By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
01/20/2006
)

He was part Dick Vermeil. Why, he nearly teared up explaining what it meant to be an NFL head coach.

"I promised my wife I wouldn't cry, so I'm not going to do that," Scott Linehan said Friday. "But it's fulfilling a dream. Being in the greatest profession in the world, and being in the greatest league in the world. How lucky am I?"

And he was part Mike Martz - almost eerily so - in describing his offensive style, his insistence on calling plays. Even his tendency to become impatient at times.

"It's aggressive; it's attacking," Linehan said. "I think it will be similar to a lot of the things you've seen here before. ... We want to be dominant, be relentless."

He did everything but invoke Martz's pet phrase: fast and furious.

As for his passion for play calling, Linehan said, "It's like giving up a dog, or something. I can't give that away."

Similarities aside, during his introductory news conference as the new coach of the Rams, Linehan made it clear there will be no identity crisis at Rams Park.

"I'm Scott Linehan," he said. "I'm not anybody other than that, and I will never try to be like anybody else. But I will always work on being a little bit better every day so that our team can continue to improve."

So who is Scott Linehan?

He's the youngest of seven children.

"My entire family was teachers," Linehan said. "My dad was a high school principal. That was where I developed the work ethic."

He played college football at Idaho for Dennis Erickson, who went on to win two college national championships at Miami and become a head coach in the NFL.

"He was one of the first people to basically become an attack-style offensive coach in college football," Linehan said. "He used a spread offense. ... He had the biggest influence on me as to the style of offense and system.

"John L. Smith, the head coach at Michigan State, gave me my first job. He also gave me another job later in my career and actually hired me a third time. He's hired me three times; I don't know what the heck's wrong with him. ... He's been a great mentor for me."

Then there was Jim Lambright, who gave Linehan his first NCAA Division I job in 1994 as an assistant at the University of Washington.

And Mike Tice, who hired Linehan out of the college ranks in 2002 to be a coordinator in the NFL for the Minnesota Vikings even though Linehan had no NFL experience.

And Nick Saban, who lured Linehan away from Minnesota a year ago to revive the sagging Miami Dolphins offense.

"So, I've named a lot of people there," Linehan said. "I don't want to exclude anybody, but those are the people who have been the most influential as far as where I'm at right now."

Linehan said his goal is to continue - and to build on - the recent tradition of excellence established by the Rams.

"It's really hard for me to believe that there are many teams in the modern era, for example the last seven years, that have won or been in the top five in wins, won an NFC championship and a world championship," he said. "We will hold the entire organization to that standard."

He will strive for dominance on the field.

"We want to be one of those feared teams," Linehan said. "One of those teams that nobody wants to play."

Linehan preached the importance of having a progressive attitude in terms of working to get better, cultivating leadership, and striving for excellence.

"I don't know if you've read the recent book by John Wooden - he had a quote in there that I highlighted," Linehan said. "He said, 'Never try to be better than any one person. But never cease trying to be the best you can be.'

"You'll get the best from this organization, from the coaches we hire and from the people that work within this system. Boy, I can't tell you, I can't wait to do it."

All in all, it was an upbeat, energetic and unifying message for a Rams organization that has gone through a lot in the past year - from in-fighting to Martz's illness, to the shortcomings on the field, to the death of broadcaster and former Rams player Jack Snow.

As for the image in some corners of the "dysfunctional Rams," Linehan said: "You've got to remember that there are always going to be bumps in the road in life. The recent history of this organization isn't what happened last month, last year. It's what's happened in the modern era. And this is one of the most dominant programs, one of the most studied, one of the most emulated programs in the modern era in football."

Although his first priority is to assemble his coaching staff, Linehan said he will make it a priority to get to know the veteran players as soon as possible.

"There can't be a quick meeting, and then move on," he said. "I want to set those times and make sure I put the time in to hearing them out. I want to hear their opinions. What they think of the team, and the direction, and things that have happened in the past and how we can avoid those things. ... That's what you have to do to establish your credibility with the players. Don't go in talking; go in listening. That's how I have always been."

In terms of personnel matters and the draft, Linehan said he will be part of piecing together the puzzle.

But he added: "We'll make those decisions as a team. It will be unified. Obviously, I'm going to be involved, as will our coaching staff, but we will make decisions collectively as a group, and we will come to the right decision."