Vitt: I'm the one to blame

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The interim coach said the team's 3-7 record during his tenure is his fault.

ST. LOUIS -- Interim coach or not, the buck stops at Joe Vitt's door.

The St. Louis Rams' fill-in leader blames himself for not keeping the 5-10 team in contention. On Monday, two days after the Rams lost to the lowly 49ers for their sixth setback in seven games, that was the theme of his news conference.

"If I had done a better job of preparing our team, we may be better right now," Vitt said. "It's on me. This is my fault."

The Rams have nine players on injured reserve, including both starting cornerbacks and quarterback Marc Bulger. Vitt was coaching linebackers in early October before stepping into the job Mike Martz vacated due to a heart ailment.

All he knows is the Rams have dropped six of seven heading into the season finale on Sunday at Dallas, and are 3-7 overall with him coaching, including 1-6 in their last seven.

"This has been on me," he said again. "I've got to do a better job. We've just got to win, we've got to get a win."

Vitt made it clear that Martz, who's been cleared by his physician to return to duty on game day, should shoulder no blame in the team's unraveling act. The team is expected to reach a settlement on the final year of Martz' three-year contract sometime after the season ends.

"This has been me, this has been my responsibility," Vitt said. "These losses are on me and me alone."

St. Louis was 2-3 when Vitt took over for Martz and promptly lost 45-28 to the Colts in the game Bulger was injured. After beating the Cardinals and the Titans to pull to .500 at 4-4, the Rams lost at Seattle and then at home against the Cardinals.

The Rams were 5-6 and apparently surging after rookie Ryan Fitzpatrick rallied them from 10 points down in the final half minute in an overtime victory at Houston on Nov. 27. The Rams lost the next four games -- three at home -- despite being in position to win.

They trailed the Redskins by three entering the fourth quarter of a 24-9 loss on Dec. 4. The next week they were tied 13-13 with the Vikings in the third quarter of a 27-13 loss. They squandered a 16-7 lead against the Eagles on Dec. 18, losing 17-16. And on Saturday they were outscored 17-0 after taking a 20-7 lead.

The Rams had the ball deep in 49ers territory three times in the fourth quarter, but came up empty on the second failed critical fourth-and-1 run in two weeks and a pair of interceptions.

"I'm probably trying to shove the situation down the players' throat instead of really taking what they give us and getting points," Vitt said. "I feel bad about that. I haven't done anything to help this team get over the hump."

That said, the 51-year-old Vitt has appreciated his time on the hot seat. He said the worst part has been the daily media sessions.

"I've had a ball," he said. "The biggest fear I had was having to talk to you guys every day, it really is. As far as the practice goes, as far as the interaction with the players, as far as game preparation, we were all kind of thrown into this thing and the staff has given me wonderful support."

Aside from a plethora of missed tackles that have cost the Rams dearly, Vitt has no problem with the players who he said have not jumped ship.

"There is no place that I would rather be, right here and right now with these people," Vitt said. "Our players have fought, they've worked hard.

"I feel the same way about this team as I did when I took this thing over. It's been an honor, it's been fun."

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