news conference, Linehan said all the right things about restoring the defensive roar. Now the team has to find the safeties, linebackers and (gulp!) defensive tackles to turn the unit around. It will still be interesting to see how the whole football administration comes together during the weeks ahead.
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“Gordo, please add to your list the following questions for Linehan:
“1) Do you intend to try and sign Big Grease long term? ... 2) Do you intend to cut the false starts below five per game? ... 3) Any thoughts on how we are going to score more TDs in the red zone?”
Stephen Aronson, Atlanta
GORDO: Defensive tackle Ryan Pickett presents one of the toughest questions for the “New Era” of Rams football. He was a pretty good defensive tackle -– sometimes better than others. But how would he play if he got a monstrous long-term deal” Would he bloat up and become the Really, Really Big Grease? Or will he mature into a Pro Bowl-caliber run stopper? And if the Rams let him go, what sort of replacements will loom in the NFL Draft or in free agency?
As for the red zone, Linehan has been accused of getting too creative down there from time to time. Does that sound familiar?
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“I don't know much about Coach Linehan, but I am of the opinion that what the Rams need ultimately is a coach who can raise the level of passion in his players. The Rams don't need another technician like Martz, they need a true firebrand who'll train his players to challenge themselves constantly. That, and a defensive coordinator who knows what the heck he's doing . . . Let's pray Linehan delivers both in 2006.”
GORDO: Well, he was talking your language during his introductory news conference. He seems to place motivational ability way, WAY up on his list of criteria.