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Next foe is the focus for Linehan
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Tuesday, Dec. 11 2007
Rams coach Scott Linehan said he has worried about winning games — not his job
security — as the 2007 season has progressed.
"I haven't really thought about my job status much more than the questions I've
been asked," Linehan said Monday. "Certainly, it comes with the territory when
you haven't had a winning season. But my focus has been, as always, the next
opponent. Last week, it was Cincinnati; this week it's Green Bay."
Nonetheless, it's nice to know that he has a vote of confidence from team
President John Shaw, who told the Post-Dispatch late last week that he expects
Linehan back next season.
"It's important to know that you have support," Linehan said.
Whether it's in person or on the phone, Linehan said he talks to Shaw every
week, and he spoke with him on the phone Monday.
"He's very supportive," Linehan said. "He understands. He goes through the game
and goes through each week. I also understand that this isn't where we wanted
to be. It's not the record we intended on having. The focus is to improve here
at season's end and continue to get better in certain areas."
At 3-10 following Sunday's 19-10 loss to Cincinnati, the Rams need to win two
of their final three games to avoid matching their worst record since the move
to St. Louis in 1995.
Topping the 4-12 record by Dick Vermeil's 1998 squad won't be easy given the
caliber of competition in the final three games. This week's opponent, Green
Bay (11-2), will be playing for a first-round playoff bye Sunday at the Edward
Jones Dome. The following Thursday, Pittsburgh (9-4) might be in a position to
clinch the AFC North title at the dome. Even in the season finale at Arizona
(6-7) on Dec. 30, the Cardinals could be fighting for a wild-card berth.
So if nothing else, the Rams could play spoiler the rest of December.
"There's some motivation there, but it's I think more important that we're
focused on getting our fourth win and creating some adjustments and momentum
for our football team," Linehan said. "We're playing for this year, too,
because we want to finish the season off right."
After an 0-8 start, Linehan has continued to stress treating the final eight
games like a second season and trying to finish '07 as strongly as possible.
Sunday's task will be daunting against the Packers, who not only rank third in
total offense behind ageless wonder Brett Favre but also rank ninth in the NFL
in total defense.
New England, Dallas, Indianapolis and, surprisingly, 5-8 Philadelphia are the
only other teams in the NFL that rank in the top 10 in both offense and defense.
"It is going to take one of our best games, our best efforts of the season, to
beat Green Bay," Linehan said. "There's no question."
But while Linehan has some immediate concerns in finishing out this season,
he's also beginning to do some thinking about '08 — at Shaw's request.
"He wants me thinking about some of the things we want to get done," Linehan
said. "That's part of my position."
But Linehan doesn't want to do '08 planning at the expense of game-planning and
preparation for the Packers, Steelers and Cardinals.
"It's something I have to put extra time into, especially this month more than
anything, as far as adjustments we've got to make for next season," Linehan
said, adding that Shaw "definitely wants my mind in that direction.
"We'll have a year-end meeting in probably the second week of January and go
through those potential adjustments. I'm sure we'll talk about pretty much
everything, from players, to coaching and personnel."
Last year, the Rams signed two of their core defensive players, end Leonard
Little and linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa, to "in-season" contract extensions
before they reached free agency. But the only full-time starter on this
season's squad scheduled for unrestricted free agency is linebacker Brandon
Linehan indicated Monday that the Rams would wait until the end of the season
before attempting to re-sign any prospective free agents.
There will be other issues to address in January as well. There has been
speculation that Shaw might strip Linehan of some of his power over personnel
decisions, and that the club might bring in a true "general manager" to oversee
the personnel department. It's also possible that some assistant coaches will
not be retained.
Re: Next foe is the focus for Linehan
Wait 'til he hears about S.L.O.P.E.E. (as in his offensive (what a play on words) approach).
Scott Linehan Opposition Party Expanding Exponentially."the Heart Lies and the Head Plays Tricks with us, but the Eyes See True".
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