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Thread: Rams have much to do on defense
Rams have much to do on defense
BY JIM THOMAS stltoday.com | Posted: Thursday, March 29, 2012 12:35 am
PALM BEACH, FLA. — With the start of the Rams' offseason program Monday, players will be back at Rams Park and the team begins the installation of its defense. Just how it will be installed remains to be seen following the indefinite suspension of coordinator Gregg Williams for his role in the "Bountygate" scandal.
After all, Jeff Fisher hasn't had much lead-up time to prepare for life without Williams for at least the 2012 season, and perhaps longer.
"Clearly we hired Gregg to be our defensive coordinator, not knowing that these events had taken place, and not anticipating the outcome either," Fisher said Wednesday at the NFC coaches' breakfast. "So replacing Gregg, we'll get that done. But it's not going to easy."
According to Fisher, when the league summoned Williams for the first of his two meetings with NFL officials in New York, even Williams was "unaware of what it was about."
Factor in also the date — March 2 — when the NFL released the findings of its investigation. League bylaws prohibit teams from seeking permission to interview a coach under contract with another team after March 1.
Maybe the timing was mere coincidence. Or maybe it was by design. Maybe the league already had an idea of possible suspensions when it released its findings and didn't want to make it easy for the Saints and Rams to hire replacements.
As a result, if Fisher wants to hire a Williams replacement this season, it has to be someone currently out of the league, severely limiting the pool of potential candidates. Of course, that hasn't stopped the Saints from contemplating Bill Parcells as a fill-in for Sean Payton during his one-year suspension.
But the Rams are additionally hamstrung because Williams' suspension may go longer than just 2012.
"With the uncertainty because he's suspended indefinitely, it's hard to go out and offer somebody a job with the potential that (Williams) may get reinstated at the end of the year, and then he may not," Fisher said.
All of which makes hiring an outside replacement for Williams "not impossible but probably unlikely," Fisher said.
As he indicated last week when the suspensions were handed down, the best option remains handling the defensive coordinator duties in-house. Fisher still is leaning toward not naming a defensive coordinator, instead having those duties shared in a collaborative effort.
"It's very likely that could happen, yes," Fisher said. "I'm excited about that opportunity. I've got some talented assistants, so we'll get it done."
He's just not sure exactly how it will get done at this point.
"We have a lot of things to discuss," Fisher said. "I haven't really finalized this because this has been a recent event. We anticipated something (in terms of Williams' punishment), but obviously we didn't anticipate the entire year or an indefinite suspension."
No discussion took place this week. With Fisher in Palm Beach for the NFL owners meetings, his coaching staff was given the week off, something planned long before the suspension.
"So we'll get back at the start of the next week and we'll sort it out," Fisher said. "I've got assistants in all the positions who are talented that can help out. And Coach (Dave) McGinnis is not necessarily coaching a position, so he'll have plenty of time to help out."
Fisher isn't a rash decision-maker, as shown by his patience in putting together his Rams coaching staff. A similar approach will be taken in adjusting to the loss of Williams.
"I guess like anything else, I'm not going to rush into a decision as far as how it's going to go down," Fisher said. "The coaches have a good feel of the defense already. They've been meeting. So they'll begin the installation process next week."
In varying degrees, Fisher has an assistant coach familiar with the scheme at every level of the defense:
— Assistant defensive line coach Clyde Simmons played under Fisher (as defensive coordinator) for three seasons (1988-1990) in Philadelphia.
— Linebackers coach Blake Williams is the son of Gregg Williams, and although relatively inexperienced in coaching, has a very good understanding of the defense from an academic, X's and O's standpoint.
— Secondary coach Chuck Cecil was Fisher's last defensive coordinator in Tennessee (2009-2010). Assistant secondary coach Brandon Fisher, the son of Jeff Fisher, comes to St. Louis from Detroit, where he was on the staff of Jim Schwartz, another former Titans defensive coordinator under Fisher. So young Fisher has been indoctrinated in the scheme.
And of course there's assistant head coach McGinnis, who was a defensive coordinator for five seasons (1996-2000) with the Arizona Cardinals. Because of his credentials and stature, McGinnis seems the most likely candidate to run the defensive meetings and oversee the defense during practice.
Because of all this scheme familiarity, there could be many hands in the soup when it's time for game-planning. Don't discount the possibility of Blake Williams having a role here because of his knowledge of the defense. "He's the best young coach I've ever had in 32 years (of coaching)," proud papa Gregg Williams said in late January.
Despite his defensive background, Fisher said he split his meeting time between the offensive staff and defensive staff during his long tenure as a head coach for the Houston-Tennessee franchise. But that's about to change.
"Clearly, I'll be spending more time on the defensive side of the ball," he said.
Those who know Fisher well say he never hesitated to get more involved with the offense when he felt it was straying from what he wanted. He may not have as many opportunities to do so this sseason.
"We'll adjust. I mean the entire defensive side will have to adjust," Fisher said. "That's just one of those things that happens and we'll turn it into a positive. ... Some guys may have more input than they would have had Gregg been installing the defense."
Even so, you can't call defensive plays by committee. Although Fisher was involved in play-calling at Tennessee and Houston, he likes being relatively unencumbered on game day to stay on top of game management, use of timeouts, trouble-shooting on offense, etc.
If he ends up calling defensive plays this season, Fisher said, "I would not have any difficulty with it. I called plays as a defensive coordinator for a number of years. As you turn your defense over from Steve Sidwell to Gregg Williams to Jim Schwartz to Chuck Cecil, you're always going to stay involved in it."
Those were his defensive coordinators as a head coach, starting with Sidwell in 1995 and '96 with the Houston Oilers.
This season, he can't help but be more involved. Maybe more involved than he'd like under ideal circumstances.
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Re: Rams have much to do on defense
The Rams have much work to do on BOTH sides of the football. And I certainly have my concerns about a lot of things, but the Rams defensive scheme is not one of them. Dave McGinniss is more than qualified to implement a system that will make the Rams stout defensively. I am much more concerned with their personnel and whether or not they will have the depth to make them competitive week in and week out. last year, the Rams hung in for the better part of two and a half quarters before they wore out- the byproduct of being on the field for what seemed like an eternity every game.
All of this is child's play compared to their issues on offense, which are considerable. No receivers, an aging feature back and a QB coming off a nightmarish second season are all reason for concern- not to mention the uncertainty of some spots on the offensive line.
Re: Rams have much to do on defense
I'd prefer we concentrate on putting the finishing touches on what could be a dominating defense, first and foremost. Particularly since we are much closer to fulfilling that need, than we are a dominating offense anyway.
Besides, I think we'll be a pretty vanilla offense anyway.
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