Marmie takes charge of Rams defense
By Bill Coats
Of the Post-Dispatch
Friday, Aug. 27 2004

As defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals, Larry Marmie had the
unenviable task of trying to slow the high-powered Rams offense twice a season
since 2002, when both teams were assigned to the realigned NFC West. He didn't
have much luck.

The Rams went 4-0 vs. the Cardinals in that span, averaging 31 points per game.
So as coach Mike Martz's new defensive coordinator, Marmie can relax now that
he doesn't have to make a game-plan for the Rams anymore, right?

"No, I've just got to practice against it every day," Marmie said, laughing.
"But in the long run, working against our offense here has to really prepare us
for a lot of things down the road. Because we're not going to see anybody that
does any more offensively in terms of stretching the field and the wide-open
type of offense, the shifts and the motion and all those things."

Marmie (pronounced mar-MEE) lost his job in Arizona on Dec. 29 when head coach
Dave McGinnis was fired after the Cardinals finished last in the division with
a 4-12 record. Martz, who served as Marmie's offensive coordinator at Arizona
State from 1988-91, hired his former boss three weeks later.

"We share a lot of the same philosophies," Martz said. "He has the intensity
and the focus to help these guys get to the point where they're as good as they
can be."

Safety Aeneas Williams, who played under Marmie in Arizona, said his calm
demeanor on the practice field contrasts sharply with his forceful presence
behind closed doors. "There won't be any threatening, but he's going to back up
what he says," Williams said.

Marmie, 61, succeeds Lovie Smith, the Chicago Bears' new head coach. It's not
an easy role to assume: Not only was Smith highly popular with the players, he
turned the Rams defense from one of the league's worst into a solid, if not
spectacular, unit during his three seasons.

"I know what a great job Lovie did here," said Marmie, who is working on
building his trust among the players. "I would like for them to have a
confidence that what we're doing is right and fits our personnel, and that they
understand what we're doing," he said.

Although the Rams led the 32-team NFL in takeaways last year with 46, they
ranked 16th in total defense and only 20th in rushing defense. That's an area
Marmie is targeting, although he promises no major overhaul in the team's basic
scheme.

"He's tweaked some things for the better, but basically it's the same defense,"
veteran end Tyoka Jackson said. "And that's what this game is all about: trying
to be consistent and get better at what you do and try to do what you do better
than everyone does what they do."

Marmie said he and Smith have "a lot of similarities in philosophy, but ...
there will be some subtle changes that take place. Some of the areas that were
trouble spots for them last year, hopefully we can find a way to shore those
up." Marmie still will employ regularly the Cover 2 pass-defense alignment that
Smith embraced. "They play it so well," Marmie said. "It's been something that
the players believe in, and they've made plays with it." But he plans to work
in some other looks, too, mixing man-to-man and zone coverages.

"It's been an adjustment," cornerback Jerametrius Butler said. "We're still
trying to get used to it in certain defenses that we use."

For the most part, the Rams weren't shy about blitzing under Smith, and Marmie
said he'll try to flood the backfield often, too. "You can't let the
quarterback stand back there and have a lot of time," he said. "These guys are
good enough to cut you to ribbons." His objective, he said, is to dictate when
blitzes are called, rather than to use them mostly to react to offensive
circumstances.

"Sometimes you get in that mode where you blitz because you feel like you have
to blitz," he said. "Our preference would be to blitz because we want to blitz,
not because we get into a situation where we feel like that's our survival
mode, to blitz."

No matter how it's defined, aggressiveness will be the watchword.

"People want to see an aggressive defense, a pressure defense, and certainly
that's what we want to be," Marmie said. "I don't think anybody wants to
(deploy) a defense that's not aggressive." Or a defense that resembles that
which the Rams put on the field before Smith arrived in 2001.

"I'm excited," Marmie said. "The bar has been set high, and these guys want to
be good and they want to be coached and they want to know why we're doing
things. All those things, to me, are a part of coaching. It's a lot of fun to
coach guys that are hungry and want to get better.

"And we've got guys that in the meeting room and on the practice field, are in
tune and into everything that's going on. And as a coach, there's nothing that
gives you a better feeling than that."