Rams could call defense by committee all year
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Nearly three months since the St. Louis Rams lost their defensive coordinator, coach Jeff Fisher appears to be in no hurry to define roles among the handful of people capable of filling the void.
Fisher believes if the game plan is sound, it doesn’t matter who makes the calls.
“The most difficult part of the week is putting the plan together,” Fisher said Thursday. “Calling the defense and those kinds of things is not as difficult as putting the plan together and being right and adjusting. We’re more than capable of doing all three of those things.”
The coordinator work has been handled at various times by assistant head coach Dave McGinnis, secondary coach Chuck Cecil and linebackers coach Blake Williams, the son of suspended Gregg Williams, exiled indefinitely for his role in the Saints bounty scandal.
Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis wouldn’t be surprised if the Rams go the entire season without having one man responsible for game-day play-calling, because so many assistants are well-schooled in the defense.
Laurinaitis finds media curiosity about the coordinator question somewhat humorous.
“They’re no dummies, they know you guys are out there trying to figure out all the secrets,” Laurinaitis said. “It’s funny how they all think similarly. They all know the purpose behind it is to be aggressive.”
McGinnis, Cecil and Fisher have been NFL defensive coordinators, and Williams absorbed the Fisher system growing up. McGinnis is the logical game-day choice because he has no specific position responsibilities, but said nothing’s been decided.
“That’s up to Jeff, but believe me, we will get that handled,” McGinnis said. “You’ve got enough experience on this staff and enough expertise, and with Jeff’s leadership that’s covered.”
McGinnis described it as a unique staff because of all the experience, but didn’t think it would be unusual if the roles remained undefined on Sundays.
“I don’t think it’s unique,” McGinnis said. “I mean, we’re going to call a defense and make them punt. On your mark, get set, go.”
Laurinaitis gets much of the responsibility. He’s led the Rams in tackles all three of his NFL seasons, and McGinnis called him a “perfect” middle linebacker for the system.
“He has to be so in tune, I mean, he has to be right in the defensive coaches’ skin,” McGinnis said. “I interviewed him at the combine when he came out and I loved him then, and I love him even more now because he’s exactly what you need.”
Rookies will spend another week in St. Louis, but the rest of the team was cut loose until the start of training camp in late July with the reminder to take care of themselves. Fisher joked to a group of suite and luxury box holders who attended practice to be careful in the parking lot, referring to a mass exodus of players, but before sending players off he reiterated a warning about potential pitfalls.
“It may not be you on the four-wheeler or the wave runner, it may be you and someone else on a boat,” Fisher said. “The most important thing from today until the time they report and after that is to come back in the best shape they possibly can and not put themselves in compromising positions, whether that’s social media or after midnight or behind the wheel. We talk about it all the time.”
It was a message that rookie wide receiver Brian Quick, a second-round pick who is expected to step up immediately, didn’t need to hear.
“No vacation, no days off,” Quick said. “There’s no need to take a vacation and waste all that you’ve done. They’re depending on me and I’m going to come back going 100 mph.”
So far, Fisher has been impressed with the players’ commitment to rapidly rebuilding a franchise that’s just 15-65 the last five seasons. He said all but seven of the players on the 55-man roster had over 90 percent attendance at minicamps and organized team activities and about 40 players had 100 percent attendance.
“I just love to be around this group of guys,” offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. “They are working really, really hard.”