Brickbats, Bluff and Bluster.
Its a risky business writing stuff for the consumption of netizens, let alone netizens who support the Rams. My last calamitous effort in this forum apart, the Rams getting a good kicking every week has a tendency to make people ready the brickbats for any who stick their heads above the parapet. Especially those who thought we'd be better than 6-10.
We might still be better than 6-10 but as I'm not prepared to stake my mortgage on it I'm not prepared to write at length about it either. That would be akin to a cheerleading spot rather then an opinion piece and I think there's only so much optimism going around these days. I was fairly optimistic last time around and look where that got me.
People have talked about false starts and maybe there's some merit in that but perhaps the promise that Linehan demonstrated in fits and starts evaporated in that welter of injuries and he didn't have the experience or the ability to build on it. Things may have been revealed in that adversity and things may have been said that ultimately sabotaged any and every effort at improvement that was made. The wounds went too deep and there wasn't the wealth of character or generosity of spirit in the organisation necessary to overcome it.
These nasty little affairs are never as one-sided as they appear and my lingering feeling is that there's more than enough blame to go around. Ultimately, Linehan was held responsible was was probably right but before September '09 I think we'll see that others will come to share his fate.
As they should.
Now we have Haslett, whose performance as co-ordinator would seem to leave a lot to be desired and whose previous stint as HC ended in the appalling mess that was Katrina.
Whilst I have every sympathy with those who protest his elevation on the basis of our D's anonymous performances I disagree with those who point to his performance in New Orleans as proof of his unsuitability. Now I've never had much time for the more obviously 'rah rah, scream and shout, in your face' school of coaches as I often found that it masks a lack of substance as well as a desire to blame shortcomings on others but there was something about Hasletts performance in that last year in New Orleans that left a certain resonance with his players of that time. That's no mean feat in today's increasingly mercenary 'What have you done for me today?' world of professional sports and it speaks of character in addition to a well-rounded approach to people.
Point being of course is that we have evidence of the man being able to operate in circumstance that are less than ideal. I would defy any coach in the league to have done much better. He may well be the perfect candidate for the job on such evidence because surely the circumstances at Rams are Park are far from ideal. Not Katrina-esque of course, that was a national disaster with ensuing human tragedy whereas the Rams Park situation is more of a squalid little soap-opera but its not a situation which will have Haslett groping for answers.
I'm not saying that Haslett will be the answer of course he may well be far from it but we have to be realistic and recognise that no-one outside of our organisation would have taken it on and inside the organisation he was the best candidate.
In my view this means that we have to evaluate him in relation to the material at his disposal and we have to stop kidding ourselves that we have a wealth of talent to exploit because we don't. He has to get the players playing hard and to the limits of their potential, a task that was evidently beyond Linehan.
In this context the quality of the performance is more important than merely winning the game. Rich Brooks once memorably started 5-0 but was widely derided for the style of it before it all fell apart in a 2-9 finish and led to his sacking. Building the right habits, practicing and preparing in the right way and making the right decisions on game day with a view to the pulse of your team are ultimately more important and lead to lasting success.
And speaking of that, its been in rather short supply around Rams Park.
The blame for this can be thrown around in any number of different directions and has been but I prefer to lay my bullseye on our 'dysfunctional', 'throat-slashing' front office. They got lucky in '99 lived off it for a few years as it diverted opinion from the failings of the previous ten years, failed to build on it, bounced the architect of '99 in as squalid a way as its possible to do and managed to re-create the utter hopelessness of those awful 90's.
Well done Shaw, Zygmunt and Suleiman in any other business you'd have been fired a long time ago.
A the US editor of 'The Guardian' newspaper in the UK penned an article recently that made the point that the problems facing the US called for its electorate to see past bluff,bluster, negative and abusive campaigning and practised patriotism and seek change based on real issues and real solutions. I'll leave the politics in that statement well-alone but will draw a parallel with the Rams in the sense that the issues facing the team are so fundamental that real change is the only answer. This doesn't mean that Haslett can't be around to be part of that, rather that if he is he has to see a dramatically different corporate landscape at the Rams than he does now.
If he doesn't then we'll be here again in two to three years time.
And who amongst us wants that?