By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
When Chip Rosenbloom took over the Rams franchise in January after the death of his mother, Georgia Frontiere, he made it clear that he wouldn't rush into things. He wanted to get the lay of the land; he wanted to avoid hasty judgments.
But two lopsided, demoralizing losses into the 2008 season, Rosenbloom has put everyone on notice at Rams Park.
"It is the job of the head coach, Scott Linehan, to figure out how to motivate and give some urgency to this team," Rosenbloom told the Post-Dispatch on Monday. "I believe in these players and I believe in this coach."
But there is a bottom line in every business. Rosenbloom knows what that bottom line is in the National Football League, and knows that his Rams have fallen far short of it thus far this season.
"Obviously, the game of football is about winning," Rosenbloom said. "The level of play is not acceptable to me or anybody in the organization."
Rosenbloom, who attended Sunday's home opener against the New York Giants, then made a plea for fans to stick with the team.
"I am happy for this team to be in St. Louis, where we have an appreciative fan base," he said. "And I hope that the fans will not waver in support of their team â€” even when times are a little tough."
Then came the hammer.
"Things will get better," Rosenbloom said. "And if they don't, changes will be made."
Rosenbloom declined to elaborate. In fact, he declined to comment any further. But the implication seemed clear. Linehan is on a short leash. If the team doesn't show marked improvement, it now seems possible that a coaching change could be made before the 2008 season ends.
Nothing like that has happened in the Rams organization in nearly a half-century. In 1962, Rams coach Bob Waterfield â€” once a Hall of Fame quarterback with the team â€” resigned eight games into the season (after a 1-7 start).
That's the last in-season change for the franchise. In 2005, assistant coach Joe Vitt replaced Mike Martz, who was ill, for the final 11 games of the season. Martz was fired at the end of the season.
Rosenbloom was back in Los Angeles when reached Monday by the Post-Dispatch. Meanwhile, at Rams Park, Linehan was asked about his job security for the first time during his head-coaching tenure at a news conference setting.
"I've been concerned about my job security since I started coaching," Linehan said. "I'm scared to death to lose, OK? Losing is a bad thing as a coach. If you lose, you're worried about everything. â€¦ At this point, we're not winning enough games. So when you don't win games, people are going to want the head coach's head.
"It's the way it works. I've told you that from the beginning. I've accepted that â€” only as part of the job, but not as part of where we're going. In my mind we're going to beat Seattle. I'm not making any guarantees â€” you can call it what it is â€” but in my mind we're going to beat Seattle and we're going to right this ship. Because we don't have a choice. I don't have a choice, and neither does anybody else around here."
It will take more than an upset victory in Seattle â€” the Rams are 10-point underdogs â€” to right the ship. Linehan is 11-23 as Rams head coach. The team ranks dead last in the NFL in total offense and total defense.
"I would think that over the last six months that we've done nothing but try to make adjustments and make improvements," Linehan said. "We have a new offensive system basically. We've got new defensive players. We've got some adjustments we've made within the staff, and we've got a few new offensive players."
Linehan even adjusted the practice schedule last week to accommodate the players. They didn't have to show up last Thursday until 11 a.m., a few hours later than normal. In theory, it allowed them to maybe sleep in a little, or just get away from football a little after the 38-3 season-opening loss to Philadelphia. But it didn't pay dividends Sunday against the Giants.
With the game on the line in the fourth quarter, the Rams collapsed down the stretch in a 41-13 loss.
"There's no solution other than going out and doing it on Sunday against Seattle on the road," Linehan said. "We could change more schedules. I tell you what â€” we could flip-flop. Practice at midnight and sleep during the day.
"We could eat baloney sandwiches on Wednesday. Penalize the team for not playing very good. We could try all that stuff. But the bottom line is how we play on Sunday, and what we do when we get in those moments in the game that are going to decide our fate."
And if the results don't change, it now seems obvious that Linehan's fate will be sealed.
I give it 1 maybe 2 more losses (which are inevitable with this team) and Linehan is done. Wasted years for the franchise IMO.
"Hey MEG, I'm a Playoff Challenge Champion and you aren't. If you're so GD smart, why the hell haven't you won one?" -WestCoastSpedFan