I understand that newspapers have to do everything they can to save their bacon. Don't hate the game and all that. What annoys me is when columnists, especially columnists with national reputations, use their perch to gin up bogus controversy such as Bernie Miklasz is trying to do with the issue of the St. Louis Rams and the team's retired greats.
Miklasz took a break recently from propagating the Michael Vick speculation (more on that minute) to talk about the Rams interior decorating decisions at Rams Park and team mentoring issues. The first salvo (actually I think this started on talk radio, exactly, before this) came in comments from HOF defensive end Jack Youngblood who chastised team leadership for not using the franchise's all-time greats to help mentor the young players on the team, specifically Chris Long. Here's Youngblood:
The part that I would like to see is for somebody to teach Chris [Long] how to play defensive end. There’s a whole lot of pretty good talent on the alumni side of the Rams that have been totally unused. Why wouldn’t you use them?
Did he not see the strides Chris Long made as the season went along? Long finally played up to his draft position. He collected all five of his sacks in the last half of the season, and displayed the kind of skill we had previously seen only in bits and pieces. It was enough of a display to give the Rams some real hope along the DL, if they can add some players to bolster the rest of that unit.
As far as having long-time veterans around to help out with the young guys, that can be a potential problem and a distraction for a group of rookie coaches trying to implement their DNA on a group of young players. This kind of stuff isn't just limited to the football field, it happens in office parks across America. The real threat isn't that the cagey vets might teach from a different script, the problem becomes one of authority as youngsters start looking to them as alternatives to the coaches. I'm not saying that has to happen, but it certainly can happen. Why would a newly minted head coach in a tough situation take that risk? Would you? Spagnuolo et al turned to the veterans on the roster, e.g. Steven Jackson, to impart leadership and serve in that sergeants' capacity of imparting their wisdom and experience from the front-line perspective. Just think about it on the personal level. Do you appreciate the people who used to work in your office telling people how to do your job? You can see why this kind of crap is more trouble than it's worth for a head coach. Here's a very level-headed assessment of why this can be a complication as much as a helping hand from Devaney:
Sometimes you get too much information. You get overload. And we’ve had a number of coaches pass through here. Donnie Avery is going into his third year. He’s on his third position coach. There’s a lot of cases like that where the intention is great and we embrace everything that the player stood for, and we recognize that. But sometimes it also can be too much, it can have a negative effect on somebody.
How many people has Marc Bulger had in his ear the past three years? Coordinators, quarterback coaches, head coaches. A lot of these guys just need to settle down in the same system and I think they’ll be better off for it.
Miklasz has made nothing into something when it comes to this issue of the Rams new regime not respecting the team's history. Much of it stemming, I wonder, from the ire he has expressed for the Rams' decision to limit media access, something he went toe-to-toe with Cardinals manager Tony La Russa for in the past as well. Miklasz hasn't been the only one to pick at this issue, local talk radio has eagerly inserted itself into the conversation as well.
The issue takes another angle in the since refuted argument that the team had removed pictures of veteran players hanging on the walls at Rams Park. Marshall Faulk talked about that recently, and Devaney and Spagnuolo have both countered the charges. I love Marshall Faulk, but it's not his place to tell the new Rams coaching staff how to decorate their facility or how to run the team. Of course, it turned out that the coaches were not removing the photos. Be sure to visit the links above for the perfectly reasonable explanation of Picture-Gate.
Ginning up controversy is one thing, but cranking out rumors is something else all together. Bernie adds more grist to the rumor mill today by attempting to read between the lines of this "mysterious" quote from Spagnuolo about Michael Vick:
I’ve got a lot of respect for Michael as a player. Everything I’ve heard out of Philadelphia is kind of good. We haven’t gone down that road in our process yet. I think he’s a terrific player.
Spags gets asked a question about Vick and the Rams; whatever answer he gives, including no comment, leaves a wide berth for speculation. Ridiculous. Of course the Rams would do their due diligence on Vick...and any other realistic QB possibility. Bloggers get hammered for this kind of irresponsible speculation, usually it's the dinosaurs of the traditional media doing most of the attacking too.
Miklasz is the head cheerleader for the Rams to bring in Michael Vick right now, and he'll be the first guy ready to eviscerate Vick the minute the same guy who has a 53.7 percent career completion rate shows up in a game. Same thing happened with Spagnuolo and Incognito. He expressed approval for the decision to give Cogs one more chance after his penalty-filled season opener, and then took Spagnuolo to task, calling him "weak," in the wake of Incognito's outburst against the Titans that got him released from the team.
Of course, maybe they can be forgiven, they've got to find some way to talk about the Rams.