Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Apologies for the absence. We have had some technical issues as well as the passing of Jack Snow. Thanks to all of you for your patience and your outstanding e-mails concerning Mr. Snow. On to the Mailbag...

Jason Taylor, O'Fallon, Mo.: Do you know how much it will affect the cap according to the coaches we are looking at (Linehan, Cameron, Rivera)? And also do you think the rams will have enough money to sign a first round linebacker, sign nate clements and keep archuleta. We also need a tight end bad. That has to be right up there behind defense on the priority list.

NW: Obviously, hiring a coach has to be the first priority. Once you get your head coach, you move on to assistant coaches and then, perhaps, some shuffling with the way personnel as a whole is done. It's way too early to tell what kind of personnel or names will be targeted this offseason because nobody knows who the coach is yet. Once that is determined, it's easier to get a handle on what might happen. The one thing we can expect is a large jump in the salary cap this offseason. Many believe that jump might be as much as $10 million. The Rams have some business to take care of in regards to the salary cap as far as potential restructuring of deals as well as potential retirements, etc (we'll get into that more in a minute). No matter the coach, the Rams will have the same amount of money to spend. Obviously, if you bring in a defensive minded guy like Rivera he will probably want to naturally spend more money on defense. An offensive guy should feel the same considering the performance of the defense versus the offense in recent years.

The problem with trying to sign a big name guy like Clements is you have to be absolutely sure he can play at a high level every week if you are going to spend that kind of money. In addition, with the jump in the cap expected to be so high, it applies to every team in the league. In other words, every team will have more money to use to sign free agents or re-sign their owns guys. It all depends on what these various teams want to do in the philosophy of the franchise. After that long-winded response, the simple answer to your second question about affording a first-round pick, Clements and Archuleta is yes. I believe the Rams will have enough room to sign their picks, add a big name on defense and bring back some key components.

I don't disagree about the need for a tight end. In fact, there are some names in this draft I absolutely love at the position, but unless said tight end is the clear cut best player on the board at No. 11, I would be surprised if the Rams chose one that early. Because of the depth at the position, I would think defense would have to be first priority with tight end taking a backseat until later in the draft.

Michael Stanley, Salisbury, Mary.: Does it concern you that Scott Linehan,the frontrunner for head coach has no 'head' coaching experience?

NW: Michael, I think that is certainly a fair question at this juncture, but let's take a different look at it. Would you rather have a coordinator with plenty of experience and success in the NFL take over or a guy who was a head coach and was 20 games under .500? Just because somebody has been a head coach in the league or in college, doesn't make them any more qualified to be a head coach than a coordinator. Mike Martz was never a head coach before taking over the Rams and he turned out pretty good. Many coaches that have taken over jobs were never head coaches before and end up doing a good job. In Linehan's case, he seems to have a great lineage of people he has learned from and has proved successful at every level. He has a vision for the entire franchise, not just the offense and that is a head coach's main responsibility.

The NFL is a league of trends. Every year, there is something new. This year, coaches with experience are taking a back seat to a new breed of young coordinators. That's why Martz and Mike Sherman have barely received a sniff for another job. That doesn't mean the young guys will be able to accomplish what Martz and Sherman did, it just means that many teams in the league believe that a young, fresh approach can change the long-term fortune of the organization. WIthout question some of these coaches hired will fail in these jobs and without question some will succeed. It's the nature of the beast. But, based on what I know about Linehan and what I have been told by people who know him better than I, he is one that is more likely to succeed than fail.

Jake Cohn, Wall Township, Ala.: Why are we looking to hire Linehan? We shouldn't be going for an offensive coordinator, why can't we wait for Ron Rivera?

NW: The Rams are waiting for Rivera. In fact, he is scheduled to be interviewing with the Rams as I type this. Linehan might be the leader in the clubhouse, but there's a reason there are three finalists. It could be any of them at this point. More on Rivera in the next question.

Mike Bauccio, San Clemente, Calif.: They have to get Ron Rivera! They need a tough coach to come in and rebuild this defense. Our offense is going to be fine for the next couple of years, our defense and special team has to catch up. What do you think? Is this going to be a couple year rebuilding process or do you think they can be good again next year?

NW: Here's the thing about this whole coaching search and defensive coaches versus offensive coaches. This job is for the head coaching position. I admit that when this started, I was interested in a guy with a defensive background, but the more you think about it, the more it makes sense to simply find the best guy for the job. There isn't a coach in the NFL that doesn't or has never aspired to becoming a head coach. I guarantee that when those coaches think about becoming head coaches, they don't solely think about what they will do with the offense or the defense. They think big picture. In Linehan's case, he has already got a defensive staff in mind even though he's an "offensive coach." Rivera has probably got some things in mind for the offense and Cameron does for the defense, also. No matter whom the Rams name head coach, that person will be asked to bring in the best possible offensive coordinator, the best possible defensive coordinator and the best position coaches he can find. You are absolutely right that the head coach needs to be tough and be a leader, but that doesn't mean that coach has to be all about one side of the ball.

As for Rivera's candidacy, he certainly fits the bill as a tough, fiery type of leader that could inject some electricity in this defense. That's why he is a finalist. He is certainly still in the picture for this job and could just as easily land the job as Linehan could. As far as the rebuilding process is concerned, it will take some time. But no, I don't think the Rams are that far away from getting back to the playoffs. There isn't a franchise in the league that knows better how quickly things can turn from bad to good than the Rams (see 1999). With some shrewd offseason moves and a jolt from a new coaching staff, the Rams could easily make it back to the postseason in 2006.

Nathaniel Sadoian, New Britain, Conn.: I just heard that defensive coordinator Jim Bates left the Green Bay Packers. Judging from what I have heard about him, he would seem to be an excellent choice for head coach. Would the Rams ever consider him for the job?

NW: Obviously, this question is somewhat past date since the Rams have narrowed the search to Linehan, Rivera or Cameron. But I wanted to address it because of Bates' situation. He has indeed left the Packers and is a wanted man. Most teams don't want Bates as a head coach and his candidacy seems to be focused on getting another defensive coordinator job. He did an excellent job with an average group in Green Bay and would seem to be an excellent fit in St. Louis as a potential defensive coordinator here.

It has to be mentioned that a big reason for two of the final three being offensive candidates is the plethora of good defensive minds that could take over as coordinator. Along with Bates, there are plenty of other qualified guys available such as Dom Capers, Rod Marinelli and Dick Jauron.

Shawn Dimick, Mt. Vernon, Ind.: How likely is it Marshall Faulk will come back? And do you think he'll get more touches next year. He looked really good this year.

NW: At this point, only Marshall knows what he is going to do. But with Martz's departure and his diminished role, it wouldn't be a surprise if he retired. He did indeed hold up this year and played pretty well in his limited opportunities. If he comes back, I wouldn't expect a huge change in his role, but that could depend on who the head coach is. Along with that, it makes sense for him to wait and see who the new coach is and then sit down and have a conversation with said coach about what he envisions for the future. Marshall's a professional and is extremely intelligent. There's no doubt he will do what he feels is best for his future as well as the organization's.

Aldo Cantu, Palatine, Ill.: Do you think that the Rams can trade down to get A.J. Hawk in this coming draft?

NW: I would assume that you mean trade up to get Hawk. I am extremely skeptical of Hawk still being on the board when the Rams draft at No. 11. I believe that Hawk and North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams are the best defensive players available and it would stand to reason that both will be gone when the Rams select. However, there are plenty of offensive needs for the teams in front of the Rams in the draft, which could drop some of the defensive talent down. If Williams or Hawk are there at, say, No. 8 or 9, it might be worth a few phone calls to slide up to grab one of them. I have been a big advocate of trying to get Hawk, mainly because I believe he is a game-changing type of leader at linebacker with the potential upside of a Derrick Brooks or Brian Urlacher. Either way, though, I maintain that defense is the way to go unless the best player by far on the board is an offensive player. Sometimes, taking the best player available is the best way to go, especially in the sacred ground of the early first round.

John Howard, Bullhead City, Ariz.: Please let the fans know of

This is a site for anyone who loved Mr.Snow and Considered him a hero ... This site also is for Rams fans and football fans and anyone who thought well of a very good man.

NW: John, Thanks for the link. I'm all for anything to honor Mr. Snow. He is missed.

"Do Not Let Your Strength Become Your Weakness"