Ugh, where to begin...
That game sucked, and that's about as eloquent as it can be said. Not once during the entire game did I get the impression that ANYONE in a Rams uniform really cared enough to send their very best. The shady offsides call on Little didn't matter a bit, no matter how much salt in rubbed in the open wound; the Rams were out of the game from the opening kickoff.
The big story today: Bulger Comes Alive!
He ripped, justifiably so, his team after the game. Saying:
"I've made a hundred mistakes; I'm not perfect on the football field. But I care; we lose, it hurts. But there are definitely guys that don't care. That's what bugs me."
That's been obvious since the close loss to Seattle some weeks ago. This team has lacked ANY sort of emotional leader. Some guys play hard, some guys don't, but nobody's been there to call them out. I'm glad Bulger stepped up. There's nothing wrong with QBs, or any team's superstar, ripping his mates for a less-than stellar effort. It needed to be done. Bulger's a great QB, but we haven't seen him grasp the full aspects of leadership that a superstar QB needs to have. Granted, with Faulk, he didn't really need to, Marshall was a big part of the team's leadership cadre. Keep it up, Marc.
Who's he talking about? Well, obviously he never says, using the classic "they know who they are" line. He does exonerate Holt, Bruce and Steven Jackson, and it's pretty obvious that those three continuously give their all. Holt and Bruce are savy vets and wouldn't have stuck in the league or put up the kind of numbers they have without a passion for what they do. Jackson, we've seen him pour his passion into his game this season; there's been more than a few shots of him looking positively feral on the sidelines this season.
The O-line contains more than a couple suspects. Yes, they lack enough in talent, as presently constituted, to be among the league's best, but witness the night and day difference in their performances against SF last week and AZ this week, and SF has a much better defense than the Cardinals. Little wonder Bulger ripped his line, that kind of play could have cost him his career with the hits he was enduring.
Alex Barron DOES have talent, and he's put it on display a few times this season. However, he was terrible this week, and has show some big lapses in judgement, resulting in poorly timed penalties throughout the season. He's on the list!
What makes me suspect Barron, besides seeing him play, and some of the others on the line - or with blocking assignments - is this quip from Bulger's tirade when asked how he knows guys don't care, as cited by Bernie Miklasz in the forum:
Ugly. No other way to describe it, unless you throw in a few adjectives ahead of ugly.
Of course, all of this makes me really wonder where in the hell Linehan is. Head coaches, among numerous other things, are tasked with whipping their players into shape and getting that proverbial 110% out of them.
The calls to fire Linehan are building into a chorus. TST member, royalsreview, posted such a thought in the comments here yesterday. And Linehan got lots of jeers from fans at the Ed Jones Dome yesterday as he headed into the locker room.
As to the possiblity of Linehan's dismissal, the PD's Jeff Gordon fielded such a question in the Rams Forum. He says:
He'll certainly start getting a lot of criticism. This Rams team is already being compared to the forgettable first year in St. Louis, before the 1999 season.
And he deserves his fare share of it. In his post-game presser, Linehan admitted to being surprised by the Cardinals attack plan, i.e. they ran the ball more than the 6 times they did last week. He's surprised by that? What kind of game plan did he expect them to call against the worst run defense in the league? Even first year fantasy player knew to start the disapointing Edge James this week against the Rams, and Linehan couldn't anticipate that?
I'm not impressed with what we've seen from Linehan this season. [no shit...] He radiates deer-in-the-headlights, and seems completely shocked and surprised by coaching an NFL team and the league in general. Most of all, though, it just doesn't seem like he's moving to impart his stamp on the team. There were vaunted efforts, like the Hargrove incident, but even substitute teachers know that you've got to be a hardass consistently, not just a disciplinarian in the most extreme cases. It's not just the discipline thing though. Look at what Herm Edwards has done in his first year with the Chiefs. I realize they have more talent on both side of the ball, but the little things he's done to make the team "his" are impressive. Like taking Larry Johnson out to dinner with Jim Brown this week. That kind of stuff matters, players develop a real loyalty to a coach that takes them individually and the team as a whole under their wing. That's how you get the kind of loyalty that inspires guys to go out there and play with their legs cutoff and give 110% while they do it.
Linehan just doesn't seem to have that. He's a bureaucrat, and that's fine for a coordinator or an assistant, but it's just not enough for a head coach. It probably is a little premature to fire the guy just yet, and I certainly don't plan on adding my personal voice to that chorus just yet. [If you do, please feel free to start up that discussion in the comments or the diaries; it's one worth having.] Still, if he's gone anytime soon, I won't lose any sleep over it.