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Linehan in the locker room

Well, here we are in the bye week, and guess what? Scott Linehan is still the head coach. A couple weeks ago, that fact would have been somewhat surprising, given the Rams puttering production. However, since Shaw's declaration that Linehan would not be fired, Linehan still coaching the Rams comes as no surprise, despite continued rumors to the contrary.

I don't recall where I read it - daily Google news searches for Scott Linehan start to run together when you're 0-8 - but someone somewhere said that firing Linehan midseason would put the Rams in a bad spot in trying to hire a replacement head coach. It could also potentially screw Haslett by taking his focus off the defense and handing him the keys to a broken down car.

Linehan, barring some strange circumstance, is staying put through the 2007 season. Debate on that matter is closed. However, the Rams play their last game of the season on December 30, and if that's not Linehan's last game as the Rams head coach, well, I owe you a Coke.

History sides with that prediction. In the last 29 seasons, only nine head coaches have lost more than 14 games in their second season. Linehan hasn't hit that dubious milestone yet, but it's not a stretch to think he will. Of those nine coaches, only three returned for a third year. This article offers some perspective on the matter. While it clearly points out that the future for Scott Linehan's head coaching prospects isn't bright, the real meat of the column deals with the situation in the locker room. And now that we can be sure Linehan won't be fired during the season, talk of him losing the players is rampant.

The reality is that because he's presided over so little success, it is going to be difficult for the Rams players to maintain their belief in Linehan as their leader. Other second-year coaches like Eric Mangini and Sean Payton are also struggling, but because both of their teams were surprise playoff entries in 2006, the fact that they know what they're doing has been reinforced, and they've in turn bought at least one dismal season.

Although he won just two fewer games than both Mangini and Payton last season, Linehan has not tasted real success, and if he hasn't already, is in grave danger of losing the locker room.

Has Linehan lost the locker room? The "whispers" section at Pro Football Weekly on October 26 speculated that he may not have lost it yet, but he's dreadfully close.

While it would be premature to say Rams head coach Scott Linehan has lost all of his players -- considering that the defense has at least continued to play very hard in spite of the team's miserable season -- team insiders agree wholeheartedly that he appears to have lost the team's offense, most notably QB Marc Bulger, whose relationship with Linehan has grown increasingly tense. As for the popular rumor that defensive coordinator Jim Haslett could be first in line to replace Linehan should the Rams decide to make a change, we hear Haslett very well could be a viable candidate -- but only if his defense continues to show improvement the rest of the season.

Both of the articles mentioned above predate the Rams week 8 loss, a game in which the offense gave what might have been their most respectable performance of the season. Through the first quarter of the game, it certainly didn't seem like Linehan had lost his players. They competed hard, not error free, but they played with some passion at least. I suspect that Steven Jackson's injury gave the team's morale a gut punch, partially accounting for the team's lack of inspired play in the middle of the game. However, Bulger and Co. made a game out of it in the through most of the fourth quarter, until, once again, execution problems derailed any hopes of winning.
Having lost the game and making it eight in a row, Linehan probably in more danger of losing the locker room.

Steven Jackson Injury Update
Now that we've landed you from your Google search concerning your first round fantasy bust's injury status, let's get you up to speed. Steven Jackson has a bulging disc in his back; however, with a prescription of rest and anti-inflammatory medication, he is expected to be ready to go against New Orleans when the Rams come off their bye week. Running against the Saints might be tough though. According to Football Outsiders, the Saints have the 8th best rush defense with a -10.5% DVOA. However, he might fare better catching passes, as NO has the 30th ranked pass defense, with a 30.7% DVOA.

Offensive Line Injury Update
Success catching or running for Jackson or any of the other Rams players again hinges on the state of the offensive line. Incognito, injured in the first quarter against Cleveland, is likely to miss the rest of the season, with a partially dislocated right knee cap. He'll likely require surgery. Incognito is a beast in the middle, and his absence had lots to do with the Rams failure to convert via the run on 3rd and 4th down short yardage situations.

Now desperately short at guard, the Rams may promote Jeremy Parquet or Dustin Fry ahead of week 10. Signing another street free agent remains a possibility as well.

There is some good news regarding the O-line for a change. Veteran Todd Steussie is likely to be resigned after missing the season thus far with a broken foot. Steussie plays guard and tackle, but saved the day last season when he came in as Pace's replacement at left tackle. Depending on what shakes out with the guard situation, I'd say Steussie will play tackle, which should help with pass protection.

Starting center Brett Romberg will "probably" play after the bye week too. Dante Hall and Leonard Little join Romberg and Steven Jackson as likely to return after the bye week.