By Jim Thomas

Martz fired The head coach of the Rams, Mike Martz, was fired on Monday. A1

It's not as if the news of his termination came as a surprise to Mike Martz.

"I kind of anticipated it," Martz said Monday afternoon. "But when it actually happens, it's hard."

Martz has spent much of his adult life working for the Rams - 12 out of the past 14 years, to be exact. But that chapter ended Monday morning when team president John Shaw informed Martz that his contract was being terminated.

"I regret the way it ended," Martz said. "I really felt like I could go on here and continue for many years. I felt like we could be very successful. I regret that it didn't work out. But that's life; it just happens."

A part of Martz realized that a parting of the ways was best for both parties.

"I think in this situation, change is good for both the organization and for Mike Martz and his family," Martz said. "I'm very appreciative to Georgia (Frontiere) and John (Shaw) for the opportunities, both as a coordinator and a head coach. They've backed me, stood behind me and been very supportive over the years.

"I've been in this organization for 12 years. And there's a lot of great memories here in St. Louis. We hate to leave it. It's a very special city. Very special fans ... but it's time to move on and remember the good times. There's a lot of them."

Martz's tenure with the club began in Los Angeles as an unpaid assistant in 1992. He followed the franchise to St. Louis in 1995, working for two seasons as wide receivers coach under Rich Brooks. When Brooks was fired after the '96 season, Martz spent the next two seasons in Washington as quarterbacks coach. But he returned to St. Louis and the Rams in '99 as offensive coordinator and then succeeded Dick Vermeil as head coach in 2000.

"You get attached to a lot of the people in the organization," Martz said. "There's a lot of loyalties involved there. And there's just kind of a way of doing things.

"There's a lot of friendships and a lot of terrific moments on the field. You never forget the players. How do you forget Big O (Orlando Pace)? And Marshall (Faulk), Torry (Holt), Adam (Timmerman), Andy (McCollum), Leonard (Little)? All these guys become like your inner circle, or family.

"And the coaches that you've been with for a long time. Shoot, I've been with John Ramsdell off and on for 25 years."

But those days are over. So are those relationships - at least in terms of working with those players and assistant coaches at Rams Park.

A lot of verbal volleys were fired between Shaw and Martz earlier in the 2005 season. But on Monday, at least, both men took the high road.

Asked to describe Martz's six-year tenure as Rams head coach, Shaw said, "I would say much more successful than unsuccessful. We had a very exciting team. We had a really good run. We were in the playoffs most of the years that Mike was the head coach."

But Shaw said a coaching change was needed, and he said Monday wasn't the time to "re-create" the front-office feud that contributed to Martz's demise.

There is one unfinished piece of business between Martz and the Rams: reaching a settlement on the final year of Martz's contract.

"I anticipate to meet or discuss the situation with his agent in the next two or three days," Shaw said.

Martz was due to make $3.25 million in 2006, the final year of his contract. It is expected that the parties will reach a settlement for something less than that figure. Financial issues aside, Martz thinks he'll be a better coach in the future for the experience gained in St. Louis.

"There's no question about it," Martz said. "There's so many things to 'memory bank,' and to remember. The bottom line, the whole thing I've learned from this is it's all about having the right people. If you have the right people with the right attitude, you can accomplish just about anything."

Rams sign four

The Rams signed four players to their offseason roster Monday: defensive back Terry Holley, running back Derrick Knight and wide receivers Jeremy Carter and Brandon Middleton. All four players ended the 2005 regular season on the Rams' practice squad.