With Scott Linehan out as coach of the St. Louis Rams and Jim Haslett in as interim coach, a lot of speculation is on whether Haslett is the right man for the role.
The answer is yes.
I've always believed Haslett got the shaft in New Orleans when he was fired as coach of the Saints, and deserved another shot to be a head coach. This isn't the ideal situation, but Haslett has faced many challenges before as a coach.
He was the man who coached the Saints in their season without a home when Hurricane Katrina displaced them.
Many of the Saints players I talked to back them credited Haslett with getting them through those tough times. They marveled at his work ethic and passion for the job, doing the trivial things to help get them through, such as finding a dog sitter for one player's dog. He lost 20 pounds that season, yet kept his team playing hard. I visited him in San Antonio that year and he couldn't believe all the little things he had to do just to play games on Sunday.
They practiced on a high- school field and fans gathered to watch. Hoping to get some privacy, Haslett told the staff he wanted to put up something to keep the fans from watching. Don't do it the fans told him. Why, he asked?
"The gangs will take it down," he was told.
He practiced without it. How many coaches would handle that?
Haslett cares. He cares about his players and he cares about the game. He will bring that same type of drive and dedication to being the interim coach of the Rams. The players there like him -- a lot. During their workouts this summer with the Titans, I spoke to Rams safety O.J. Atogwe and he raved about Haslett. You could see the respect the players had for Haslett after the practice as they came over to him seeking advice and counseling.
Haslett's defense has struggled in a big way this year, but that's because it lacks players, not a good leader.
If Haslett can turn this team around in the final 12 games, he deserves a chance to be the head coach next season and beyond. If he does get that chance, it's time for the Rams to help him with a proper personnel department. Jay Zygmunt, who makes the personnel decisions, really isn't a football man. Word is Haslett and Zygmunt don't get along since Haslett is such a strong-minded coach.
The Rams are a mess. Here's betting that Haslett gets them playing better. If so, the Rams might have their next coach,
One thing's a certainty: Nobody will outwork him.
---They said Derrick Brooks was done. He heard it, too. But Brooks, one of the league's classiest players, showed Sunday he's far from done. He had three interceptions and a forced fumble in the Bucs' victory over Green Bay. At 35, he can still play. "I know it's still in me," Brooks said. "I still have a lot of football in me, contrary to what some believe." He's not as swift as he once was, but that's to be expected. But Brooks can still play at a high level.
---Tampa Bay's passing game is way too horizontal. It's time the threaten more down the field. It's painful to watch a quarterback throw 5 yards to a receiver on third-and-15 and ask the receiver to do the rest. For all his reputation as an offensive wizard, Jon Gruden sure seems to have trouble throwing the ball down the field.
---What's not to like about watching the New Orleans Saints play? Drew Brees has thrown for 1,343 yards in four games. That puts him on a pace for 5,372 yards. That would break the single-season record of 5,084 yards set by Dan Marino in 1984.
---If you're looking for an early-season Pro Bowl left tackle take a look at Khalif Barnes of the Jacksonville Jaguars. To open the season, Barnes has been matched up against Kyle Vanden Bosch, Aaron Schobel, Dwight Freeney and Mario Williams. All four of those players have been to the Pro Bowl in the past two seasons. They've had 60 sacks in the past two seasons. Barnes gave up one in the four games, that a bad blown cut-block on Vanden Bosch. It couldn't come at a better time for Barnes, who is in the final year of his contract.
---Nobody can block Albert Haynesworth of the Tennessee Titans. He has five sacks from a down tackle spot. That's sensational. He's on a pace for 20. That would break the record for sacks by a defensive tackle, which is 18. Keith Millard set that record in 1980 with the Minnesota Vikings.
---The Tampa Bay offensive line, one of the better young units in the league, has gone two games without allowing a sack. They do have a quick passing game, which makes it hard to get to Brian Griese, but that's still impressive. The last time a Tampa Bay line went two weeks without giving up a sack was in 2005.
---Even though he fumbled a punt Sunday night, it's clear that Eagles rookie DeSean Jackson is a budding star. He can fly. When he came out of Cal last spring, the word on him was he was a diva. Even so, I ranked him high on my list of receivers. I loved the kid, even though he was small. Now he looks like a steal for the Eagles. Speed kills, guys. No track speed. Football speed. Jackson has it.