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Shaw Should Act Decisively, Quickly
Shaw should act decisively, quickly
By Bryan Burwell
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Sports Columnist Bryan Burwell
Just beyond midnight tonight, this season of great discontent will finally come to an end for the Rams. The convoy of moving vans will creep into the catacombs of near-empty Texas Stadium, rolling past all the crushed beer cups, half-eaten hot dog buns and other windswept debris in the aftermath of the Rams-Cowboys season finale. Just outside the visitors' locker room, faceless equipment men and dutiful movers will scurry about, packing the remnants of a failed season into empty trunks and trailers. Out in the stands, grim-faced cleanup crews will march through the trash-filled aisles entranced by the grinding whine and acrid scent of gas blowers sweeping away the last bits of post-game rubbish.
These are the metaphoric and painful realities of every season beyond the brink. Sweep out the old and make way for the new.
Anyone who has ever played a game knows the raw numbness and uncomfortable uncertainty of a season that ends far too soon. Unless there is a championship trophy being hoisted in the air, it is always a bitter end. And for bottom-of-the-barrel teams like the 5-10 Rams, the bitterness is only heightened by the insecurity of so much potential offseason upheaval.
"You never want to know when the season is going to end, unless you're in the Super Bowl," said Rams interim head coach Joe Vitt, who knows in less than 24 hours he will be seeking employment elsewhere. "You go through a period of depression for a while. You miss the guys. You miss the practices. You miss the meetings. We're in this game because we love it. So this is our Super Bowl, and this is our playoff game coming up. It's the last game of the year. We want to play and do as good as we can and take it from there."
The end is near for so many folks inside and out of the Rams locker room tonight. Free-agent players and lame-duck coaches; nervous front-office types unsure how widespread the house cleaning will go; and an anxious head coach who has to wonder whether his contract settlement and predicted release into the job market will be short and sweet or deliberate and contentious.
The only one who has all the answers to this is John Shaw, the team president, who will be the point man on all this anticipated change. What he will do and how quickly he will do it are the biggest questions of this brand-new year.
The message for the new year and the "new" Rams, at least to me, is crystal clear: As uncomfortable as it might be for Shaw, he must step out of the shadows and move directly into the bright light of accountability and handle his business with fearless assertiveness.
For the good of the organization, let's hope Shaw will act quickly. There are already rumblings in the organization that he will return to St. Louis on Monday or Tuesday to officially orchestrate a swift parting of the ways with his head-coach-in-exile, Mike Martz, which would be the first step in the right direction for the Rams.
For all of the madness that swirled around his often brilliant yet constantly turbulent reign, I will miss the controversial genius Martz created and the success he helped nurture in this organization. But at this point, it's not only inevitable, it's also the best thing for both Martz and the organization that this is a quick and clean separation.
Change is inescapable in sports. The life cycle of players is like a revolving door, where just as a young man leaps into the spinning door, an aging veteran is being spun out on the other side of the door. Coaches, even the best of them, have finite shelf lives, too. The pep talks stop working, or the players get injured or old, or the delicate relationship between them and the folks who hired them wears as thin as cheap thread.
So what sort of change is in store for the Rams?
Whatever it is, I hope Shaw won't try to fool us with front-office shuffles and organizational shakeups that do nothing to fortify a failed foundation. I hope he won't try to substitute real change with bogus cosmetic tweaking and the disingenuous sham that merely extracting Martz from the equation will fix all that ails this dysfunctional organization, because this entire season has shot all sorts of holes in that flimsy theory.
If Martz was the only thing wrong with the Rams, why did this team flounder rather than flourish in his extended absence?
The troubles run so much deeper than the quirky head coach. The troubles are in structure, politics and power, not wasted timeouts and questionable play calling. No matter what Martz ultimately did to contribute to the decline of the Rams, on balance he was also responsible for a lion's share of this franchise's most recent championship success.
So as we await the anticipated upheaval, I prefer to ignore the revisionists and instead follow a simple theory regarding the decline and fall of the Rams empire:
I don't blame Martz. I blame the folks who hired him.
SJax, a developing quarterbacks best friend...
Re: Shaw Should Act Decisively, Quickly
They better move quickly. They've had forever and a day to weigh their options and the Front office better be poised to pull the trigger tomorrow or we're going to be left to pick through the trash.
Re: Shaw Should Act Decisively, Quickly
As I've said before, one of the things I'm scared of is Shaw acting at all on this. The headline should have read "Decisively, quickly and contructively".
It's possible that even he may get it right this time though.