Rams Express Regret, Hope about Change
Monday, September 29, 2008
By Nick Wagoner
It took all of about five minutes for Jim Haslett to make his first official move as the Rams head coach.
Not long after now deposed coach Scott Linehan addressed the players for the final time, Haslett let his charges know that they had the rest of the day off.
“He talked to us briefly, basically said we have the day off,” defensive end Chris Long said. “I guess it’s the first good move he could make.”
On a somber day at the Russell Training Center, Rams players said goodbye to the coach who had led them through training camp, the preseason and the first quarter of the 2008 season.
Anytime a coach loses his job because of the team’s performance as is the case with Linehan, the players automatically must take on a certain amount of the blame.
Almost to a man, the small survey of players willing to speak Monday morning expressed that sentiment.
“I think everybody in that room feels like we all had as much to do with it as him,” safety Todd Johnson said. “We all feel like we let him down. We feel bad.”
Of course, not all of the Rams even knew what was going on. Special teams ace Gary Stills found out about the change when asked about the move by reporters Monday morning.
Linehan made a brief final appearance at the facility Monday morning after asking management for the opportunity to address the team one last time. Management relented and Linehan stood before the team around 11 a.m.
In about a 10 minute discussion, he gave an impassioned speech that the players and Haslett praised as uplifting on a day when it would have been so easy to be angry.
“He just told us that we’re winners, we’re not winning right now but there’s good people in the room and there’s winners in the room and basically if we need anything, and this is of course the Cliff’s Notes version, we can always call him if we need something,” Long said. “I appreciate that. He’s going to do well. He’s going to find a place where things are going right and he’s going to do well.”
After getting off to a 0-4 start for the second consecutive year under Linehan’s guidance, the need for a change had become clear.
In the past week, Linehan had made some personnel choices that some of the players found confusing such as the benching of quarterback Marc Bulger and the release of cornerback Fakhir Brown.
Those moves seemed to pay dividends early in Sunday’s game as the Rams put together their best and most complete half of the season. The momentum gained from that first half didn’t carry over though as the Bills scored 25 unanswered points on their way to a 31-14 win.
Despite Linehan’s inability to get victories, Long said there were many people in that room who owe him a debt of gratitude, himself included.
“He’s the one who brought us here,” Long said. “I especially owe him a big thank you. A lot of people I’m sure didn’t want me here and he’s the one who pushed to get me here so I appreciate that.”
While there was some sadness about Linehan’s departure among players, there also was some excitement expressed about the new start that Haslett provides.
The Rams enter the bye week with a week to find some more solutions and begin the transition to Haslett.
Haslett will join Billy Devaney in handling personnel decisions. It probably won’t take long for Haslett to begin making some changes.
Bulger will likely be restored to the starting position. Brown could well be re-signed. There are other moves within the roster that could also be made including a possible change at safety involving Todd Johnson.
In the meantime, it will fall on Haslett to energize players in need of a spark.
“I don’t expect too much change as far as what he brings to the table,” cornerback Tye Hill said. “Maybe now that he has more control, it will spread around the whole team. Haslett is a fiery guy, everybody knows him and who he is and he’s not scared to do certain things. That’s a good thing and I look forward to seeing what we can do the rest of this year.”
Haslett is indeed known for his reputation as a fiery, emotional leader capable of lighting a fire under his players.
But not all of the players were even concerned much with the change. Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa, who was the only player to attend Haslett’s introductory news conference, says he’s been around long enough now to know that it’s part of the business.
“This is my second time dealing with that,” Tinoisamoa said. “It doesn’t matter who I play for. I’m not playing for a coach. (He’s) not necessarily out there playing so although he’s coaching, it’s us. It really is. So that’s why it doesn’t matter who is out there. They coach me but I play for myself, my family, my heritage, my culture, my city I’m from, St. Louis, for everyone who couldn’t play this game, for my brother who are not playing this game. I play for a lot of different reasons, my own reasons and that’s what powers me through.”
If nothing else, though, Haslett’s experience coaching in adverse times – he coached the Saints through the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 – and now it’s up to him to pull the Rams out of their current funk.
“He is the guy right now and I couldn’t think of a better guy to step in,” Long said. “Haz brings energy, a realistic attitude, a guy who is going to shoot you straight and a guy we can win with and guys have played for. I’m excited for coach Haslett.”
Re: Rams Express Regret, Hope about Change
As much as I hated Linehan as a coach, he still is a person and the immense heat and hate he received from not only the locker room but the players must have been awful. I feel bad for the guy, I really do but he already lost the team and I think he probably knows that. There was no choice but to get rid of the guy and he seems like a good guy and I'm sure this experience will help him down the road with his future jobs as either an offensive coordinator or a head coach once again. Good luck to you Scott, I wish the best of luck to you unless of course you're the offensive coordinator for either Seattle, San Francisco or Arizona :D