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Defense has struggled under Rams' Marmie

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  • Defense has struggled under Rams' Marmie

    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Saturday, Dec. 18 2004

    The first time Larry Marmie faced his old team, there was no cause for alarm.
    Little reason for disappointment.

    Back on Sept. 12, the Arizona Cardinals were limited to 10 points, managed a
    modest 14 first downs and gained only 260 yards. But a lot has happened to the
    Rams' defense since their season-opening 17-10 victory over the Big Red - and
    most of it not good:

    They have been ranked as low as 30th in total defense in the NFL, or
    third to last.

    They currently have just 13 takeaways, ahead of only Green Bay and
    Oakland (with 12 each).

    In eight of their 13 games this season, the Rams have allowed a
    100-yard rusher.

    "Certainly, it hasn't gone like I envisioned it would go," said Marmie, the
    Rams' first-year defensive coordinator. "I thought that it would be smoother.
    That we would be more productive defensively. That we would have continued to
    do a lot of the things that they had done here in the past. ... I didn't
    envision it being like it is right now."

    Some things have been out of Marmie's control. Such as the broken forearm that
    sidelined cornerback Travis Fisher for nearly half the season. Or the bad back
    that has taken much of the pop out of Adam Archuleta at strong safety.

    Or the fact that age and injury have conspired against eight- time Pro Bowler
    Aeneas Williams. Or the five lineup combinations at linebacker in the team's
    first 10 games.

    "There were some key (injuries)," Marmie said. "But people really don't want to
    hear about that. People really don't care who's out there. They just assume
    that who ever's out there ought to all play the same way."

    Without a doubt, the most confounding thing about this season for Marmie has
    been the dearth of turnovers. Last season, the Rams' defense led the league
    with 46 takeaways. Since the franchise moved to St. Louis in 1995, only the
    2000 season Super Bowl-champion Baltimore Ravens have had more (49). This
    season, the Rams are on pace for just 16.

    "I know it's been disappointing to our players, because they took great pride
    in the turnovers that they created last year," Marmie said. "We've got the same
    players, and I think we're coaching it the same way. Because Bill (Kollar) was
    here and Perry (Fewell) was here - and they were a part of the emphasis that
    was put on it last year."

    Kollar is the Rams' defensive line coach; Fewell coaches the secondary.

    "So if you're not careful, you look at it and say, 'What's the difference?' "
    Marmie said. "Well, it looks like I'm the only different thing here. Maybe
    that's it."

    The ASU connection

    Some Marmie critics have come to that conclusion. But coach Mike Martz
    continues to stand by Marmie, a longtime friend. Martz was on Marmie's staff at
    Arizona State in the late 1980s and early '90s.

    For his part, Marmie says he doesn't feel more pressure to succeed just because
    Martz is a good friend.

    "No. I honestly can say that I do not," Marmie said. "Because while we were
    friends, I also knew that Mike wasn't hiring me because I was his friend. I had
    strong feelings of that. I felt that he was hiring me because he thought I was
    a good football coach, and a hard-working guy. And a guy that would be loyal to
    the head coach and to the program and to the players."

    The man Marmie replaced as defensive coordinator in St. Louis - Lovie Smith -
    also is a close friend of Martz's. And Marmie's. In fact, Marmie coached Smith
    as an assistant at Tulsa in the 1970s. Smith was on Marmie's Arizona State
    staff from 1988-91.

    Smith was well-liked by his Rams players - practically beloved. Knowing Smith
    like he does, Marmie didn't worry about having a tough act to follow. He knew
    that coming it.

    "I think so highly of him, and have such great respect for him as a person, I
    knew how (Rams players) were going to feel about him," Marmie said. "I
    understood that. I feel the same way.

    "I told them that the first time I met with the whole defense. We talked about
    that a little bit. What I wanted to do was come in and fit, and hopefully help
    us continue to get better. Obviously, we haven't done that."

    Marmie said he isn't disillusioned or discouraged by what has transpired so far
    this season. Nor does he feel the personnel he basically inherited is of lesser
    skill than anticipated.

    "I like the personnel that we have," Marmie said. "I like the character that we
    have. ... Do we need some help? Do you want to upgrade your roster? You're
    always looking for that. But I think we've got personnel that you can win big

    Change of philosophy

    If there's one thing Marmie and Martz would approach differently, it's the way
    they installed the Rams' new defensive scheme. Simply stated, the Rams have
    evolved from the Cover 2 scheme used under Smith.

    They are more multiple in coverage, mixing in man with a variety of zone
    packages. They are blitzing more than Smith did. They are moving people around
    more in their front seven, and playing Archuleta more in the "box" (up close to
    the line).

    Perhaps Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme, with the benefit of outside
    perspective, best summed up the changes.

    "They're a different team defensively in scheme from what they were last year,"
    Delhomme said. "Last year, it was more of the Tampa Bay Cover 2 type stuff.
    Whereas now, they're eight in the box, and they're going (to) pressure you and
    things of that nature. It's almost like they're playing like their offense. You
    know, they're attacking on defense."

    Instead of installing the new defense right away in minicamp and training camp,
    it has been served up gradually to the players over the course of the season.
    In hindsight, that has led to uncertainty, tentative play, and at times

    "When we came in, the basic idea was that we weren't going to change a whole
    lot of things at one time," Marmie said.

    Marmie and the Rams planned to retain some of the most successful elements of
    the Cover 2, keep the same terminology, and then kind of add and supplement as
    they went along.

    "Looking back on it now, we probably should have been more aggressive in our
    installation in training camp, and even all the way back to our minicamp,"
    Marmie said. "But moreso in training camp, we should have been more aggressive
    and maybe installed more things at a faster pace. And then had a chance to come
    back and refine them as we went into the preseason."

    The new system is more complex and requires more study than the old one. Martz
    says Rams defensive players now have to prepare for a game much like Rams
    offensive players. But if a defensive player spends too much time thinking on
    game day, the results can be disastrous.

    "You'd like for your guys to be able to go out and, as everybody says, play
    fast," Marmie said. "And that when the call is made in the huddle ... they know
    exactly what's expected of them.

    "I'm not sure it has always been that way. There were times that we probably
    haven't played as fast, or played with as much confidence. And then, if
    something bad happens, it has a tendency probably to even shatter (confidence)
    a little bit more."

    Keep in mind, too, that for most of the Rams' defensive starters, Smith's Cover
    2 defense was the only scheme they knew in the NFL.

    "It's hard changing systems," Archuleta said. "My rookie year (2001), pretty
    much everybody was brought in at the same time and we all learned and grew
    under one system and one philosophy. We have a very young defense, so all
    they've ever known in the NFL is this one way."

    Eight of the Rams' 11 primary starters on defense entered the NFL in 2001
    (Smith's first year in St. Louis) - or later.

    "Sometimes it's hard to get all 11 guys and all the coaches on the same page,"
    Archuleta said. "And sometimes, when you're hesitant, you can't play well. You
    can't play good defense. There's a lot of hesitation in there at times. And
    that's a transition period."

    "We'll be OK"

    The transition period has lasted much longer than either Marmie or Martz
    anticipated. But over the past month, there have been signs of change. In that
    time, the Rams have improved from that 30th ranking to 23rd in total defense.

    The Rams haven't given up a touchdown in their last two home games. And in
    their last two games, period, the Rams have yielded a total of 26 points and
    468 yards. In terms of yards allowed, it's the best two-game stretch for the
    Rams since early in the 2003 season.

    As Marmie prepares to face his former team, the Arizona Cardinals, for the
    second time this season, perhaps the light switch finally is in the "on"
    position for the Rams' defense.

    "This defense is finally getting the picture, I think," defensive end Leonard
    Little said. "At first, not everyone knew what they were doing, and were out of
    place. Now, I think people get what we need to do on defense. We've just got to
    keep building on it. Keep building every week, and we'll be OK."

Related Topics


  • Nick
    Marmie takes charge of Rams defense
    by Nick
    Marmie takes charge of Rams defense
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Friday, Aug. 27 2004

    As defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals, Larry Marmie had the
    unenviable task of trying to slow the high-powered Rams offense twice a season
    since 2002, when both teams were assigned to the realigned NFC West. He didn't
    have much luck.

    The Rams went 4-0 vs. the Cardinals in that span, averaging 31 points per game.
    So as coach Mike Martz's new defensive coordinator, Marmie can relax now that
    he doesn't have to make a game-plan for the Rams anymore, right?

    "No, I've just got to practice against it every day," Marmie said, laughing.
    "But in the long run, working against our offense here has to really prepare us
    for a lot of things down the road. Because we're not going to see anybody that
    does any more offensively in terms of stretching the field and the wide-open
    type of offense, the shifts and the motion and all those things."

    Marmie (pronounced mar-MEE) lost his job in Arizona on Dec. 29 when head coach
    Dave McGinnis was fired after the Cardinals finished last in the division with
    a 4-12 record. Martz, who served as Marmie's offensive coordinator at Arizona
    State from 1988-91, hired his former boss three weeks later.

    "We share a lot of the same philosophies," Martz said. "He has the intensity
    and the focus to help these guys get to the point where they're as good as they
    can be."

    Safety Aeneas Williams, who played under Marmie in Arizona, said his calm
    demeanor on the practice field contrasts sharply with his forceful presence
    behind closed doors. "There won't be any threatening, but he's going to back up
    what he says," Williams said.

    Marmie, 61, succeeds Lovie Smith, the Chicago Bears' new head coach. It's not
    an easy role to assume: Not only was Smith highly popular with the players, he
    turned the Rams defense from one of the league's worst into a solid, if not
    spectacular, unit during his three seasons.

    "I know what a great job Lovie did here," said Marmie, who is working on
    building his trust among the players. "I would like for them to have a
    confidence that what we're doing is right and fits our personnel, and that they
    understand what we're doing," he said.

    Although the Rams led the 32-team NFL in takeaways last year with 46, they
    ranked 16th in total defense and only 20th in rushing defense. That's an area
    Marmie is targeting, although he promises no major overhaul in the team's basic

    "He's tweaked some things for the better, but basically it's the same defense," ...
    -08-29-2004, 11:31 AM
  • RamWraith
    New defensive coordinator making his mark-and another
    by RamWraith
    Associated Press

    MACOMB, Ill. - St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz stumbled a bit earlier this week, referring to his defensive coordinator as Lovie Smith before quickly correcting himself.

    Smith is now the head coach of the Bears, who'll be in town for three days of joint practices plus a scrimmage Thursday through Saturday. And Martz is looking forward to the reunion.

    "Of course, I'm excited to see Lovie," Martz said. "Lovie is a very good friend and these players will be very excited to see Lovie."

    But Martz is just as enthusiastic about his new defensive coordinator, Larry Marmie. The two go back a long way; Martz was Marmie's offensive coordinator at Arizona State from 1988-91.

    Now, Marmie is working for Martz. So far it seems like a good fit.

    "You never know," Marmie said. "I've always had great respect for Mike as a coach and have worked with him and coached against him.

    "I'm excited about coaching with him again."

    How excited? Only six days after Smith got the Bears job, ending his three-year stay in St. Louis, Martz hired Marmie away from the Cardinals where he had been defensive coordinator the previous four seasons.

    "We share the same philosophies from a football standpoint, but the character he brings is unmatchable," Martz said. "He really should be a head coach in this league."

    There will be no sweeping changes in defensive style or strategy under Marmie, 61. The Rams were in the middle of the pack overall in defense last year but they were an opportunistic bunch under Smith, leading the NFL with 46 takeaways.

    They'll play the same aggressive style this season.

    "I think there's a lot of similarities," Marmie said. "All we want to do is get better at what we're doing.

    "We have some outstanding talent and we want to get them in position to make plays."

    One change he will make is installing more multiple looks to confuse the offense.

    "Philosophically there's not a lot of change, but every year you look to get better," Marmie said. "I'm sure if Lovie was still here, he would have been tweaking the defense."

    The Rams also might blitz more under Marmie.

    "Hopefully we blitz not because we have to," Marmie said. "I don't think there's any defense you can play that's not aggressive. You'd better be aggressive when you're not blitzing as well."

    Marmie is more of an overseer than Smith, who is hands-on. He's pretty quiet on the practice field, having delegated the responsibility to his assistant coaches.

    "Coach Marmie is more the type to put in the defense," said safety Aeneas Williams, who was with Marmie in...
    -08-05-2004, 05:37 AM
  • Nick
    Marmie shows grit amid critics' howls
    by Nick
    Marmie shows grit amid critics' howls
    St. Louis Post-Dispatch

    ST. LOUIS - (KRT) - They grow 'em tough in Barnesville, Ohio, a small coal-mining town directly across the Ohio River from Wheeling, W.Va. So when the catcalls began early last season, Rams' first-year defensive coordinator Larry Marmie took little notice.

    "Sure, most people would like to have good things being said about them all the time. But this is a result-oriented business, and that's part of it," he said. "You're trying to do the best you can, but there's going to be some adversity in this game. And if you can't handle that, if you can't work through that and continue to do your job, then you're not going to last very long."

    After a pause, Marmie grinned and added, "Sometimes I didn't like what I saw, either."

    The Rams' defense was erratic in 2004. By midseason the unit ranked near the bottom of the 32-team NFL in several key categories. Marmie, who replaced the highly popular and generally successful Lovie Smith, became an easy target.

    "I understood that," said Marmie, 62. "If you don't do well, if you don't perform, things are going to be said. . . . And certainly Lovie's a terrific coach and an outstanding person."

    Critics emphasized that Marmie had spent the previous eight seasons with the lowly Arizona Cardinals. And they charged bitterly that coach Mike Martz had hired his former boss out of loyalty: Marmie was the head coach at Arizona State when Martz served as offensive coordinator from 1988-91.

    Martz firmly defended Marmie. "We share a lot of the same philosophies from a football standpoint," he said last summer in training camp. "But the character that (Marmie) brings to this football team is unmatchable. He's somebody, like Lovie, that you have a great deal of respect for."

    But respect must be merited, Marmie stressed. "Any time that there's a change, you have to adjust to each other," he said. "As a coach, you have to earn your stripes."

    Although the Rams employ the same basic scheme as they did before Smith left to become the Chicago Bears coach, Marmie tossed in some modifications that required significant adjustments.

    "He challenges you mentally," defensive end Leonard Little said. "He makes you try to think a little bit more when you're out."

    Whereas the Rams under Smith didn't deviate much from their base sets, Marmie favors multiple formations and coverages.

    "There are a couple of different philosophies, and one is that you don't do very much and you try to do that very, very well. You get the repetition of it over and over and over and over," Marmie said. "And the other is that you're going to do more things, which gives you more flexibility...
    -05-30-2005, 09:30 PM
  • Tony Soprano
    Fire Larry Marmie !
    by Tony Soprano
    Last year we finished the season giving up 48 points to the Falcons. This year we've played total patsies - except for the Giants and the Seahawks.

    In those 2 games, we given up an average of 41 points.

    Seriously, did anyone think of Marmie when we had to go out and get a DEF coord? Most teams get a coord from a team that's Defense is setting the league on fire. That's how it's done, that's how we got Lovie Smith,, Tampa Bay's DEF was the leagues best and he was a coach on that DEF.
    BUT, we bring in Larry Marmie, the Arizona Cardinals DEF coordinator. Now, Marmie was fired from Arizona (with the rest of the staff). So, Marmie wasn't a hot coach, and he didn't work on a good Defense, yet we brought him in here to be Defensive coordinator.

    The only remote reason one can fathom for hiring Marmie is simply Cronyism.

    The Question is not will we immediately turn things around under a new Defensive coordinator, the Question is are we going in the wrong direction on Defense?

    -10-09-2005, 02:48 PM
  • Guest's Avatar
    The defense-leonard little and marmie
    by Guest
    Personally, i think blaming marmie is wrong. I respect those that have a different view, but i ask the following.

    1) Leonard Little is not the same player. I wont speculate on why, but he just isnt. He was our #1 playmaker on defense last year, created all sorts of matchup problems, and helped force turnovers. If you didnt know he was a first team all pro, would you have any clue that he was supposed to be a star?

    2) Our secondary is decimated by injuries. Is this marmies fault? We have safeties on the field that werent even on the team a week ago.

    3) Did marmie drop the INT in the end zone that hit aeneas williams in the hands and would have completely changed the game?

    4) Is marmie responsible for the worst special teams coverage in the nfl, giving up huge chunks of field position on every change of possession.

    5) Is marmie responsible for how thin we are at linebacker? Is he responsible for the fact that PISA, god bless him, looks like he needs a seeing eye dog on pass coverage? Maybe he can help pisa develop, but not overnight.

    6) Did marmie run into the kicker on what amounted to a turnover after an actual stop by the defense?

    7) I agree with those that say keep a weak defense off the field with more runs on offense, but our offense was good enough to win that game. Bottom line is we were ahead with 24 seconds left and if you cant hold them under those circumstances you dont deserve to win anything. Nice of the fans to hang around and make some noise, i guess a bunch of the people in the lower decks were heading for the cardinals game.

    7) I am not defending the defense, it was one of the most pathetic ram performances i have ever seen on defense in a competitive game. In 2000 we brought back bud carson, the architect of the steel curtain and it didnt help much because the players werent good enough. Think execution guys, this defense tackles poorly and it just is too banged up and not talented enough. This is not an excuse and i agree that marmie could be more aggressive, but calling for him to be fired and thinking that it is going to solve the problem just seems like an emotional overeaction to me. Personally, i think the defense was terrible in the detroit and carolina games last year and i blame that on the players more than lovie, so i am not going to use a double standard now and all of a sudden blame it on the coordinator.

    ramming speed to all

    general counsel
    -09-27-2004, 05:27 AM