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Mentor to Linehan will serve as a scout
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Tuesday, Aug. 14 2007
On no less than three occasions during his climb up the coaching ranks, Scott
Linehan was hired by John L. Smith. Linehan is now returning the favor.
Smith, 58, who was fired last season as head coach at Michigan State, has been
hired by Linehan and the Rams to do advance scouting. Beginning this weekend in
San Francisco, Smith will provide scouting reports on opposing defenses. He'll
make presentations on most Tuesdays to the Rams' offensive coaching staff.
"John L.'s a great evaluator," Linehan said. "He can see strength and
weaknesses of the personnel we're going to play."
As head coach at Idaho in 1989, Smith gave Linehan his first job in coaching —
as wide receivers coach. It was the equivalent of a graduate assistant's job.
Linehan wasn't in school at the time, but his pay was a scholarship check.
After two years doing that at Idaho, Linehan got his first "full-time" job as
quarterbacks coach at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. It was a disaster,
and after just one season he wanted to bail out.
"It was the only year in my entire coaching career that I didn't enjoy,"
Linehan said. "I almost got out of coaching."
Smith, still at Idaho, came to the rescue in 1992. The plan was for Linehan to
again coach wide receivers, but after just a couple of weeks Linehan was moved
up to offensive coordinator. With current Rams quarterbacks coach Doug
Nussmeier as his quarterback, Linehan's Idaho offenses were the scourge of
"We had great offenses," Linehan said. "We averaged almost 50 points a game,
and about 500 yards a game."
But after two seasons, Linehan and Smith parted ways once again when Linehan
joined the University of Washington staff as receivers coach in 1994. In many
ways, it was a dream job for Linehan. It was the Pacific 10, in his home state,
at the school he once dreamed of playing for coming out of high school.
Linehan would've been content to stay at Washington forever. But those dreams
were dashed after the 1998 season, when head coach Jim Lambright and his staff
"Went to a bowl game and got fired," Linehan said. "They'd take us back now, I
Nonetheless, for the first time in his coaching career, Linehan was out of a
job. But only for a month. Again, Smith threw a life preserver Linehan's way,
hiring him for a third time — this time as offensive coordinator-quarterbacks
coach at Louisville.
"In this profession, as you know, there's two kinds of coaches," Smith said.
"Those that have been fired, and those that are about to get fired."
It happened to Smith last season at Michigan State. So after he hired Linehan
three times, maybe Linehan owes him one.
"I would hire him three times again," Smith said, laughing. "He was that good.
Whenever Scotty's been the coordinator, we've been awful good offensively. And
every place he's gone in the NFL, they've done the same."
Linehan still rates Smith as one of the most influential mentors in his career.
"He's just a salt-of-the-earth (person)," Linehan said. "Grew up in southern
Idaho. Big family. He's the uncle of the quarterback of the *****, Alex Smith.
He taught me how hard work pays off. He doesn't have a big ego."
Linehan also learned from Smith just watching the way he interacted with, and
treated people. One thing that stuck out, too, was Smith's expertise as an
Linehan plans to put those evaluation skills to use.
"Hopefully, I can pick up some things," Smith said. "You can always come away
with a little bit of value at least in things that you can't see on tape."
By scouting in person, Smith might be able to detect hand signals. How a team
handles substitutions. Whether a player appears to be favoring an injury.
Sometimes, game film won't even reveal if a team is in the no huddle.
"All of those things," Smith said. "And you might get to see some things in
Smith is scouting San Francisco this week because the Rams play the ***** in
Game 2 of the regular season. He plans to scout Carolina next week, the Rams'
foe in their opener.
This doesn't figure to be a long-term assignment. Eventually, Smith wants to
get back into college coaching. But, Linehan insists, the Rams aren't helping
Smith. ... "He's helping us."
Of course, there's no guarantee that Linehan will agree with all of Smith's
suggestions as a scout and evaluator. Twenty-five years ago, for example, Smith
— then Idaho's defensive coordinator — tried to talk Linehan, a freshman
quarterback, into moving to defense as a safety. Linehan vetoed the idea.
"I told him, 'Absolutely no way,'" Linehan said.
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