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Linnehan hires the best ...
Linehan hires 'the best' for special teams
By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Sunday, Jun. 17 2007
To be a successful special-teams coach, "I don't want to say you've got half a
screw loose," Rams head coach Scott Linehan said, "but ... "
Apprised of that assessment, Al Roberts chuckled and said, "He's probably
Roberts is the newest addition to Linehan's coaching staff. He's also the
oldest, at 63. You wouldn't know it, though, by watching him bound about the
practice fields exhorting his troops at Rams Park. Hired in January, Roberts is
the Rams' fifth special-teams coach in seven years. He succeeded Bob
Ligashesky, who was preceded by Mike Stock, Bobby April and Larry Pasquale.
The steady turnover is a stark indictor of how the team has struggled steadily
in an area that arguably is the most under-appreciated in football. Not by
Linehan, however. He puts his special-teams coach on equal footing with his
offensive and defensive coordinators.
Linehan also is willing to assign his best players to special teams and carves
out plenty of time for the unit in his practice schedules.
Roberts said Linehan has "a vision of what he wants his team to look like,
offense, defense and special teams. And he's instilled that vision and that
want-to in the guys."
Kicker Jeff Wilkins and punter Matt Turk put together solid seasons last year,
but the Rams again lagged badly in other areas. Among the NFL's 32 teams, they
were 26th in kickoff returns, tied for 25th in punt returns, 28th in kickoff
coverage and 19th in punt coverage.
Since 2000, opponents have scored 20 special-teams touchdowns to six for the
Rams. Linehan dismissed Ligashesky after two seasons and turned to Roberts for
a simple reason:
"He's the best special-teams coach I've ever been around," said Linehan, who
worked with Roberts on the University of Washington staff in 1996. "It was his
approach, the way he teaches, the way he gets his point across. He's a very
confident person, very well-respected by the players."
St. Louis is Roberts' fifth NFL stop, following Cincinnati (1998-2002), Arizona
(1994-95), the New York Jets (1991-93), Philadelphia (1988-90), and the Houston
Oilers (1984-85). The Fresno, Calif., native also coached at Purdue and in the
When Linehan tracked him down, Roberts was co-head coach at Garfield High in
Seattle. "It's an inner-city school that has lost its bite, has lost its tag,"
Roberts said. "The kids are moving out to other areas. You coach what's left,
and it was hard."
His first priority was re-establishing discipline. "The kids did not believe
that if you don't go to class and you don't go to practice, you're not going to
play. And I left them at home," he said. "Consequently, we were 1-8 one year
and 0-9 the next year. But I wasn't doing it for that; I was doing it because
we all have to put a hand in and help the kids."
Roberts' commitment was so strong that he turned down Linehan's overture a year
ago. "I'd just promised a bunch of kids that really wanted to turn a page in
their life that I was going to stay with them," Roberts said. "And so I stayed."
Those players were seniors, so when Linehan called again this year, "I said,
'Of course I'm coming,'" Roberts said.
After a four-year absence, Roberts is reunited with a slightly different NFL.
"It's changed a little bit; some rules have changed," he said. "But the
fundamentals haven't changed. Sound principles haven't changed. Guys coming to
the meetings on time and listening haven't changed."
Roberts demands obedience, but not subservience, from his players.
"I'm not your boss; we have a working relationship, and that (carries) over
into obedience," he explained. "I obey Coach Linehan, and you obey me, and
that's the relationship we have. And it's a fun relationship."
The special-teams practice sessions feature constant movement. Roberts sets the
rapid pace while providing constant feedback. "I'm still mixing up names, so I
call them by their numbers," he said, laughing.
Although most of his comments are positive, the 5-foot-9 Roberts isn't averse
to getting up in a player's face. "We can't be sensitive about anything,
because I won't allow you to be sensitive," he said. "We've got to put it all
out there. We're going to laugh at each other, and I'm going to protect you and
you're going to protect me."
Apparently, that message has been received. "Everybody loves him," said Jon
Alston, a busy special-teams performer. "We're really happy to have him around
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-06-17-2007 #3helorm341 Guest
Re: Linnehan hires the best ...
For me t he worst part of this guy's resume was the turnover rate in the NFL. He never coached anywhere for more then 2 years. Ill trust linehan though and hopefully this guy gets it right here.
On another note this guy has yet another Linehan croonie feel to him, but i dont care what he is if he makes our special teams atleast average
-06-17-2007 #4Drew Guest
Re: Linnehan hires the best ...
well Dick Vermeil had what a 15 year give or take a year gap between jobs in the NFL and Belichick didn`t do what he has done for the Pats in Cleveland,not saying Roberts is gonna cure our ST`s and send us to the SB but ya know.....good coaches can have poor looking records,you gotta look at what tools he had to work with,the high school in seattle gig seemed a pretty good job as a human being but not one that was gonna give him good stats on his CV!
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