Rams are mixed over reunion with Scott Linehan

Old Rams coaches don't die, or even fade away. Instead, they go to Detroit to work as offensive coordinators.

The last time the Rams played Detroit, in 2006, Mike Martz was the Lions' first-year offensive coordinator. Martz was fired as Rams head coach after the '05 season.

On Sunday, the Rams renew their series with the Lions. This time, Scott Linehan will be calling plays as Detroit's first-year offensive coordinator, 13 months after being fired as Rams head coach.

"Scott's awesome," Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters. "Our philosophies meshed right away. ... Our vision here is to be a big, physical team that can run the football and stop the run. That's not an overnight transition.

"The philosophy here was totally different in the past. So it takes some changing. But Scott fits right into that. He's had offenses that have led the league in rushing. And he worked for a guy that I worked with and know very well, Nick Saban at Miami."

Linehan wasn't "awesome" in St. Louis. After a promising 8-8 inaugural season in 2006, in which the Rams won their last three games and contended for a wild-card berth on the final Sunday of the regular season, the team collapsed in '07. The Rams started 0-8 that season, then righted the ship somewhat by winning three of their next four.

Prior to Game 13 in Cincinnati that year, the Post-Dispatch ran a story in which then-team president John Shaw said Linehan probably would be back in 2008. The team didn't respond well to that news.

"If you hear about me jumping off the Arch, you'll know why," was one starter's reaction.

The Rams didn't win again under Linehan, losing their final four games of '07 to finish 3-13, and then started 0-4 in '08 before Linehan was fired at the start of the bye week.

Typically, Rams players said all the right things this week about Sunday's "reunion" with their former head coach. When asked how he got along with Linehan, Marc Bulger said "fine."

But Bulger was not a big Linehan fan, and he didn't exactly wax poetic about seeing his former head coach Sunday at Ford Field.

"The more you play in this league, the longer you play, you're going to run into guys every week," Bulger said. "Whether it's Indianapolis or Arizona, Green Bay, you always know guys if you've played for 10 years, and it's no different this week."

Bulger was benched by Linehan early in the '08 season, a move that running back Steven Jackson sharply criticized on his radio show.

On Thursday, Jackson took the diplomatic approach when asked for his thoughts on facing Linehan.

"I'm definitely going to say hi," Jackson said. "But no real thoughts on it. I'll just say that I wish him the best in his career and whatever happens after this."

Some younger players were more enthusiastic in their comments.

"I love the guy," said third-year defensive tackle Clifton Ryan. "He drafted me. He gave me a shot, so I have no problems with him. When I see him in pregame, I'm going to give him a big hug. After the game, I'm going to give him a big hug."

"I've got a lot of respect for him," said cornerback Ron Bartell. "A lot of guys in this locker room have a lot of respect for him. So it'll be good to see him. But this isn't about Coach Linehan vs. the Rams players that he coached. It's about the St. Louis Rams vs. the Detroit Lions. That's the only thing we're worried about."

Since his abrupt departure on Sept. 29, 2008, Linehan has not spoken to St. Louis reporters. Multiple phone and text messages left for Linehan since then by the Post-Dispatch have gone unanswered. This week, Linehan turned down a formal interview request made through the Lions' public relations department.

But Linehan did speak briefly to members of the Detroit media this week about the prospect of facing his old team.

"My feeling is that chapter ó and my experience there ó is closed," Linehan told the Booth Newspapers of Lansing, Mich. "My focus and all of my time and energy is on what we're doing now. This is a very important game for our football team. We're playing at home and it's been three weeks since we've had a win, and that's all I'm thinking about now."

Linehan did allow that he keeps an eye on what's going on in St. Louis.

"I pay attention to it," he said. "It's natural to pay attention to it. (But) to me, my job is to focus on what we need to do. I really don't think a whole lot about it, and I'd like to keep it that way."

The Rams' woes have hardly disappeared since Linehan's dismissal. They were 11-25 with him as head coach; they're 2-17 since he was fired.

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