Shaw did his homework on Linehan
By Bernie Miklasz
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Unless you're a football junkie, you've probably never heard of Scott Linehan. You don't know how to pronounce his last name (it's LINN-a-han), let alone determine whether the Rams have scored a touchdown in choosing Linehan as their new head coach.
You may have taken the time (and if so, I thank you) to read my favorable review of the Linehan hiring in Thursday's Post-Dispatch. He's a coach of immense promise. Still, you are nervous. That's understandable.
After all, Linehan is a coordinator. He has not been a head coach. He's young. He has been an NFL assistant for only four seasons. You may be wondering: If Linehan is so special, where was the crowd outside his door? How come NFL teams weren't taking numbers to wait in line for the opportunity to recruit Linehan as a head coach? With 10 head-coaching jobs open, why was Linehan interviewed by only two teams, Houston and St. Louis?
What do the Rams have here?
Well, Linehan, 42, looks good on paper. He has an impressive resume as an offensive coordinator. With Linehan in command of two NFL offenses, the unit has performed at a high level (Minnesota) or displayed noticeable improvement (Miami).
Besides, Linehan's anonymity is relative. In November, anticipating a Rams head coaching change, I called some old contacts in NFL team front offices. The question: Who are the best, emerging coordinators? Which young coaches are ready take the next step and graduate to head coach? The names cited by virtually every executive I chatted with were Scott Linehan and Ron Rivera. (Gary Kubiak and Cam Cameron also were singled out.) In a column that appeared on Thanksgiving, I had Linehan on a list of potential Rams coaching candidates.
In all candor, I didn't think the Rams were that keen on Linehan. Team president John Shaw mentioned Linehan in our casual background conversations, but I didn't detect much enthusiasm. When Shaw disclosed that he planned to interview Linehan, I was surprised. I underestimated the Rams' interest.
But in his interview with Shaw and director of football operations Jay Zygmunt, Linehan scored more points than Kobe Bryant. Linehan dazzled them with his blueprint for the Rams. He was smart, prepared, detailed, energetic. Linehan was thorough in his presentation, Shaw mentally moved him to the top of the list, and Linehan was there to stay. Though Shaw interviewed seven other candidates (one on the phone), none could dislodge Linehan.
Does this mean Linehan will be a terrific head coach? Of course not. But Shaw did due diligence before conducting this coaching search. He spent weeks making calls around the NFL, soliciting opinions from some prominent league figures. And Shaw did plenty of background research on Linehan; this wasn't an accidental hire. The interview may have clinched it, but Shaw's meticulous planning led to that interview.
Shaw followed his instincts on Linehan, and that gut feeling was backed up by homework. So Shaw went with what he knew, rather than worry about how other teams viewed Linehan. That's the way to go.
Just because Linehan wasn't pursued by a bunch of teams, it's no reason to eliminate him as a serious head-coaching candidate. If other teams are looking elsewhere for coaches, why should Shaw turn against his own research and instincts on Linehan? That would be gutless.
Shaw went with his head and went with Linehan. Now, it's up to Shaw to do everything he can to give Linehan a chance to succeed. Surround him with the finest assistant coaches money can buy. Get him better players by developing a more astute personnel department.
Even if Shaw goes all out for Linehan, he's no sure thing. Many coordinators have flopped in their head-coaching trials, especially those with offensive backgrounds, including Joe Bugel (24-56), Bruce Coslet (47-77), Rod Dowhower (5-24), Kevin Gilbride (6-16), Dan Henning (38-73), June Jones (22-36), Marty Mornhinweg (5-27), Mike Mularkey (14-18), Chris Palmer (5-27), David Shula (19-52), Kay Stephenson (10-26) and Norv Turner (58-82-1).
But other unproven and largely unknown assistants have thrived in recent years when given a shot. Jon Gruden, Andy Reid, Bill Cowher and John Fox were not in great demand before making the leap to head-coaching jobs. In Thursday's column, I ran the names of some famous NFL coaches who got their first head-coaching assignment before reaching age 40. The list includes John Madden, Don Shula, Chuck Noll, Bill Belichick, Tom Landry, Hank Stram and Mike Shanahan.
I'm not saying Linehan will become the next Don Shula.
But just because you don't know him, don't assume Linehan will become the next David Shula, either.
Re: Shaw did his homework on Linehan
Linehan is excellent. Just keep him on the sidelines... We won six straight when he came down from the booth...