Head Coach Scott Linehan

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

(Opening statement)

“I’ve been meaning to make this announcement. I, obviously, wanted to do it before it ever got out, but you know who things are; people find things out before I do, half the time. So I’m here to formally announce the hiring of my two coordinators. First, Jim Haslett, who you are all very aware of, whose coaching resume and reputation speaks for itself. Jim has been on my list. I’ve been very much hoping, for our sake, that he would be available during this while process. I knew going into it that he was going to be pursued by a number of teams as a head coach because of his reputation. We’re lucky enough, I believe, to have his services. He feels it is the best situation for him to stay in the business, which shows you he is a true coach. I’m sure it would be an obvious temptation after going through the year that he, his staff, and his family have gone through this past year to just take a breather, but he is a football coach, and wants to go to the best place available. And I’m very happy to announce that he is going to be our defensive coordinator, and very excited about it. He’s a great fit. I looked at a number of candidates. There were a lot of really good candidates to evaluate and visited with a number of them over the phone or in person. And we met over the weekend, actually here in the South Florida part of the world. He was good enough to come down and visit with me on Sunday, and we visited a little bit more yesterday. put some thought into it over the evening and decided this morning that this is where he wanted to be, so I’m very excited about that.”

“On the offensive side, Greg Olson is going to be our offensive coordinator. Greg and I have a history. We go way back. We’re both Dennis Erickson raised, young coaches or players. I played for Dennis. He coached with him as a graduated assistant for Dennis at Washington State University. We were raised under the same system in college, ran the same systems in college at different places. We have never worked together; we have worked with each other in clinics and camps and things over time. I have admired Greg’s ability to evaluate. A little history on Greg is he recruited, coached, and groomed John Kitna at a small college in both of our home state, Washington, Central Washington. John has gone on a very successful pro career. He then coached at my alma mater, after I left the University of Idaho to go to the University of Washington, and coached the quarterbacks there. Then was named the quarterback coach at Purdue University. He evaluated and helped recruit Drew Brees, and coached Drew Brees through his college career. We all know Drew was one of the all-time greatest college quarterbacks in the history of the game. A lot of that falls on Greg’s ability to, number one, evaluate him, not a lot of people were recruiting Drew out of high school; and number two, to also develop him. And that’s certainly the big factor in Greg’s resume. Greg then went on and got his first NFL job coaching quarterbacks at San Francisco. He, in his first year, helped guide the San Francisco offense to a, I believe, 12-4 record. You’d have to check that, but I know Jeff Garcia made it to the Pro Bowl that year. And that all happened in his first year. He then moved back home with his wife. His wife Lisa was a head track coach at Purdue University, and she was still there. So he went back there for a year and then wanted to get back in the league. Went to the Chicago Bears and there was big part of the deciding to draft Rex Grossman in the first round of 2003. That’s working out very well for them. Unfortunately for him, Dick Jauron was not retained that year so he and Dick went with Steve Mariucci who originally hired Greg in Detroit for the last two years. He’s a great fit for me obviously with our situation obviously he’ll be doing a lot of the evaluating of our talent, and specifically developing our quarterbacks as an offensive coordinator as well.”

“The last announcement I would like to make is the retention of Henry Ellard, who you all know obviously has been coaching here in recent years. He has a great reputation as a great player in this league, playing for the Rams. His stock and reputation is sky-rocketing as one of great receiver coaches in the league, from obvious receiver production with the way the receivers have played for St. Louis and really second to none in their route running ability. And I really thought it was very important to do everything I could to keep Henry.”

“So I’m very excited about these initial hires, and I feel is it a great momentum for us as we are continuing to build a staff and will continue to work day and night until we get in completed. That is where we are at. I wanted to make sure you all got it. I know some of it got out, and I apologize for that, but that is the way it works I suppose.”

(On whether he has concerns that Haslett as a former head coach might get a head coaching offer in the next few years)

“Well that was a big factor. It’s not really a concern. The only concern that I would have is that we’re able to hire some guys in place that will know the system well enough, because the goal is here to hire a great coach with great credibility, instill a belief system, a defensive scheme that everybody believes in. And then if that does happen, because that is a good thing, he gets another head coaching job, that’s a good thing, that means we have done well. My goal is to hire a good staff under Jim that will be able to have guys that I will be able to promote from within, and that will always be my goal because I believe that is the way you maintain continuity, I supposed that is…I wouldn’t look at is a risk, I would look at it as a win-win situation. He comes in here, does a bang-up job, instills a great belief system, and then hopefully we’ll have very qualified coaches that we can move up the ladder when indeed that does happen.”

(On what benefits he sees having a coordinator with head coaching experience)

“Well, I think that is obviously a big factor for me. I don’t know that many people have gone through the ups and downs as a head coach like Jim. And I mean that respectfully, especially this last year. The people that are on the inside that know how grueling and tough the year has been for that entire organization, and for Jim and his staff and their families. He’s really held it together. The whole idea is, he’s going to be able to have a lot of things I can actually use as resources and bits of information, and basically his advice that I can use as we are putting our thing together. That was very important to me. And I thought it was a great fit and a great match. We seem to have a very similar approach to the game and how we approach the players, and I think it is going to be a very good fit for both of us.”

(On what attracted him to Haslett and why he will be a good fit)

“Well, first of all he’s, by nature, a very aggressive person, very upbeat, has a lot passion for the game. You really need that, not only just as a team, as a head coach, but you need to be able to resound all of those philosophies throughout the system. He’s going to be installing the defense and putting the defense in, and selling what we want to sell as a team. I think I mentioned in the initial press conference that was important as an entire unit, offensively, defensively, and special teams, that we are all on the same page and have the exact same message to our teams. You have to have credibility, and instant credibility, going into that room so that those players are ready to jump in full force to buy into what you’re doing. He has great motivational skills, and has a great passion about him, and I think that’s exactly what our team needs.”

(On if he had a prior relationship with Haslett)

“I knew him through the business. I coached against him, I believe, two of my three years when I was at Minnesota, and we played them this last year in Baton Rouge. I have more respect for him for how they were able to get through the year this last year, than the years that he put in (previously). Here’s a guy who was the NFL Coach of the Year four or five years ago. Here’s a guy who has been through it all, and it won’t be long before he’s a head coach again, and I know that. I’m realistic about it. I just have respect for his business. I really believe that he’s exactly what we’re looking for. Schematically, he has the vision that he’s going to utilize our personnel. He knows that we have the personnel that we have in place and being able to do some of the creative things that you do with that personnel and also fit in some of his old background. You’ll see some of his Pittsburgh background in there as well, and I like that innovative kind of thinking.”

(On if Haslett going from being a head coach to being an assistant is a step back)

“I don’t think he looks at it that way. The way he put it, he said ‘you know, I’ve put a lot of thought into this. This whole year has been a year for me to reflect on,’ and he wasn’t even talking about being let go at New Orleans and becoming an assistant coach again, anything like that. He said he went out, I believe it was last week or the week before, went out and did some color, some in-between game color commentary and things like that. He was sitting in that booth, and he said he sat on his butt for five hours and made comments and commented on, I believe it was a playoff game or upcoming playoff games, or whatever it was, but he said that convinced him that the only thing that’s going to make him happy is to get back in coaching. His passion is to coach defense. Even as a head coach, he input the defenses, and he was in charge of the third down and sub packages. He just couldn’t stand not operating in that role. So, that’s what convinced me that it was a great fit. I told him that the win-win part of this is you come here, you help implement our style, we do bigger and better things and you become a head coach again. If you don’t get that opportunity again, we’re still going to continue to do great things together, and he wanted to have a commitment that that was going to be the case. So, I’m real excited. I really am.”

(On if Haslett can be too aggressive with his defenses)

“I don’t know. There is going to be criticism out there about some game or something you’ve done, but I think the thing that, to me, impressed me the most is that he has the ability to, a lot of people say he’s a 3-4 guy from the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bill Cowher’s system, that’s how he built his reputation as an assistant to become a head coach in this league to begin with. He was always one of those guys that when you’d play him, he’d give us a whole different scheme. He’d have two, three guys covering Randy Moss; this was when I was at Minnesota and was just innovative. He didn’t blitz as much, because he knew if he did, it would probably cost him. He would wait until third down and long or a pass where he had the best chance of getting to us. I always thought he had a great plan. It was always interesting to go against him. I like to have guys that are aggressive by nature that are smart as well and know when to turn it up and when to pull back. He’s one of those guys in my opinion.”

(On what Olson’s role will be as the offensive coordinator)

“He will input the offense, and his role will be very extensive in that he will input the offense, he will be a big part of the entire evaluation of our offensive players in the offseason. He will obviously be in charge of developing and grooming our quarterbacks. We will probably hire a quarterback coach that will work with him, but Greg’s strength as an evaluator and as a quarterback coach will be great in this situation, because he will also be able to impact Marc and our quarterbacks. So, it’s going to be a big role. Calling the plays is one thing, but on a day-to-day basis, meeting and implementing the plan during the season and evaluating the personnel that fit the characteristics we require of our offensive players as an entire group from the offensive line, to the tight ends, running backs, wide receivers, quarterbacks, he’ll have a big input on all those things. I really think his strength as a position coach and as an evaluator will serve him well in that capacity.”

(On if the defense will implement some of the 3-4 defense)

“There will be flavors of that, and that’s one thing I talked extensively when I was approached on this job that defensively what I like is we’ve built a team that’s based a lot on a 4-3 here, and there is some good 4-3 personnel that’s in place. As an offensive coach, when you look at defensive coaches and defensive philosophies, the people that create the most problems, in my opinion, are people that play the 4-3 defense, utilize the personnel with the ability to rush four, possibly bring a linebacker or nickel in some of the base blitz-packages. When you get on third down, the creative people on third down get in the 3-4, what I call odd packages, and seemingly blitz from everywhere. That creates more headaches for offenses than anything. The ability to affect the game defensively on third down by being able to make that switch was big in my conversations. That was big in my conversations with Jim, because that’s exactly what his specialty is. He’s really been a 4-3 guy, and they worked toward that defensively when he was at New Orleans, but the third-down packages that they ran and the multiples that they ran were a nightmare for offenses to prepare for, and I really think that’s where you will see it initially.”

(On if he sees players like DE Anthony Hargrove and DE Leonard Little playing linebacker in the 3-4)

“I’m sure that will be the discussions we’ll have. The first thing we’ll do on both sides of the ball is we’ll sit down and watch all of the games, look at our personnel and make the decisions on where guys are suited best. So, when we do get in those special situations, third down, whether they are offense, defense, or special teams, what player best suits to play rush end. What side do you play Leonard Little on? All those decisions will be made as a staff, and it would be really early to make those types of evaluations at this point until we get the entire staff in place and we’ve evaluated the team completely.”

(On how much leeway Haslett will have on defense and how much input Linehan will have)

“He will be running the defense. My input will be, I will be involved. I will be involved in that I will want to know what we are doing, but he will coach the defense. Like I said earlier, my biggest goal here was to hire a qualified coach, as best coach as we could to fit the system that we want to run at the Rams. That coach’s job is to go out and implement the plan. I’m not one of those people that, like I said, looks over people’s shoulders. I want to be informed. I obviously want to have the conversations two-way as to what causes problems for either side of the ball. He’s going to implement the system that will be our system. It will be one that we both believe in and one that will best utilize our personnel.”

(On if he met in person with Olson)

“We talked on the phone. My biggest issue was that I was out of town the whole time. We weren’t in the same part of the country, and we had talked extensively. I had some things come up a year ago, and we talked about working together then. So, we said if something comes up this year, obviously one of the reasons that were helpful is that he was available. I just said if it happens for is this year, we have to get this thing done. He was very excited about the opportunity and is ready for it. He’s one of those guys that, a lot of people were pursuing him for similar duties. There are a lot of openings this year, so the quality guys get sought after quickly. So, I was lucky to be able to get these guys, because they’re exactly what I was looking for.”

(On when the rest of the staff will be in place and if Haslett will have input)

“Yeah, we discussed that. He will have input. He has a list of candidates that we will together interview and evaluate and pursue aggressively. I would think that we’re going to have a couple coaches in place here in the next two or three days that will start to fill out our staff. It’s important to get the staff assembled, because then you set your calendar and get your whole offseason program in place and when you’re evaluating your football team, and when you’re evaluating potential new players for free agency and the draft. So, it’s important that we get it done. It was really important that I get these two positions done first and get Henry retained because of the time frame, but I think we need to do our homework on all the other staff members so that we’re hiring the right fit, both for competent coaches and guys that will fit our system, get along and be productive for us.”

(On if a lot of the coaches will be chosen during this week, the week of the Senior Bowl)

“I’ll do some. I have a few meetings set up for tomorrow and Thursday. It’s done specifically for positions. I don’t prioritize one position over another, but it seems to work best to hone in on a certain area of our staff, and as we move on with these hires, I will be making sure everybody is aware of any new additions to our staff. Yes, there will be some meetings conducted in Mobile.”

(On if he will retain any other members of the current staff than Ellard or strength coach Dana LeDuc)

“I’m still in position, I told them with the announcement of it on Friday and the Senior Bowl coming up, I told those guys I could not give you a legitimate interview or meeting for potentially staying if I don’t allow you to go down to the Senior Bowl and pursue things. It wouldn’t be right. It wouldn’t be fair to you not to do that. So, I told them that anybody who wants to talk when we get back and I’ll be back in down officially on Monday, I will conduct meetings with anybody who hasn’t found employment. I told them all I couldn’t guarantee anything at this point because a lot of it had to do with the hiring of our defensive coordinator. I did approach Henry, because he was somebody that I had very high on my list, and I was lucky enough for that to get done. I told the other coaches that the best thing to do would be to pursue openings and if they don’t come up with anything, I would be happy to sit down and visit with them and tell them at that point if there was any possibility of them staying.”

(On LeDuc being retained as strength coach)

“Yeah, Dana too, I’m sorry. I thought that was probably already in place that he will be our strength coach. I’m very happy about that. In fact, he and I have a little bit of a background my old college coach and one of his old bosses was coach Erickson as well. So, we had a chance to catch up on that a little bit during my stay on Friday. I was so in and out, it was so hard for me to sit down and have a good, long conversation, but I know that he’s one of the highly respected guys in this league and very well respected throughout the Ram organization, and it will be great to have him stay on.”