The debate about Jim Haslett's fate with the Rams after this season made for some good discussion yesterday. The overwhelming consensus, unscientific, was for Haslett to get his walking papers at the end of the season. Given the team's performance since the fourth quarter against the Patriots, it's tough to make the case for the Rams to keep Haslett.
However, there are plenty of arguments in his favor, not the least of which is the talent he has to work with. The PD's Bryan Burwell has a column in today's paper arguing that the Rams should keep Haslett. I have to question a few of his key points though, mostly in relation to Haslett's connection with the players. To wit:
Haslett knows how to be a head coach. He may not be the greatest X's and O's man who ever patrolled the sidelines, but he doesn't have to be. He's a leader, and this team will need a strong-willed, confident man in charge, not a sad-sack fatalist who mopes around Rams Park as if he's doomed whenever he faces hard times. I like the way Haslett is still working every day trying to weed out the weak-minded and the talent impaired.
He had me until that last sentence (emphasis mine). He comes back to that theme, two paragraphs later:
Haslett's value is that he's shown the good sense, judgment and credibility to sniff out all the slackers and jokers in that locker room. Like he said a few weeks ago, the problem with this team is that it has too many players who either don't want to play hard, lack the talent to play hard or suffer severe cases of both maladies.
Now, we know Haslett doesn't have much to work with, mismanagement over the years has left the Rams talent-barren and instilled something less than a winning tradition. My question, however, is what exactly has Haslett done to weed out the "weak-minded," the "talent impaired" and "slackers and jokers"?
It seems to me that it's the same guys in the same rotations out there week after week, excluding injured players, from the high points a few weeks ago to the recent run of putrid football the Rams have played. Granted, the lack of depth prevents the Rams from benching many guys, but if Haslett's called out any slackers in the locker room, that hasn't translated to the field. It's particularly hard to agree with this sentiment when it's already been announced that Marc Bulger will start at QB again this week. And Bulger's not particularly a slacker; he's just not playing well enough to justify another start at the moment.
I will say that Haslett's tactic with backup runners Antonio Pittman and Kenneth Darby worked well. Both had solid games against the 49ers, not just at garbage time either. Darby, you'll notice, didn't fumble in this game after a costly one against the Jets. And the offensive line came out looking sharp to start the game, but the rest of the team's performance showed no signs of rising to meet the challenge.
Without a doubt, whoever the Rams make haed coach next season, there has to be some real changes to the roster, not only to jettison overpriced or over-the-hill veterans but to also, you know, purge a few malcontents. There also has to be a sea change at the top, new leadership in the front office, and by all accounts that's coming. Things we've been saying here since 2006. Burwell makes both those points in his column too, but if Haslett's calling out the lugs, we've yet to see the results.
Next question: It's easy to talk about the bums and malcontents, the quitters and the half-effort types, but who are they? Which players on the Rams team need to go for these reasons?