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News » It's early, but Spags has shown potential New coach is demanding but sincere.


It's early, but Spags has shown potential New coach is demanding but sincere.


It's early, but Spags has shown potential New coach is demanding but sincere. Having learned a few embarrassing lessons along the way, I'm hesitant to hype rookie NFL head coaches. I don't get worked up over what happens in training camp. So I'll hold off on trying to nominate new Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Let's see him in a real game. Let's see what happens when the injuries cut into an already thin roster, or when the squad is shaken by the inevitable losing streak. Let's see how the young coach responds if players question him or ignite a controversy. Let's see if he grows rabbit ears or develops overly sensitive skin when there's a feeding frenzy among frustrated fans or media.

So what do we make of the Rams and Spagnuolo a week before the regular-season opener in Seattle?

To state the obvious: The roster still has gaping holes, and only time and better judgment will fill them. Spagnuolo and general manager Billy Devaney didn't create this roster; they inherited much of it. And they are turning it over as fast as they can.

Quality, intelligent leadership eventually will take the Rams higher. So what about Spagnuolo as a leader?

I haven't seen any signs of panic. Spagnuolo's stability is an attribute considering that three NFL head coaches (Kansas City, Tampa Bay and Buffalo) freaked out last week and fired their offensive coordinators.

Spagnuolo is demanding but sincere and that earns respect. He's run a peaceful, orderly and businesslike camp. That may not have people rushing to the ticket windows, but this is a welcome change for an organization that was undermined by constant dysfunction. And compared to some other rookie coaches around the NFL who are yapping a lot or trying to project some tough-guy persona, Spagnuolo seems comfortable with who he is. He doesn't seem to feel a need to put on a show, or to draw attention to himself. I don't see Spagnuolo firing ego bullets in some misplaced display of authority.

Here's the most important thing: Spagnuolo has gotten the players to embrace his approach. So far - and I repeat, more severe challenges are coming - Spagnuolo is receiving the necessary commitment from his players. That was a constant (and failed) struggle for Scott Linehan, the previous rookie head coach brought in by the old regime at Rams Park.

Spagnuolo is connecting.

"I think we've got a bunch of hungry guys," Spagnuolo said. "I think it's good to be hungry. It's a hungry Football team that wants to be a team. We've talked a lot about it and I think the guys have embraced it. At least their actions and the attitudes and what comes out verbally says that to me. So if we can rally around that, that would be good."

That's why Spagnuolo thanked the squad in the team meeting the evening before they faced Kansas City in the final preseason game. He asked a lot of them in a physical camp, and they gave him what he wanted. That's where leadership begins: getting players to play for you.

"That means a great deal," Spagnuolo said. "I thanked them the other night. The night before the game for what they did. Back in offseason program, right through training camp, it was a new training camp. It was a different hotel and we're here. New staff, new this or that, and they didn't skip a beat. They really bought in to it."

Friday at Rams Park, Spagnuolo took the time to express gratitude to his staff. They will be vital to his success, or failure.

"It all starts with a good staff," he said. "I think it's a staff of character - that is how we built it and I think it is a cohesive staff. I think that is important. I think the players feel that. (If) we're all together on the same page, it permeates into the locker room."

And yet Spagnuolo has the awareness to realize that this means little unless he can maintain that loyalty over the next 16 games.

"I'm perfectly aware that all of this is a honeymoon period," Spagnuolo said. "That's not lost on me. The real challenge is upcoming. It will be here before you know it. No team goes through 16 games without some adversity."

Miracle fixes?

Bold promises?

Not this coach.

Spagnuolo is old-fashioned in a way. He's all about energy and enthusiasm and being earnest. In terms of personal style, think of a young Dick Vermeil. Spagnuolo knows it's going to take a lot of hard work to turn the Rams around. And that's what this coach is all about: rolling up his sleeves and getting to work, and convincing his players to join the effort. I don't know what's ahead, but this is a good place to start.


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Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: September 7, 2009

Drew Bennett Name: Drew Bennett
#83
Position: WR
Age: 29
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