Defensive coordinator replaces Linehan asa interim head coach



ST. LOUIS – Jim Haslett won a division title and had a 10-6 record in his first year as an NFL head coach, then produced only one winning record in his last five seasons with the New Orleans Saints before being fired in 2005.

Haslett believes he’s a lot better equipped for the job the second time around as interim head coach of the St. Louis Rams. Game day management, personnel decisions, handling adversity – he’s ready for it all after the Rams fired Scott Linehan Monday and handed over game-day authority to their former defensive coordinator.

“I always thought second-time head coaches, if you look at the track record, are better coaches because of the experiences they went through the first time,” Haslett said.

“Just look at the guys who have second opportunities, and most of them have been successful.”

Role models for Haslett, 52, include the Patriots’ Bill Belichick and the Colts’ Tony Dungy. Big names now, but Belichick was fired by the Browns and Dungy was let go by the Bucs.

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“You learn things about players, how they react to situations,” Haslett said.

“Probably the biggest thing, how you would handle things. There’s a number of things, I have a list.”

Haslett was 45-51 with the Saints, developing a fierce rivalry with the Rams when both teams were in the NFC West. He got his pink slip after a 3-13 showing under extremely adverse conditions, running a team also dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He joined Linehan’s staff in 2006, believing it would be a stepping stone to another head coaching job.

Owner Chip Rosenbloom chose Haslett despite a disappointing start by the defense, ranked 31st out of 32 teams.

“I think that after meeting with Jim, he’s the man that can turn this team around,” said owner Chip Rosenbloom, who gave Haslett a say in personnel matters.

Haslett gets at least a 12-game audition, with a shot at removing the “interim” tag next season.

“You like to think so, but right now I’m worrying about this year,” Haslett said. “Coaches live year to year anyway. Hopefully, we can turn this thing around.”

Even though the Rams have lost 17 of 20 and have allowed 30 points in seven straight games, the mediocre state of the NFC West gives him some hope. The Cardinals and 49ers are tied for the lead at 2-2.

“In this division, you never know,” Haslett said. “I promise you they’ll play hard. They will play hard or they’re not going to be here.

“We’re going to give it everything we’ve got and we’ll try to keep the mistakes to a minimum.”

Haslett knows a few wins will do wonders for team morale. He realizes there will be mistakes, and when they happen he wants players to be tough-minded and shrug them off.

“Something bad will happen every game, but that’s the National Football League,” Haslett said. “How you overcome it, how do you handle adversity, how do you handle crowd noise on the road, how do you handle a fumble, how do you handle things?

“Right now, we’re not going very well but we’re going to work on that and try to fix that because adversity does hit in the NFL.”