Calls for the Rams to fire head coach Scott Linehan are nothing new, ditto the demands for changes in the front office. However, at no point last season were such calls as overt and loud as they are now. Two of the St. Louis Post Dispatch's, the hometown fish wrap, most prominent sports columnists, Brian Burwell and Bernie Miklasz, used their allotted space in today's paper to make open calls for Scott Linehan and Rams GM Jay Zygmunt to tender their resignations. Laying blame unquestionably at their feet for the state of disrepair that the Rams franchise has succumbed to.
They're absolutely right. President Lincoln canned general after general when the Army of the Potomac struggled during the Civil War. And no company concerned with their bottom line would tolerate comparable results year after after. Granted, the Rams situation isn't quite as dire as a nation torn asunder, but the point is incompetence starts at the top and that's where it first and foremost needs to be dealt with.
The current cadre of Rams leadership made numerous changes to the coaching staff after last season, bringing in new blood to help fix troubled areas...and give Linehan another shot in the wake of an injury-wrecked season. So far the return on their investment has been rather poor. Art Valero was hired away from Tampa Bay as the Rams new running back coach. Steve Loney, who left a head coaching job at Drake (hmmm, Drake, eh?), to sign on as the Rams offensive line coach. Terry Shea was hired as the new QB coach after being fired by the Chiefs and Dolphins in consecutive seasons. All three coaches are responsible for offensive cogs that aren't clicking.
The most notable change in the coaching staff was the addition of Al Saunders as offensive coordinator. At the time, the move excited us all, pointing to better things ahead after the bland offenses of Linehan and former OC Greg Olsen. The Rams offense under Saunders looks just as stymied as it did under Linehan and Olsen. Part of the problem in this case is the personnel Saunders has to work with, particularly the offensive line. The offense simply lacks the quality needed to run that kind of system - or any system. In my mind, that's indicative of a larger, systemic problem that starts with the GM's failure over the years to provide quality depth as well as the coaching staff's inability to get the maximum effort from the players they do have.
Remember when Jim Haslett's defense played above their heads last year? No Leonard Little and no more than 4 games with both Tye Hill and Fakhir Brown in the lineup together, the starting corners? Last year, when the calls for Linehan's head began in earnest, fans proffered Haslett as a replacement. His ability to get more out of the Rams defense last year even got his name thrown into head coaching rumors elsewhere. Now, I'm not so sure about that Haslett's any better option than Linehan, as the defense, particularly the backfield, seems to have displayed apathy over talent so far this season.
Rumblings from people in the know make it clear that Linehan has lost the players, most of them anyway, but there's more to the story we're not privy to. From this vantage point, it looks as though turmoil plagues the coaching staff too.
It's hard to say exactly what's going on, like any crisis, there are factions and factions mean multiple takes on the story. What's indisputable is the need for accountability, from coaches, front office people and the players themselves. All the new coaching changes made between this season and last sounded great, but have since been revealed as nothing more than window dressing because the real problem is at the top.
Yes, Zygmunt needs to go and the coaching staff needs to be shaken up. But don't stop there. Bench the players that quit, or at least make a couple examples from the lot of them. And play the rookie more, guys like Keenan Burton, Donnie Avery and John Greco. They're too hungry to quit. They won't necessicarily make the on-field product any better, but they won't quit.