Rams president: Linehan will not lose job this year

Tuesday, December 11, 2007
The St. Louis Rams are 3-10 under second-year coach Scott Linehan. (TOM GANNAM ~ Associated Press)

Shaw says injuries have made it impossible to evaluate the coach's job performance.

ST. LOUIS -- Coach Scott Linehan won't lose his job because of the St. Louis Rams' 3-10 record.

Team president John Shaw told Linehan on Monday it would be unfair to judge his performance this season, given the team's lengthy injury list. Later in the day, Linehan said he was looking forward to an end-of-season meeting in early January.

"It's important to know you've got support and those things," Linehan said. "But at this point, it's really not my issue. My issue is trying to get our fourth win."

The Rams were 8-8 in Linehan's first season and were perceived as a contender in the NFC West in the preseason. But they began the year with eight straight losses, mitigated by numerous injuries.

St. Louis has 11 players on injured reserve, seven of them starters. The two feature players on offense, quarterback Marc Bulger and running back Steven Jackson, both have missed significant time because of injuries.

"I felt the last month or so that the obstacles were somewhat insurmountable for him," Shaw said in a telephone interview. "From the first game the offensive line was a mess, and then Marc and Steven got hurt.

"From Day 1, it was almost impossible to evaluate him."

Shaw said the last couple of weeks he's emphasized that Linehan just keep trying, and believes it's clear that players still believe in him.

"I felt all along I was kind of telling him that myself and ownership felt it was very hard to evaluate him just on this year's performance," Shaw said. "I told Scott today and he kind of sensed it was coming."

Bulger has missed the past two games because of a concussion and his availability remains a question mark for this week's game against the Packers. The Rams promoted Brock Berlin off the practice squad and he made his NFL debut Sunday. Berlin was 17-of-28 for 153 yards and an interception against the Bengals.

Offensive coordinator Greg Olson said Bulger was feeling better Monday. Bulger practiced last Wednesday and Thursday after passing a neurological exam, but began experiencing concussion symptoms in meetings Thursday afternoon and was not active for the Bengals game.

"We're optimistic about that," Olson said. "He said he's ready to give it a try again on Wednesday."

Shaw continues to be based in Los Angeles, where the team had been located before moving to St. Louis in 1995, and doesn't attend every road game. But Linehan said the two speak every week, and on Monday they communicated by telephone.

"He's very supportive and he understands," Linehan said. "I also understand this isn't where we wanted to be.

"It's not the record we intended on having, but the focus is to improve at season's end and continue to get better in certain areas."

Linehan said Shaw has told him to be prepared for a comprehensive meeting after the season.

"He wants me thinking about some of the things we want to get done," Linehan said. "He definitely wants my mind in that direction. I'm sure we'll talk about pretty much everything."

The Rams have had three home games blacked out on local television because they've failed to sell out, after only one blackout in the first 12 seasons in St. Louis. Shaw said a winning team will address the apathy.

"If I didn't think the fans would support an NFL team, we wouldn't have moved there," Shaw said.

"All sports are cyclical and obviously we've had a down year, and I understand the fans' frustration when the team isn't winning.

"All we can do is attempt to improve the product and hope the fans come back."

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