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Linehan has grown into a true leader for the Rams

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  • Linehan has grown into a true leader for the Rams

    By Bernie Miklasz

    Sports Columnist Bernie Miklasz
    [More columns]

    Scott Linehan represents a different style of NFL coaching. This grinding and demanding profession has pushed more than one head coach to the brink of madness, and more than a few of these burnout cases have contributed to their own demise.

    Whether it be all-night video study, sleeping on office couches, being isolated from their families, or having extreme mood swings, these guys can become totally consumed by coaching. They lose themselves, and then they lose their jobs.

    When Linehan became the Rams' head coach on Jan. 19, 2006, he made a promise to his wife Kristen and their three sons, Matthew, Michael and Marcus. Simply: He'd always come home at night. He would not turn Rams Park into a residence hall.

    Linehan works hard and wants to win as much as any NFL coach. But there's a balance to Linehan that I've come to appreciate. I had to learn. Through much of Linehan's rookie season, I misread him.
    His low-key manner seemed boring, but he really wasn't dull he was steady. There's more to leadership than raging, picking arguments with reporters, or ripping players in public. And Linehan's calmness served the Rams well during a five-game losing streak. They rallied to win their last three games, finishing 8-8.

    We were looking for a show at Rams Park, because that's been the routine. Dick Vermeil and Mike Martz were often dramatic, be it the emotional DV's teardrops, or Mad Mike revealing his tormented psyche. News conferences were grand entertainment. But Linehan had to do it his way, and his stability is an asset.

    "There's going to be some good days, and some trying days," Linehan said Wednesday. "It's easy to be sky high when things are good. It's hard to be consistent when things aren't going well. Being steady gets you through to another level. You don't disintegrate and go the other way and cause other people in our group to implode. Bottom line is, if you take accountability as a team, it gets you through the tests and the stress. That starts with the coach."

    Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy and Chicago coach Lovie Smith performed a valuable service last season in getting their teams to the Super Bowl. They proved it was possible to win with class and dignity. You don't have to be mean spirited or spew lava to win in this game. Linehan is along those personality lines; he's comfortable in his skin. And as we saw last season with defensive end Anthony Hargrove, who skipped practice and got traded, Linehan doesn't tolerate foolishness. He's as tough as he needs to be.

    For Linehan, the most important development in his rookie season was staying true to his nature. Being genuine and trustworthy is good leadership. So is recognizing your weaknesses, and correcting them. When Linehan fired himself from calling plays (giving the duty to assistant Greg Olson) after a horrible Week 11 loss at Carolina, he became a true leader.

    "It was a matter of growing," Linehan said. "And becoming the head coach. Not being the guy who got the head-coach job that's still the offensive coordinator. That's a big transformation. As the head coach, you are accountable, and you can set the standards, and you have to be knowledgeable in all areas, so you know when things need to be shaken up and adjusted on offense, defense and special teams. But if you hire someone to be a coordinator, then let them do their job.

    "And you have to be willing to listen. I've encouraged our coaches not to be thin-skinned, just like I shouldn't be. If you think your way is the only way and you're not the problem when things aren't going well, then that's when things really start to disintegrate within. That's what I learned the most last year. Not so much giving up the play calling, but maybe being the guy who got the job because he was an offensive coordinator, and who was trying to figure out how to be the head coach while he was still the coordinator. You have to become the head coach and take on more of a role throughout the entire team."

    Linehan is looking forward to his second season. And Kristen and the boys are enjoying life in St. Louis, as they get heavily involved in competing in multiple sports, and putting down roots in the community. The oldest son, 12-year-old Matthew, recently made a request of his dad.

    "He told me to win a bunch of games and get to the Super Bowl, because he wants to stay in St. Louis at least long enough to graduate from high school," Linehan said with a laugh.

    As Linehan puts the Rams through minicamp, he's relaxed, and confident. He has a team that he really likes, a team he really knows. That's a big change from the spring and summer of 2006, when Linehan felt like a stranger trying to find his way through a challenging new environment. But he made it home. He always does.

  • #2
    Re: Linehan has grown into a true leader for the Rams

    "...I misread him."

    I guess that was "sort of" an apology. I think Bernie took a lot of unwarranted shots at Linehan last year, but here is just another example of Linehan's leadership and class as he's apparently won Miklaz over.


    • #3
      Re: Linehan has grown into a true leader for the Rams

      Great to know Coach Linehan has settled down and is manning the team by working smarter and not necessarily by working harder. This too reflects strength and character on the team.


      • #4
        Re: Linehan has grown into a true leader for the Rams

        I love the fact that our head coach is his own man and not a clone like so many other coaches. Keep on truckin' Scott !!!


        Related Topics


        • RamWraith
          Linehan knows future is now
          by RamWraith
          By Jim Thomas

          At age 44, Scott Linehan is still young and inexperienced by NFL head-coaching standards. He has been around long enough, however, to realize what he's facing this year.

          "I feel like I've got to win," Linehan said. "I'm not going to (con) anybody. There's no question."

          In some way, shape or form, Linehan must win "X" amount of games this season to keep his job. And what's the magic number?

          "I don't know what it is," Linehan said. "But we've got to win."

          Linehan says no one in upper management or ownership has communicated that to him. But they don't really have to.

          "They know that I know we've got to win," says Linehan, who's entering Year 3 of a four-year deal. "They've been nothing but supportive, between Chip (Rosenbloom) and Lucia (Rodriguez), and John (Shaw). And obviously, I work with Jay (Zygmunt) on a day-to-day basis.

          "They want nothing more than for our football team to have success, and to say, 'We did pick the right guy.' It pains me to not be able to give them the product. Especially a year ago."

          After an 8-8 inaugural season in 2006, a year in which the Rams closed strongly and barely missed a playoff berth, the wheels fell off in '07 when Linehan's injury-ravaged team finished 3-13.

          "We felt we should have done a lot better, in every way, basically," Linehan said. "But it happened. If you lament about it, it's not productive. You've got to take the experience, turn it into a positive, and work that much harder. Make sure you're smarter about your approach."

          The early weeks of the offseason were perhaps the toughest stretch of Linehan's coaching career. He looked inwardly at what he could do better, and then outwardly to see what could be improved around him. Here's what Linehan came up with:


          There is plenty of anecdotal evidence of Linehan moping after losses, to the point of even returning to Rams Park on Sunday nights following a defeat, munching cereal and roaming the halls in sweat pants. Trouble was, those feelings spilled over into Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and on.

          Linehan concedes: "My biggest flaw is that you spend all week beating yourself up to the point where you can't let it go."

          Imagine how those feelings compounded last season as the Rams endured an 0-8 start.

          "I think that's the No. 1 job of a head coach that he gets his team moving forward no matter whether you win or lose a game," Linehan said.

          Easier said than done. In the end, it's what drove Dick Vermeil out of coaching after his first NFL head-coaching stint with the Philadelphia Eagles from 1976-82....
          -08-24-2008, 01:37 PM
        • RamWraith
          Linehan puts passion on display
          by RamWraith
          By Jim Thomas

          He was part Dick Vermeil. Why, he nearly teared up explaining what it meant to be an NFL head coach.

          "I promised my wife I wouldn't cry, so I'm not going to do that," Scott Linehan said Friday. "But it's fulfilling a dream. Being in the greatest profession in the world, and being in the greatest league in the world. How lucky am I?"

          And he was part Mike Martz - almost eerily so - in describing his offensive style, his insistence on calling plays. Even his tendency to become impatient at times.

          "It's aggressive; it's attacking," Linehan said. "I think it will be similar to a lot of the things you've seen here before. ... We want to be dominant, be relentless."

          He did everything but invoke Martz's pet phrase: fast and furious.

          As for his passion for play calling, Linehan said, "It's like giving up a dog, or something. I can't give that away."

          Similarities aside, during his introductory news conference as the new coach of the Rams, Linehan made it clear there will be no identity crisis at Rams Park.

          "I'm Scott Linehan," he said. "I'm not anybody other than that, and I will never try to be like anybody else. But I will always work on being a little bit better every day so that our team can continue to improve."

          So who is Scott Linehan?

          He's the youngest of seven children.

          "My entire family was teachers," Linehan said. "My dad was a high school principal. That was where I developed the work ethic."

          He played college football at Idaho for Dennis Erickson, who went on to win two college national championships at Miami and become a head coach in the NFL.

          "He was one of the first people to basically become an attack-style offensive coach in college football," Linehan said. "He used a spread offense. ... He had the biggest influence on me as to the style of offense and system.

          "John L. Smith, the head coach at Michigan State, gave me my first job. He also gave me another job later in my career and actually hired me a third time. He's hired me three times; I don't know what the heck's wrong with him. ... He's been a great mentor for me."

          Then there was Jim Lambright, who gave Linehan his first NCAA Division I job in 1994 as an assistant at the University of Washington.

          And Mike Tice, who hired Linehan out of the college ranks in 2002 to be a coordinator in the NFL for the Minnesota Vikings even though Linehan had no NFL experience.

          And Nick Saban, who lured Linehan away from Minnesota a year ago to revive the sagging Miami Dolphins offense.

          "So, I've named a lot of people there," Linehan said. "I...
          -01-21-2006, 07:13 AM
        • RamWraith
          Bernie on Linehan
          by RamWraith

          MINNEAPOLIS In evaluating Scott Linehan's first-year performance as the Rams' head coach, it really comes down to this simple question: Did he improve as the season went on, or did he get worse?

          Linehan got better. He's moving in the right direction.

          There were some bleak moments during the Rams' horrible 1-7 stretch, which ran from Oct. 11 through Dec. 15. At times Linehan looked like a dud, at least in my opinion. He was overmatched in a disturbing 15-0 loss at Carolina, and his weekly analyses of the Rams' showings were monotonous and repetitive. I wondered if there was more to this guy than the slow flow of vanilla that dripped from his personality.

          If there's anything I was slow to learn about Linehan, it's that style points aren't important. His internal steadiness is a virtue. Linehan's evenness, his reliable demeanor, was a plus in preventing this team from cracking in 2006.

          Skeptics are free to sneer because the Rams have beaten two losers, Oakland and Washington, over the past two weeks. And the Rams have defeated only one team (Denver) that currently has a winning record. So go ahead and ridicule the notion that Linehan has progressed as a coach. That's fine. Many Rams fans think their team is the only NFL squad that wins close games or beats losing teams. But rational minds wishing to gain perspective on Linehan's first-year trajectory should look at the late-season meltdowns among other NFC playoff contenders Carolina, Atlanta and the New York Giants, who rebounded Saturday and eliminated the Rams.

          "We've had a lot of injuries, and we've had to do a lot of juggling," Rams safety Corey Chavous said. "He's been able to keep the team together."

          Linehan has demonstrated an ability to calmly step back during stressful episodes, take in the big picture and do what's in the best interest of the team. He has been unusually thick-skinned for an NFL coach, never acknowledging, let alone counterattacking, after absorbing hits from media and fans. That's because Linehan's toughest critic is Linehan.

          The ideal example was Linehan's mature and unselfish response to the ugly 15-0 blanking at Carolina on Nov. 19 The Rams managed only 111 yards, as Linehan abandoned the running game and went into a passing-

          attack frenzy, even as he watched the offensive line fail to protect quarterback Marc Bulger.

          Linehan had a surprising reaction to the calamity in Carolina. He put his ego aside, fired himself as the offense's play-caller and empowered offensive coordinator Greg Olson to make the calls.

          "It showed tremendous awareness, especially for a young head coach," Rams president John Shaw said.

          In the five games since the change, the Rams have averaged 24.8 points and 401 yards per contest. And they've...
          -12-31-2006, 05:54 AM
        • RamWraith
          Energy, spirit help Linehan score a victory
          by RamWraith
          By Bernie Miklasz

          The morning began with Scott Linehan walking into the main auditorium at Rams Park to address the team's noncoaching, nonplaying employees. On his first day on the job, Linehan wanted to reach out to everyone who works for the Rams.

          "Everyone in this room, at some point this year, will be the most important person in this organization," Linehan told the staffers. He mentioned a variety of jobs, from the person who fixes the coaches' headsets on Sunday to the crew that keeps the building tidy.

          Understand that no one gathered in that room will ever run for a first down, make a block, throw a deep pass, cause a fumble, make a spectacular catch, leap for an interception or kick a field goal.

          That's OK with Linehan.

          Coach wants everyone on his squad.

          Linehan told the staffers they were vital to the overall performance of the franchise. He told them he needed their support. He vowed to learn each of their names. At one point, he talked about how happy he was to get this opportunity, and was briefly overcome by emotion. And Linehan got choked up later, when he spoke of fulfilling the dream of becoming an NFL head coach.

          And as the staffers filed out of the auditorium, Linehan offered a greeting and a handshake.

          Dick Vermeil's kind of guy, this Linehan.

          Friday, the Rams' new head coach breezed into Rams Park, as fresh and brisk as a sunny winter morning. We do not know how many games Linehan will win, and we do not know whether he can make a successful transition from coordinator to head coach, and we do not know whether his radiant optimism will fade. This moment, for this situation, Linehan's enthusiasm and genuine personality were exactly what the Rams needed.

          It has been a sad, depressing 12 months at Rams Park. The 2004 Rams were blown away in a playoff loss in Atlanta last January. The relationship between head coach Mike Martz and team management splintered and collapsed. Martz got sick and had to be hospitalized with a bacterial infection of a heart valve. And even then, the bickering did not cease. The Rams were 2-3 when Martz departed, and injuries ravaged the roster. The Rams couldn't cope, fell apart and finished 6-10.

          And worst of all, Jack Snow died Jan. 9.

          "It's been a tough time, just brutal," team president John Shaw said. "We've all felt battered in some way."

          Linehan apparently is a quick study with sharp instincts. He was fully aware of the recent history and knew he had to change the vibe. From his first hour on the job, Linehan stressed a theme of unity and togetherness. He obviously wanted to send this instant message: The infighting, the politicking, is over.

          "The one thing I want to make sure is really established right...
          -01-21-2006, 07:16 AM
        • RamWraith
          Linehan faces simple choice: either change or lose his job
          by RamWraith
          By Bernie Miklasz
          Monday, Dec. 24 2007

          Rams fans can shout out, threaten to cancel season tickets, boo John Shaw, or
          vow to never enter the Edward Jones Dome again.

          Scott Linehan will be back as the head coach in 2008.

          This is the reality.

          So let's look ahead and ask an important question: Can Linehan turn things

          Well, anything is possible. Dick Vermeil proved that, winning a Super Bowl in
          1999 after going 9-23 in his first two seasons.

          I'm not saying Linehan is Vermeil. DV was (and is) a natural-born leader.
          Vermeil was rusty after a long sabbatical but recognized the need to make
          crucial changes before this third season, and he found a winning formula. And
          now Linehan must try to do the same, or he's done.

          If Linehan wants to save himself beyond next season, here are a few things he
          must do to rescue his career:

          CULTIVATE VETERANS It's obvious that Linehan has lost the respect of players on
          the offensive side of the football. He's to blame for much of that by
          frequently dismissing their suggestions and keeping them out of the loop. Rams
          quarterbacks and receivers have tried, during games, to approach Linehan with
          their ideas on attacking a defense. But Linehan's attitude can best be
          described this way: You play, and I'll coach.

          The arrogance is remarkable for a novice who has lost 19 of his last 26 games.
          The best NFL coaches and baseball managers are in synch with their players;
          they want feedback, they want to keep the communication pipeline open, they
          want the veterans to take ownership of the team mission.

          Sunday, in an interview with CBS, New England coach Bill Belichick said he and
          other coaches always listen to suggestions made by Randy Moss. And yet Linehan
          won't listen to Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce? Preposterous.

          I saw Vermeil effectively reach out to players before 1999. I saw Cardinals
          manager Tony La Russa lose the clubhouse late in 2003, then respond by setting
          up a players' committee for 2004, so he could address their concerns. If
          Vermeil and La Russa can do it, it's preposterous for Linehan to continue
          alienating players who will make or break him. Listening to your men isn't a
          sign of weakness; it's a sign of strength.

          STAFF CHANGES Linehan must rectify the embarrassment that is the special teams,
          and he clearly needs some fresh concepts on the offensive side. And this team
          has to examine its strength and conditioning program to see if it's a factor in
          all of these injuries.

          NO MORE "FOSLS" AT RAMS PARK What is a FOSL? That's short for Friends Of Scott
          -12-24-2007, 10:26 AM