Winless Rams Face A Salvage Operation

Former Saints coach Jim Haslett now has the task of trying to save the Rams' season.
Former Saints coach Jim Haslett now has the task of trying to save the Rams' season. (By Chris O'meara -- Associated Press)
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By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The less-than-imposing segment of the Washington Redskins' schedule arrives now, beginning with Sunday's meeting at FedEx Field with a winless St. Louis Rams team that's fresh off firing its coach last week.

The Oakland Raiders have received plenty of attention recently as the NFL's supposed model of dysfunction. But it was the Rams who made the league's first coaching switch of the season early last week, ousting Scott Linehan the day before Raiders owner Al Davis fired Lane Kiffin. The Rams elevated defensive coordinator Jim Haslett to replace Linehan and now, after a bye this past weekend, he gets his first chance to turn things around.

That's never an easy task for a coach who takes over during a season and inherits his predecessor's struggling team and problems. Ron Wolf, the retired general manager of the Green Bay Packers, said Haslett at least has the advantage of knowing the club's inner workings.

"I think it all depends on the set-up," Wolf said. "In this case, the guy who's the interim coach was the guy who was running the defense. He knows what's going on there. He has a better chance to make an impact than someone who comes in from the outside and doesn't know anything about what's going on there."

Little of what has been going on with the Rams has been positive. They are 0-4 this season and are 3-17 since the beginning of last season. They've been outscored, 147-43, this season. Their smallest margin of defeat has been 17 points. They've lost eight straight games by an average margin of 22 points.

Linehan had gone 8-8 in 2006 as a rookie head coach, but things fell apart quickly from there, and he seemed to have lost control of the locker room in recent weeks. He clashed with Torry Holt, and there was speculation Linehan might have been contemplating trading the veteran wide receiver.

Linehan benched quarterback Marc Bulger in favor of Trent Green before his final game as coach. That move drew public criticism by tailback Steven Jackson and failed to produce a spark in a loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Bulger signed a six-year, $65 million contract last year, and his play clearly wasn't viewed within the locker room as the main reason for the club's struggles. Holt said publicly shortly before the benching that the play of the offensive line had to improve or Bulger wouldn't last the season. Jackson said on a radio show days after the move that it made no sense to pay a quarterback that much money and then sit him down.

"He's our general," Jackson said on KLOU, and later added: "I'm not the only one who feels this way."

Haslett agreed. He wasted no time last week reinstalling Bulger as the starter. The prevailing sentiment around the league seems to be Haslett probably will win back the locker room, but it might not make a huge difference. Haslett's defense is ranked 31st among the 32 NFL teams while the offense overseen by coordinator Al Saunders, the former Redskins assistant, is ranked 30th.

"This is not really the way you want to become a head coach, at somebody else's expense," Haslett said at a news conference last week. "I thought Scott did about as good a job as you can get. He tried everything, and obviously it didn't work out."

Green said yesterday he understands Haslett's decision to go back to Bulger.

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