Linehan's coaching carousel
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Sunday, Feb. 24 2008
INDIANAPOLIS — At the start of the offseason, Scott Linehan indicated he might
make one or two changes on his coaching staff.
But as the weeks went by, "one or two" evolved into one of the biggest staff
shake-ups for a returning head coach since the Rams moved to St. Louis in 1995.
When Linehan hires an assistant strength and conditioning coach — and he's
interviewing a couple of candidates this weekend at the NFL Scouting Combine —
his 2008 staff will be complete. It will include six new assistants, with seven
departed coaches. (The Rams' staff size shrinks from 20 coaches in '07 to 19 in
The only bigger shake-up for a returning St. Louis Rams head coach occurred in
2001, when Mike Martz hired six new assistants and had eight coaches leave or
get fired. But in Martz's case, it was his first real chance to put his stamp
on a staff.
That's because Dick Vermeil's sudden retirement after the '99 Super Bowl
championship season meant that Martz basically inherited a coaching staff in
2000 for his rookie season as an NFL head coach.
Linehan has made his changes for entirely different reasons. Namely, when you
go 3-13 and fall flat on offense, you have to do more than rearrange the deck
"It's not unusual to go through two or three — maybe four — changes per year,"
Linehan said. "We had a number of them this year, and we had to make some
changes. I started with myself as far as how I was going to approach the
season, how I was going to look at the job I did."
And then he went to work on blowing up his 2007 staff, undoubtedly with some,
uh, encouragement from upper management. The changes are wide-sweeping on
offense, where there's a new coordinator (Al Saunders), new quarterbacks coach
(Terry Shea), new running backs coach (Art Valero), new offensive line coach
(Steve Loney) and new tight ends coach (Jim Chaney). Chaney isn't a new hire;
he was switched from assistant offensive line coach.
Obviously, all those changes came at the expense of a member of Linehan's '07
staff, and getting rid of some friends wasn't easy.
"Every decision we're making is with the idea that this is what we need to do
to win a championship," Linehan said. "And so you have to take some of the
personal (friendship) parts out of it, set it aside, and say this is what I
think is best.
"It's not very pleasant sometimes. But I think if you handle things
professionally and in the right way, usually in the end, everybody comes out
with a good situation. … This is a new time for us and the changes were
In fact, of the seven coaches dismissed by Linehan, six have new jobs, either
in the NFL or college ranks. The only exception is tight ends coach Judd
Garrett. The spin on Garrett's departure was that he needed time away from
football after the sudden death of his wife last August.
But Garrett is at the Combine this weekend in search of a job, according to
team sources. Several employees at Rams Park, including some holdover
assistants from the '07 staff, are upset at his departure.
Earlier in the offseason, Linehan was criticized for his hiring of so-called
"FOSLs" — Friends of Scott Linehan — in Loney and Valero.
Linehan says he doesn't mind the derisive FOSL label, and even jokes about it.
"I told our (coaches), 'You guys better take that as like a badge of honor,'"
Linehan said. "You better not call Al (Saunders) a FOSL. Al's in his 60s. He
might take that a little bit differently."
As in fossil.
As for Loney and Valero, Linehan said, "My background with both is on a
professional level. They're good guys. I get along with them very well. But the
reason I'm so fond of both of them is they're excellent coaches.
"During my time with both, we had a No. 1 offense at different levels (college
and the NFL). They were a big part of that. So I look at it like we just added
two of the best coaches that I couldn't hire when I first got the job."
Linehan wanted to hire Loney and Valero when he first came to the Rams in '06,
but couldn't. (Loney was with Arizona at the time, and Valero was at Tampa Bay.)
A strong endorsement for Loney comes from an unexpected source, former Rams
offensive guard Adam Timmerman.
"He's a real down-to-earth, family-oriented coach, and a real personable guy,"
Timmerman said. "When I heard (the Rams) hired him, I thought this is going to
be a good thing for the guys on the o-line."
Timmerman met Loney a couple of years ago when they both worked at a Fellowship
of Christian Athletes football camp in St. Louis.
"It was like all we could do was talk about football, and different technique
things, and blocking schemes," Timmerman said.
In terms of technique and footwork, Timmerman said a lot of Loney's ideas and
thoughts were similar to those of former Rams offensive line coaches Jim
Hanifan and John Matsko.
"It was good to spend some time with him," Timmerman said. "I think it'll be a