ST. LOUIS -- After experiencing the wild highs and lows of the Mike Martz years, the winless St. Louis Rams opted for cool, calm, reserved Scott Linehan as their next coach.
On Monday, they admitted their mistake and fired Linehan after four consecutive lopsided losses to open the season. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, a fiery type and polar opposite in terms of demeanor, was given the unenviable task of trying to revive a franchise that has become an NFL doormat.
The Rams have lost 17 of their last 20 games, most of them routs. But no matter how dire the situation appears, Haslett said it'll never be as bad as in his final season as head coach of the New Orleans Saints in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
"This is nothing," Haslett said, "compared to that."
Linehan, 45, was 11-25 in the third season of a four-year contract that paid him about $8 million. The Rams have been outscored 147-43 this season, and have allowed at least 30 points in seven straight games dating back to last year.
The move was made heading into the Rams' bye week and in the early morning hours Monday, several hours after the Buffalo Bills outscored them 25-0 in the second half of a 31-14 victory.
The Rams were 3-13 in 2007 and have lost eight in a row dating to last season. Dissension had been building after unsuccessful stabs by Linehan at a makeover: several new assistants; a remote training camp site; a higher-energy, upbeat delivery by the coach to project confidence and enthusiasm.
Linehan turned to desperation after the Rams were outscored 116-29 the first three games. Quarterback Marc Bulger, the highest-paid player in franchise history, was benched in favor of 38-year-old Trent Green. Starting cornerback Fakhir Brown, a Haslett favorite, was released and there were four other lineup changes.
Running back Steven Jackson ripped Linehan on his weekly radio show for benching Bulger, and there were reports Bulger no longer wanted to play for Linehan. Bulger has not spoken to media since the benching.
"He took 100 percent responsibility for the failures of this organization, but we're all culpable," owner Chip Rosenbloom said. "We all share in the responsibilities of losing games. That includes the coaches, it includes the players, it includes the administration, it includes the ownership."
That hints at more changes coming down the line. Jay Zygmunt, president of football operations and in his 27th year with the team, is drawing heat for poor draft-day performances. President John Shaw, who spends much of his time on the West Coast, is contemplating retirement after the season.
A sign at Sunday's home game read: "Congress. Now bail out the Rams."
Linehan briefly addressed players for about 10 minutes Monday morning before driving away from Rams Park without speaking to reporters or even making eye contact.