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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    Rams' main issue is draft, not Linehan

    By Bernie Miklasz
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    Sunday, Nov. 18 2007

    The Rams have won five of their last 20 regular-season games. Since the end of
    their last winning season, 2003, they've gone 23-34. They fired head coach Mike
    Martz after the 2005 season, but his replacement, Scott Linehan, is no lock to
    make it to 2008.

    Fans are restless and frustrated. Attendance is down for home games at the
    increasingly drab Edward Jones Dome. Apathy has set in.

    With the 1-8 Rams trying to find secure footing heading into Sunday's game at
    the damp old stadium by the San Francisco Bay, it was time to check in with
    Rams president John Shaw, who runs the team for owner Georgia Frontiere.

    Shaw is appalled by the team's downturn of fortunes.

    "It's very upsetting," Shaw said. "I don't like losing, and it's unacceptable
    to me. I understand what's wrong. I understand what we need to improve. But
    right now I'm not 100 percent sure what to do."

    Here is what Shaw is determined to change: the way the Rams draft players. He
    believes it's the organization's most glaring flaw, and he's right. He's just
    undecided as to how to correct it.

    We'll return to the draft issue a little later.

    It's encouraging to see Shaw fired up. In the past, that's when he's been at
    his best. When Shaw has his fastball, it can make a difference.

    Remember, if you will, the famous Jan. 5, 1999, meeting Shaw had with Dick
    Vermeil, who was 9-23 after his first two seasons as head coach. Shaw demanded
    changes, and Vermeil responded (in part) by agreeing to interview Martz for the
    offensive coordinator's position. Vermeil hired Martz and Shaw personally made
    the trade to acquire running back Marshall Faulk from Indianapolis, and St.
    Louis turned into an NFL boomtown.

    Shaw's willingness to push Vermeil and take a proactive approach transformed
    the franchise into a glamorous, entertaining Super Bowl champion. But with the
    Rams sinking deeper into decline, it's up to Shaw to lead the Rams out of the
    bog.

    And Shaw insists that he is fully prepared to do so.

    I asked Shaw if Linehan was safe to return in 2008.

    "He's definitely had a lot of obstacles to deal with because of the terrible
    number of injuries," Shaw said. "We're behind him. And we expect that he'll
    keep the team competitive the rest of the season. And then we'll reevaluate
    everything at the end of the year."

    There is no doubt in my mind that Shaw wants to keep Linehan but just wants
    to make sure over the final seven games.

    It's possible that Shaw will nudge Linehan into making some changes on the
    coaching staff. All Shaw would say about that, however, is that everything will
    be analyzed after the season.

    But here is the most substantial change being considered by Shaw: removing the
    head coach's authority over the draft.

    Up to now, the organization's top college personnel expert has stacked the
    draft board. The personnel chief was Charley Armey, and when Armey retired,
    Tony Softli moved into the role.

    But the head coach makes the picks. Shaw insists that no Rams executive has
    ever vetoed a coach's draft decision.

    "We had Charley Armey stacking the board, and Martz making the picks," Shaw
    said. "Now it's Tony Softli stacking the board and Linehan making the picks.

    "We're either putting our draft board together the wrong way, or we're asking
    the coach to do too much. That's what worries me: as an organization, are we
    putting too much on the coach? The bottom line is, we're not drafting good
    players, and that must change.

    "This is a draft league. This is how you build your team. Free agency brings
    only marginal improvement, and usually you end up overpaying for the free
    agents that provide that marginal improvement. The only way to be dominant in
    this league is to draft dominance."

    Shaw is particularly perturbed by draft selections used to stock the defense.
    "We haven't found playmakers," he said.

    The Rams' overall draft record is abysmal. They have drafted only four Pro Bowl
    players since moving to St. Louis in 1995: offensive tackle Orlando Pace, wide
    receiver Torry Holt, running back Steven Jackson, and cornerback Dre Bly (who
    earned Pro Bowl honors after signing with Detroit).

    From 2000-2006 (seven drafts), the Rams chose 63 players. Only one, Jackson,
    has made a Pro Bowl. Only eight opened this season as Rams starters.

    Even worse: the four drafts between 2000-2003 brought in 35 players, and only
    two are still on the team: starting linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa, and long
    snapper Chris Massey.

    For those who want to see Shaw demote general manager Jay Zygmunt, it probably
    won't happen. Why? Shaw insists Zygmunt isn't choosing the players in the
    draft, or in free agency, so there is no reason to reduce his role.

    Shaw said the coaching staff is largely responsible for filling personnel needs
    with Zygmunt negotiating contracts and facilitating the process from a
    salary-cap standpoint.

    "We probably did Jay a disservice by giving him the GM title, because now
    there's an assumption that he's in charge of personnel," Shaw said. "And he
    isn't. Jay's job is the same as it's always been."

    So what's the solution?

    If the coach is stripped of draft-day power, then who takes ownership of future
    Rams drafts?

    Softli, the VP of Player Personnel, may be considered. Or Shaw said he may hire
    a genuine GM from the outside to take over the football operation. Shaw isn't
    certain what he will do.

    But one way or another, it appears that a dramatic change is inevitable.


  2. #2
    AvengerRam's Avatar
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    Re: Rams' main issue is draft, not Linehan

    I'm not going to argue that the Rams' drafts have been great, but (as usual) Bernie is manipulating the fact to get his desired result. If you are going to look at player/personnel success or failure, you have to look at the whole picture. Yes, the Rams have only chosen one Pro Bowl player (Jackson) since 2000, but they also used a draft choice to obtain Marc Bulger, who has made two Pro Bowls. Also, during this time period, the Rams have had quite a few Pro Bowl players (Faulk, Bruce, Holt, Pace, Timmerman, Warner, Wilkins, Little) who were acquired before 2000. Maybe one team can only have so many Pro Bowl players.... ever thought of that Bernie?

    The funny thing is, for all my criticism of Linehan's game day performances, I think the drafts under his tenure have been okay. Sure, he's had some BIG misses (Klop, Byrd, Alston) but he's also drafted some quality players who I believe will make an impact in the years to come (Hill, Carriker, Ryan, Leonard, Wade, Setterstrom).

    In the end, Bernie does not want to bury Linehan yet. He's worried that, if he does, and Linehan returns, he'll have no ability to connect with the coach.

  3. #3
    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: Rams' main issue is draft, not Linehan

    Quote Originally Posted by AvengerRam View Post
    but they also used a draft choice to obtain Marc Bulger, who has made two Pro Bowls.
    May be a small point, but I'm fairly sure Bulger was signed as a free agent in January 2001 after having been cut from the Falcons practice squad in December 2000. I don't believe the transaction involved a draft choice.

    Otherwise, I think you make some good points.
    ClanRam ModCast: Episode Four
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  4. #4
    keith m. klink Guest

    Re: Rams' main issue is draft, not Linehan

    we'll see what shaw does first , before i beleive anything from the front office .

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    Re: Rams' main issue is draft, not Linehan

    Nick's right. Bulger was signed as a FA. Nonetheless, if you're going to evaluate a team's player/personnel success (keeping the signing of established FAs out of the picture) you have to factor finds like Bulger, Warner, Fletcher and Romberg.

  6. #6
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    Re: Rams' main issue is draft, not Linehan

    I don't think poor drafting is particularly to blame for this season, but it certainly wouldn't be a bad thing to try to improve on.

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    Re: Rams' main issue is draft, not Linehan

    The best(hopefully) piece on news I saw in that was that he may get a "real" GM for the team. Who'd have thunk a quality GM would be a good idea?

    Oh, wait....

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    Re: Rams' main issue is draft, not Linehan

    Quote Originally Posted by TekeRam View Post
    The best(hopefully) piece on news I saw in that was that he may get a "real" GM for the team. Who'd have thunk a quality GM would be a good idea?

    Oh, wait....
    Ding, ding, ding. We have a winner! Why this front office thinks they can skimp by without a real GM is beyond me.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    Re: Rams' main issue is draft, not Linehan

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick View Post
    May be a small point, but I'm fairly sure Bulger was signed as a free agent in January 2001 after having been cut from the Falcons practice squad in December 2000. I don't believe the transaction involved a draft choice.

    Otherwise, I think you make some good points.

    I think he was cut by the Saints, not the Falcons..

  10. #10
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    Re: Rams' main issue is draft, not Linehan

    Quote Originally Posted by GreatestShow99 View Post
    I think he was cut by the Saints, not the Falcons..

    Bulger was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the sixth round (168th overall) of the 2000 NFL draft. Bulger attended the Saints' training camp in 2000, and spent a couple weeks on the Atlanta Falcons and St. Louis Rams practice squads. He was signed by the St. Louis Rams on January 12, 2001.

  11. #11
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    Re: Rams' main issue is draft, not Linehan

    Bernie's moving the goalposts a little here I think. In view of his recent, fairly fierce, condemnation of Linehan, to now suggest that our problems are more deep-seated is a change.

    But its a welcome change .

    Our draft record under Martz was fairly abysmal and that comes from a Martz-friendly poster. Too many gambles, too many 'trinkets' and just not enough substance. I don't know how many times I've tuned into the first day of the draft and said 'Who?' (Trung Canidate) or 'Why?' ( Byrd after Klopfenstein).

    I'm no Nick by any means, but it seems to me that the Rams have given their fans too many reasons to question their drafts. Seems Shaw agrees.

    The record under Linehan isn't clear as yet, give us another season and we'll have a clearer picture. It looks like we have some decent picks to play with after his first two efforts but we need to have a look at next year and see how Carriker, Ryan etc push on.

    One of the main issues with the FO in my opinion, and it was made clear during that whole 'Martz in the booth' incident, is the way in which power politics seem to govern internal relationships over what is good for the team. I can't argue that Zygmunt has any say over personnel decisions or the draft as Shaw tell us he hasn't, and in the absence of Zygmunts job description, we have to agree. It seems strange though that a man in control of the purse strings has absolutely no say at all. This, in addition to the fact that our draft issues pre-dated Martz, leads me to believe that there's something a little off in the overall organisation of the FO and that it needs to change.

    A bona-fide 'GM' would be perfect, but I think what you'll see instead is more shuffling of roles rather than shuffling of people.

    We've said it before and we'll have to say it again I fear; unless there is a change of ownership, or at least a decision on behalf of ownership to change the FO, any coach we sign is going to be successful despite of the FO not because of them.

  12. #12
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    Re: Rams' main issue is draft, not Linehan

    .
    The Rams have had a lot of opportunities in the Draft - and blew a disproportionate amount.

    I'm not sure Tye Hill lives up to his spot and how many others have we whiffed on..

    I'd like to see some serious quality picks (not 4th rounders and later only) used on Offensive Lineman. That area pays you back.

    Look at Minnesota today - 161 yards or something crazy for their 2nd string back? I think that the O-line talking - and no one mentioned them when peeps went crazy over Adrian Peterson. Draft for the O-line and let other teams wait until the 4th round to pick these guys - and we'll move right ahead of them as far as the W-L standings.

  13. #13
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    Re: Rams' main issue is draft, not Linehan

    We haven't paid enough attention to the offensive line. I think you need to draft talent there nearly every year, always looking to improve. Without a decent offensive line, you can't get much done on offense at all. That said, I was surprised we didn't even think about a guy like Eric Steinbach last year. Sure he's costly, but signing Timmerman was one of the most important moves the FO made before the SB years.

  14. #14
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    Re: Rams' main issue is draft, not Linehan

    Quote Originally Posted by keith m. klink View Post
    we'll see what shaw does first , before i beleive anything from the front office .
    I agree, talk is cheap,I will also use the wait and see process,after reading that article it sounds like he is not sure what he is going to do,I am for the changes in the draft room.

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    Re: Rams' main issue is draft, not Linehan

    Quote Originally Posted by chiguy View Post
    We haven't paid enough attention to the offensive line. I think you need to draft talent there nearly every year, always looking to improve. Without a decent offensive line, you can't get much done on offense at all. That said, I was surprised we didn't even think about a guy like Eric Steinbach last year. Sure he's costly, but signing Timmerman was one of the most important moves the FO made before the SB years.
    It's not as if we haven't tried to address the offensive line. We took Dustin Fry in the 5th this year and Ken Shackleford in the 6th. The year before we picked up Mark Setterstrom (who became a starter for us) and Tony Palmer (who has played in 8 games for Green Bay in the last 2 years). We used a first round pick on Alex Barron the year before that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Soprano
    Look at Minnesota today - 161 yards or something crazy for their 2nd string back? I think that the O-line talking - and no one mentioned them when peeps went crazy over Adrian Peterson. Draft for the O-line and let other teams wait until the 4th round to pick these guys - and we'll move right ahead of them as far as the W-L standings
    I'd say the strength of their offensive line has been Matt Birk whom they did draft in 1998 and Steve Hutchinson whom they signed as a free agent. The rest of their starters are nothing to write home about, especially since they still allow almost as many sacks as our line does.

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