Linehan, coaches reflect on lessons learned
By Jeff Gordon
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Rams coach Scott Linehan has learned some hard lessons during this disastrous 0-8 season.
“The experience has been . . . I learned a lot about myself,” he said during his Monday news conference. “You never want to feel like this ever again. Whatever you can do to avoid it is worth the trouble. I’m no different than anybody else. Everybody has got a vested interest in this thing. Players, coaches, everybody in this building, the fans for sure.”
Linehan is getting crushed here at STLToday.com in the forums, the live chats and the blog comments. The same could be said for sports talk radio and other media venues.
“I don’t hear it,” the coach said. “I know it’s there. If you have common sense, I think you understand that is part of the business. I understand it, I really do. I don’t take any offense to it. It’s motivation for me because I want to turn this thing around. This season got away from us.
“You just have to work on getting better every day. That’s the toughest challenge right now, not getting into the tank. Now you got to pull yourself out of there every day, move forward, stay positive and work hard. I think we made some strides last week, but it wasn’t good enough.
“But it was much better, at least in my opinion, from my standpoint, from the offensive side . . . than what we had the previous two games.”
Linehan admits he hasn’t gotten out much during this winless season. During the little bit of time he has been in the public eye, St. Louisans have been supportive of him.
Mostly, though, he drives directly to work, puts in a 17- or 18-hour day and returns directly home.
“I keep my sanity because I have a lot of things going for me,” he said. “I’m one of the luckiest people in the world to have one of these 32 jobs and be in this position. I don’t think I’m having the luckiest season of my career, but this isn’t about me, either. It’s about the team. Everybody has an equal part of this.
“I have a great supporting family. I’m not sure how these single coaches that live out by themselves do this. I’m not sure I could do that one. It proves to me that going home every night is worth the six or seven hours I got to just unload for a little bit.”
Do all these injuries allow him to console himself over his terrible fortune?
“I don’t do a lot of consoling myself,” he said. “To be honest with you, I do a lot more of the other. There is some truth to the fact there are some things out of your control. But what is in your control is what you have to focus on. There are things that have been in our control that we have fallen short on, regardless of the bad luck we’ve had.
“As long as you keep an open mind, you keep learning, you don’t get sensitive, you stay the course, I think you are always going to come out on the better end.
“One day, hopefully in the near future, in about eight games, I can go back and say that was a trying experience and I made it through this thing all right.”
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett was unavailable to the media Monday. Here is what else Linehan and offensive coordinator Greg Olson were talking about:
On how Rams president John Shaw has been: “Very supportive. Met with him yesterday. There is no plan to meet with him this week, he is back in LA as he normally is at this time of the year. That’s really it. I talk to John every week.”
Overstating his support in the local sports media: “All the media is in our corner. I know you guys want to win. It’s much more pleasant thing to cover a winning football team, one that is doing things that makes it exciting for you to go to work. Right now it’s tough, it’s challenging.”
On Steven Jackson’s injury: “He has a disc bulge in his lower back. It’s treatable and we’re optimistic for his return, even as soon as New Orleans. Maybe it’s good timing we have the bye this week for him. Certainly I don’t think he could play this week. Usually the prognosis is pretty good for getting back in a couple of weeks.”
On Richie Incognito’s knee injury: “It requires surgery. His outlook doesn’t look that promising for this season. We haven’t ruled it out yet. There’s not anything official, an IR or anything. Pretty extended time out for that injury.
“The goal now is try to, without moving somebody, try to put somebody in there at that right guard spot, with the idea when (Todd) Steussie comes back, he’ll play right guard or right tackle at some point. (Rob) Petitti has never played guard. I just talked to him. He played guard his freshman year in college for a little while, maybe spring ball. He’s a big, physical guard. He’s more of a possibility in there, a guy with bulk and size. We’re going to be playing against some even-front teams with pretty big tackles coming up.
“We’ll see if we can add another player to the roster. If it’s not from outside, maybe move one of the practice squad guys up. We need an inside player. We have centers, we’re deficient with our depth at guard.”
On Nick Leckey’s play as the emergency guard: “It’s tough for Nick to hold up at that guard spot. He did a nice job for the most part coming in there and playing a position . . . that he has not played a complete game in the NFL that way.”
On Brandon Gorin’s play at right tackle: “Great hustle and determination. A couple we saw him downfield, trying to make that extra block. There were a couple of times he got off-balance and was beat and caused a hurry on the quarterback. For the most part, the line battled pretty good.”
On the team’s accumulation of offensive line injuries: “It’s something I never want to go through again. I’m sure nobody can go back in their past and say, ‘When we lost our entire offensive line, this is what we did.’ I haven’t been able to find the answer to that one. Now I can say that and I hope I never have to five that advice to anybody. Obviously it’s not working very good.
“It’s bad luck, it really is. Every one of them is a very isolated incident. We could never settle in, until two weeks ago, with the same offensive line.”
On the team’s failure in short-yardage runs: “All three plays were different plays . . . the last play was more of a power play and we just let the play-side run-through get into the backfield. I think that was the best play against what we were seeing. We had time to talk about it, with the two-minute warning. Unfortunately, we unable to get the run-through player. They made their plays in situations where we needed to make them.
“Got back and look at it, hindsight now, for sure, throw it every down. There was some talk on throwing the ball, especially on that fourth down.”
On why he eschewed the quarterback sneak with Marc Bulger: “That has not been something we have done as well, or in the history . . . you have a quarterback with bad ribs and a busted up hand. We will still continue to feel confident that Brian (Leonard) with good blocking should be able to do it for us.”
On the odds of Leonard Little finishing out on his injured toe: “We’re going to support either way he goes. It’s going to be up to him at this point based on how his toe feels. It feels better this week. The swelling has gone down. He is going to give it a go next week. We’ll get through the next game before we do anything drastic, is what we’re hoping for. We’ll see if we can get through the season with it.”
On where this team needs to improve: “Putting points on the board has got to happen in both halves. We have to become a much better team in the second half. That has not been something we have done well at all this year. Second halves have been our downfall.”
On the second half of the season: “We can’t live in the past. We’d feel much better if we were sitting here a record opposite of the one we have. But we arrived here. How we got here isn’t anywhere as significant as what we do in the second half. We have to look at as an eight-game season and do our best to win them all. There have been big turnarounds in this league in the past. It’s a tough challenge for us with the way things have gone and all that. If we can just hold onto playing the next game and getting some momentum from a win, on the road, we can do a lot more things in the season than it appears right now.”
On the strides his unit made early in Sunday’s game: “We felt good. We started to get some healthy bodies. We got Jackson and Drew Bennett finally like both his hamstring and quadriceps felt good. We felt good about the way we started the football game . . . really both halves.
“Marc was sharp. Last week was probably Drew’s first week of being healthy since training camp. We had Drew, Isaac (Bruce) and Torry (Holt). That’s the first time he had them all season. Had a chance to get some timing down last week.”
On Jackson’s demise leading to the offensive demise: “He’s a big part of it. He’s one of the biggest components of what we’re trying to get done offensively. With Jack in there, I seemed like our team speed was better when he handed him the ball. He was hitting some seams we haven’t seen a back hit here since he’s been out.
“We think he is a special player. We’ve just got to find a way to keep him healthy and keep him out there. You’re going to miss a player of Steven Jackson’s ability. He’s arguably the best player on our team.”
On the loss of Richie Incognito: “Richie is really the tough guy for us up front. He has always been the guy who brings toughness to that offensive line. He’ll be a big loss as well.
“To constantly have to move guys is a big part of it too. When you’ve moving your center or your moving your tackle . . . there is always communication there is always going on with those five guys. We’ll try to do it with what we have and get better. There has been improvement. There was improvement this pass week in terms of moving the football. We have to find ways to move the football and keep Marc protected and still be efficient enough to score more points.”
On the play of left guard Alex Barron: “Alex, if you asked him, I don’t think he played his best game yesterday. We think Alex can player better. We have high expectations of Alex. We just feel like he can play better. He should improve and we expect him to improve and hopefully he expects to improve himself.”
On the play of right guard Brandon Gorin: “He still needs to knock a little rust off. It’s been a while since he played full time. He has to improve this week.”