After the Rams finished the 2008 season, it was extremely important that the organization needed to go in different direction, and changes in the organization was evident to all, including the local media beat writers, columnist and the Rams fan base had hit rock bottom and something drastic was needed.
2008 was a bad year for the Rams Organization, Georgia Frontiere passed away from breast cancer January 18th 2008. Head Coach Scott Linehan was fired after the first quarter (4 games). Jim Haslett was hired as an interim head coach, but released after the season, while Jay Zygmunt Executive VP/General Manager was forced into retirement. Change was happening at all levels, and it was much needed and good to see.
The Rams Training Facility located in Earth City, for years had a dark cloud that loomed over top, blocking sunshine. From the non-positive attitude, the chaos from upper management, and the dysfunction that had taken place for several years, stretching back to the last year of the greatest show in turf. A dilapidated abandon warehouse, window locked tight and lacked fresh air and visibility due to dust and arachnoid remains. Despite well pruned grass and green hedges, this facility needed a face lift.
Ownership group of Chip Rosenblum, Lucia Rodriquez , Stan Kroenke and consultant to owners John Shaw, did their homework and hired the 23rd Head Coach in Rams history in Steve Spagnuolo. The first step in changing the trajectory and aiming higher was complete, and the movement for change was started. The man known to his friend as Spags, a bright eyed former New York Giants Defensive Coordinator. After the hire, I made calls around the league starting with my friend and General Manager of the Giants Jerry Reese, “Tony you are getting one of the all-time best human beings, not to mention he is one great coach, he gets it”.
You see Spags learned a lot from several coaches along the way, Andy Reid Head Coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants, but the late Jim Johnson the Eagles Defensive Coordinator and Spagnuolo mentor of the aggressive, attacking high pressure, multiple blitzing approach to disruptive defense.
I knew right away he was the right man for the job the moment he walked through the front doors of Rams Park. He was immediately introduced to the Rams organization and local media. Several days later, after he assembled his staff, he addressed the organization again. The new staff was introduced, the word to everyone in the room “we will do this together, one heart beat”. This was extremely refreshing for me, having come from the Carolina Panthers organization, were Jerry Richardson gave direction from the top down, and there was no mistaking who was in charge and we all were moving in the same direction in an optimal manner.
Spags brought Discipline, Direction, Organization and Rules that were much needed which affected not only the team but applied to the organization as well. He sat down and met with every department from grounds keepers, media relations, sponsorship, and marketing departments. When it came to the personnel department, we had lengthy meetings on what type of players he needed to win, and his coaching staff gave both the pro and College scouting departments a clinic, so there was no misunderstanding what he wanted and needed in order to win.
Spags hired very capable coordinators in Pat Shurmur and Ken Flajole who brought schemes that fit what the head coach wanted to achieve. He is not only a head coach, but has worked in personnel with the Washington Redskins and San Diego Chargers between coaching stints, making him a good evaluator of talent. I know, I’ve been in meetings with this young talented head coach.
With Steve Spagnuolo in charge of Rams Park, the dilapidated abandon warehouse has sunshine beaming down on it, fresh air and ideas flowing through clean and open windows, letting light in the new thriving building. He has the right staff, scheme and I feel he should have final say in all personnel, not only the 53 man roster, but the college draft and free agency as well. Change is good, in this case it is because of the direction of one man, who was not afraid to make change, apply discipline and change the trajectory in an organization full of misdirection and chaos. The future is bright.