Linehan Learning Fast
By Nick Wagoner
INDIANAPOLIS – Four years ago, Scott Linehan sat by himself inside the RCA Dome watching player after player come through and do his best to prove himself in a short period of time to the watchful eye of every NFL coach, scout and wanna be coach or scout.
All that Linehan had to worry about then was how he was going to make the Minnesota Vikings offense better. He didn’t stick around to watch the linebackers or cornerbacks and he certainly didn’t make it a point to check out the kickers and punters.
But there he was Friday afternoon, heading once again into the same RCA Dome to watch a bunch of kickers and punters go through their workouts. Oh, how things have changed for the Rams’ new head coach.
“Now it’s switching gears to what we are going to do with the Rams football team and the focus has to be in that area,” Linehan said. “I have always been an offensive coach. Now I am a head coach who happens to be from the offensive side of the ball and I have got to approach the team the way I approached coaching a position as an offensive coach and do it like I did on offense.”
The broad reach of what Linehan must do as the head coach as opposed to working as the coordinator includes more menial tasks such as watching the workouts of punters and kickers, but it extends well beyond understanding the X’s and O’s and being able to recognize and evaluate talent.
It’s easy for any coach to say he has a plan and wants to bring in this guy or trade for that guy, but in today’s NFL, it’s not realistic to execute that plan without a genuine understanding of how the league’s economics work.
And that is an area in which Linehan is striving to improve.
“That’s the biggest change I think,” Linehan said. “You always have to factor into the team, what is the best fit for the team, but the economics have to fit too. I spend a lot of time being counseled. Jay (Zygmunt) is very patient and he spends a lot of time bringing me up to speed on the salary cap and how every transaction we make will affect it.”
Until now, Linehan says he had a general grasp of how the salary cap worked, but not where it needed to be for him to be taking on the task of helping to rebuild the team.
“I paid attention to it, but I found out it wasn’t as good as I thought it was,” Linehan said. “I am willing to learn, I am patient about it. I’m willing to admit when there’s an area I need help. Now it becomes a bigger factor because we are putting a team together. The one thing you always have to know is when you have a plan, as far as putting it all together, that it has to fit the economic side so you don’t put yourself in a bad position where you can’t get a player. You don’t ever want to do that and I have seen that happen with other teams.”
While that understanding improves with each passing day, Linehan continues to deal with the details of being the head coach. That includes signing autographs for the fans in Indianapolis, speaking with the media for extended period and being on the go constantly.
Since being hired, Linehan has spent limited time with his family and is continually on the move. But he recognizes that as part of his own learning process.
“There really is no offseason in the NFL,” Linehan said.
FAULK’S FUTURE?: Linehan has had a series of meetings with running back Marshall Faulk since being hired and is getting a good feeling from those encounters that the future Hall of Fame running back will return to the Rams next season.
“Nothing definitive, but very positive,” Linehan said.
Linehan had Faulk sit in on a meeting he had with quarterback Marc Bulger to discuss playbook terminology and ways of mixing lingo so that the transition to Linehan’s offense will be a smooth one.
“It was a great meeting,” Linehan said. “Greg and I met with Marshall and Marc both and kind of went through the terminology of the playbook that they were accustomed to and wanted to know if there was carry over or correlation to things we want to do.”
Should Faulk return, his role might be different than it was a season ago. And by different, Linehan means larger.
“I would think he would (have a slightly larger role),” Linehan said. “He’s way too valuable a player to not have the ball in his hands. For whatever reason, last year was not his best season as far as statistically. I certainly would like, if he is willing to put a few more years in, to utilize the abilities he still has. A lot of them aren’t just necessarily as being a leader. He still has some good juice left in my opinion so we might as well use him. Don’t let him take any more carries to the Hall of Fame with him.”
FREE AGENT FILES: While the Rams elected not to place a franchise tag or transition tag on any of their pending free agents, there seems to be a desire to keep some of them around.
“Certainly,” Linehan said. “Our current players are our focus. There’s no guarantee with it. I understand how free agency works. Economics factor in that. I am hoping that we are able to bring back these players that are free, but I am also realistic in that I know it’s a business and I’ll let it play out. We’re doing everything we can to make it happen.”
At the top of that list is strong safety Adam Archuleta, but it seems there is a desire to retain some of the other defenders as well, including defensive linemen Ryan Pickett and Tyoka Jackson.
STAFF COMPLETE: Just when it appeared the Rams had made their final hire by adding defensive line coach Brian Baker, Linehan added Scott Downing as a Football Assistant. Downing’s job will consist of helping coach the special teams, but also putting together the practice plan, play Scripts and in self scouting.
“He’s really kind of the in house brain so to speak of all of those things,” Linehan said.
MINI CAMPS TAKE SHAPE: The Rams have yet to formally announce their mini-camp schedule, but Linehan revealed what he expects it to entail Friday afternoon.
Since St. Louis has added a new coach, it is entitled to an extra mini-camp. With that in mind, Linehan has planned two weekends near the draft that will combine rookies with veterans. The final mini-camp will be the second weekend in June.
In years past, the Rams have held rookie only mini-camps right after the draft, but Linehan has decided against that this year.