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ow that Jay-Z is out, success is possible
By Bryan Burwell
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Tuesday, Dec. 23 2008
The final hours of the Jay Zygmunt era ended early Monday morning,
appropriately enough in a nebulous haze. By the time most of the second-floor
employees began filtering into Rams Park, the dethroned team president and
general manager had already vanished from the premises.
His office walls were bare. His desk and shelves cleared of any traces that he
was once there. By 7:30 a.m., no one was quite sure when he had left or under
It would be several hours before a press release would be issued, and it hardly
illuminated much. Just after 5 p.m., a one-page release was quietly issued in
the pressroom. All that could be culled from it was that the man who had helped
put together the brick and mortar of the Greatest Show on Turf era, then
foolishly helped tear it down brick by brick, had "mutually agreed that he
would not return" to his duties next season.
Was he fired or did he quit?
Did he retire with dignity or was he shoved out the door kicking and screaming?
What does it really matter at this point? Let's not quibble over semantics. You
can call it a "dismiss-ignation" or an indefinite sabbatical at gunpoint for
all I care. All that really matters is that Zygmunt has finally left the
building and the first critical step in the long overdue reconstruction of this
tattered and dispirited franchise is now officially under way.
If a highly skeptical St. Louis sporting public was waiting for tangible proof
that owner and managing partner Chip Rosenbloom was serious about changing the
losing culture of his organization, Zygmunt's departure is that first bit of
valid evidence. No matter what Jay-Z's revisionist spin doctors say to defend
him, Zygmunt's fingerprints are all over the inexcusable crime scene of this
franchise's rapid fall from Super Bowl champ to NFL laughingstock.
But rather than waste time debating with foolish surrogates and blithering
gasbags over past facts already in evidence in NFL circles, let's instead deal
with the future of the Rams as a legitimate organization. If you mill about the
corridors of Rams Park these days, there is a sense that the restructuring of
the organization means things are finally moving in the right direction.
At the turn of the century, the Rams looked like a potential dynasty. Everyone
got along. Everyone stayed in their lanes. Over here were business types doing
contracts, crunching numbers and analyzing salary cap implications. Over there
were the personnel gurus, brilliantly assembling a roster full of future Pro
Bowlers and Hall of Famers. And in the other corner were the coaches who
created the X's and O's that made the whole thing come to life.
But then it all came apart because folks couldn't stay in their lanes. Coaches
wanted to be personnel people. Bean counters and accountants began stacking
game film on their desks. And bit by bit, a power struggle ensued, leaving
collateral damage everywhere. And nine years later, we are left with a lousy
team that has won five games in two seasons and a roster full of mistakes.
But here Rosenbloom is, barely 11 months into the job as the reluctant chief
executive, and he's stepped in and begun to re-establish boundaries within the
organization. So maybe it feels a bit uncomfortable for him now because he's
being forced to dismiss or defrock some people he considers family friends.
However, what he's about to discover in the process is how uncomplicated the
task of getting the Rams back into a fully functioning and successful
organization will prove to be.
This isn't like splitting an atom.
You hire smart, aggressive and passionate people with a vision, then let them
do their thing. Tell the coaches to coach, the personnel people to scout and
evaluate talent, and tell the general manager to hold everyone accountable.
Then you go to the business side of the building and do the same thing. Hire a
smart, aggressive and passionate new corporate president to replace John Shaw
with a vision of the rapidly changing modern sports business landscape, and let
them do their thing.
This is not an impossible mission. This could be a stunningly quick fix,
particularly when you realize that the immediate job is not to climb over 30
other franchises to the top of the NFL heap. The short-term mission is to
simply return to the top of the weakest division in pro football, the NFC West.
After a 7-3 start, the 8-7 Arizona Cardinals have been exposed as the mediocre
.500 team that they are. And the rest of this division is only marginally
better than the Rams.
So the Rams are one good draft and a decent free-agent winter away from
shooting to the top of the division. Get a powerful fullback, a big, fat,
sloppy, mean-spirited run-stuffing nose tackle, three big offensive linemen, a
middle linebacker and strong safety with size and attitude and the Rams can
make the same one-season turnaround that Miami, Atlanta and the Jets made this
With Zygmunt out of the building, the chances of finding all those right pieces
in a hurry just increased dramatically, and there's nothing nebulous about that.
Re: ow that Jay-Z is out, success is possible
Why is everyone praising Chip so much? He is going to sell the team, not rebuild it
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