Rams add executive, revamp job titles
By Kathleen Nelson
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Wednesday, Jun. 21 2006
The new titles may sound similar, but don't be confused. The Rams have
clarified the chain of command in their personnel department with the hiring of
Tony Softli, former head of college scouting for the Carolina Panthers.
The team named Softli to the new position of vice president of player personnel
Tuesday and eliminated the position of general manager. Former GM Charley
Armey, who is under contract through 2006, will remain with the Rams as vice
president of pro personnel.
"I'm ecstatic," Softli said. "I'm leaving a great organization to come to
another with a lot of history."
The reorganization is the work of coach Scott Linehan and Jay Zygmunt, Rams
president of football operations, who hoped to clarify what appeared to be a
murky setup. The Rams have not had a head of pro scouting since 2000, when Mike
Ackerley left to work for the Tennessee Titans. Changes were discussed
occasionally last season but were a low priority while Linehan settled in as
The key to understanding the reorganization is to ignore titles and focus on
the duties. Softli will oversee the personnel department, which has two
branches, college and pro. Armey is at the top of the chart on the pro branch,
which will get extra emphasis this year, and Armey will handle the advance
scouting of the opponents' defenses. Armey's counterpart on the college side is
Lawrence McCutcheon, who retains the title of director of player personnel.
Again, disregard the honorific.
"This gives me a chance to run both the college and pro sides of a department,"
Softli said. "It gives me a chance to work with Jay. With his knowledge of the
salary cap, he has a lot to teach me."
Softli has worked for the Panthers since 1995, first as a scout in the
Southwest, where he met Armey, 66.
"He helped me out a lot as a young scout," Softli said. "He took me under his
wing, and I've admired him from afar."
He was promoted to director of college scouting in 2000 and has headed the
Panthers' draft since 2003. Among the players drafted in Softli's tenure are
Pro Bowlers Julius Peppers, Steve Smith, Dan Morgan and Kris Jenkins.
One key to Softli's success is a computer application he developed to evaluate
player performance. Though the Panthers retain the rights to the application,
Softli said he could reproduce the system with the Rams.
"It's all in my head," said Softli , who has worked as a computer analyst. "I'm
looking forward to sitting down with the Rams' IT department and putting it to
work for them."
Zygmunt referred to Softli's evaluation application as "cutting edge," but said
the Rams were most impressed with his "passion for evaluation. He understands
that the technological advances are meant to be a tool, a means to an end."
Softli, 46, has ties to Linehan through the University of Washington, where the
two worked together in 1994. Linehan was receivers coach, Softli a graduate
"We got along well then, and I think we laid the groundwork for a good working
relationship," Softli said.
Ragone joins QB mix
The quarterback position got a little more crowded Tuesday, when the Rams
traded a conditional draft pick to the Cincinnati Bengals for Dave Ragone.
Thus, the team may enter camp with five quarterbacks: Marc Bulger, Gus
Frerotte, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jeff Smoker and Ragone.
Teams often pick up extra quarterbacks in June and July as "camp arms," players
who will be cut after a few weeks of training camp. Ragone, however, may have a
decent shot at a backup spot. He was a three-time Conference USA offensive
player of the year at the University of Louisville, where Linehan was offensive
coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Drafted by the Houston Texans in 2003, Ragone started two games in his rookie
season, completing 20 of 40 passes for 135 yards with no touchdowns and one
interception. But he didn't attempt another pass in nearly three seasons. He
was released by the Texans last month and claimed by both Cincinnati and
Indianapolis on May 24.
He took few snaps with the Bengals, though, as Anthony Wright and Doug Johnson
competed for the right to start until Carson Palmer returns from knee surgery.