Friday, December 21, 2007

Holt's tirade against Linehan is cause for great concern

So now on top of everything else that has made this the ultimate season from hell, we have this shocking indignity. The always reserved, completely laid back, 24-7 politically correct superstar wide receiver is caught on camera in a very public, nationally televised, expletive-filled, up-close-and-personal tirade against the embattled head coach that might even make Terrell Owens blush.

Torry Holt never lets you see him sweat. Holt never lets you inside his closely guarded emotional shell. He never drops his guard when the cameras are rolling or quietly whispers his displeasure in strategic off-the-record asides when the lights are dimmed. But on Thursday night with the Rams in the final moments of a 41-24 flameout against the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers, Holt blew his top and lost his cool , and the NFL Network cameras caught him unleashing a vulgar tirade against Scott Linehan.

"It's not a big deal to me," Linehan said.

Linehan has to be the only one who doesn't see it that way. Even when viewed as an isolated incident, the sight of the seven-time Pro Bowl future Hall of Fame receiver publicly going off on his coach is a serious cause for alarm, because Holt is not a showy, T.O. kind of guy. He's full of Southern manners and Midwestern respect for authority.

For Holt to go off on an obscenity-laced rant on Linehan after a failed fourth-and-10 play resulted in a 51-yard interception return for Pittsburgh's final score must be considered one of the surest barometers that this two-year-old experiment with Linehan as an NFL head coach deserves a failing grade.

Yet when taken in the context of this being the third Rams superstar this season to be caught on live television railing against Linehan during a game must be seen as a very loud, very urgent, very serious Code Red alert on his tenuous job security.

This must be the surest sign of all that de facto team owner John Shaw needs to seriously rethink that vote of confidence he issued two weeks ago.

First it was the Steven Jackson tantrum. Then it was the Marc Bulger eye roll. Now it's Holt's X-rated rebuke. What does it say about Linehan's ability to lead this team out of the wilderness when three of his four biggest superstars (Isaac Bruce not included) have shown a complete disregard for his authority as the head coach in such a public manner?

Amazing. Disturbing. Alarming.

"And that's only the third that's been caught on camera," cracked one locker-room wise guy.

This is why midseason votes of confidence are so worthless, and why Shaw's public show of faith in his coach gets trumped by the three public lack of confidence votes by Holt, Bulger and Jackson.

This is now officially a disaster, as if it wasn't already.

Long before that fourth-quarter rebuke by Holt against Linehan, it was another night of cold, hard marketing research inside the Edward Jones Dome, another night when the football-buying public in St. Louis was trying to send a message to Rams management that it has rebuked the franchise's product.

Last Sunday afternoon, fans spoke loudly by selling their tickets to 30,000 Green Bay Packers fans who traveled from Wisconsin's frozen tundra to witness Brett Favre set an NFL record. And now here they were again Thursday night sending another unavoidable message, this one in the form of a stadium full of Pittsburgh Steelers fans waving bright, yellow Terrible Towels from the lower bowl of the building to the dome's upper reaches.

The biggest noise and the best real emotion the scattered Rams fans showed was when Shaw and his right-hand man, Jay Zygmunt, were introduced during Marshall Faulk's halftime retirement ceremony and were roundly booed.

Shaw stubbornly maintains the organization will stay on this same rocky course no matter what. But there are signs (actually very teeny tiny ones) that Shaw might be finally getting the message. Privately, he is starting to ask the right questions, and inching toward the right conclusion, which is that the way the Rams do business is not working.

This, of course, is a lot like listening to the man who begrudgingly admits he's just a tad bit warm after someone points out that his pants have been on fire for more than an hour.

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