Ax fell quickly on Spagnuolo and Devaney

2012-01-03T09:20:00Z 2012-01-27T01:41:36Z Ax fell quickly on Spagnuolo and DevaneyBY JIM THOMAS stltoday.com
January 03, 2012 9:20 am  • 

Whether the arena is private business or the business of sports, Rams owner Stan Kroenke is competitive and bottom-line oriented.

"If anybody thinks I enjoy this when we don't win, I mean, they would be completely wrong," Kroenke told the Post-Dispatch on Monday. "It's fun to win. I've been around you guys (reporters) at some of these games — and it's painful."

So at the end of the day, there's no need for deep far-reaching analysis into the demise of coach Steve Spagnuolo and general manager Billy Devaney. It's all in the numbers. A record of 2-14 this season and 10-38 over the past three seasons explains as much as anything why Spagnuolo and Devaney were fired Monday morning.

"Steve Spagnuolo and Billy Devaney are great guys," Kroenke said. "We like them and have a lot of respect for them."

But as Kroenke also noted: "It's a results-oriented business, let's face it."

Kroenke is all about the process. He let the 2011 season unfold, all the while watching, observing and contemplating what transpired on the field and what course of action to take once the season ended. Kroenke basically made his decision to dismiss Spagnuolo and Devaney on Sunday night following the Rams' season-ending 34-27 loss to San Francisco. But he wanted to sleep on it.

On Monday morning he instructed Kevin Demoff, the Rams' executive vice president of football operations, to inform Spagnuolo and Devaney of their dismissals. On a day normally reserved for exit interviews by the head coach with his players, Spagnuolo instead met with the team in the morning and told them he had been fired. Shortly after that meeting with players and staff, he quietly left Rams Park.

"I know much has been speculated for a very long time on this decision," Demoff said Monday. "I can tell you I found all that speculation to be unfair to the people who were in the building. Certainly, most of it was way off base, if not all of it. There was not a decision until this weekend. And when we began the search process, we began it this morning, but it did not start before this morning."

So Spagnuolo and Devaney, both with one year left on their contracts, are out. Neither responded to text messages seeking comment. Devaney did issue a statement that read in part: "I want to thank so many people for my time here in St. Louis. While certainly disappointed in our record, I wouldn't trade that time for anything. This is truly a special place."

All of the assistant coaches on Spagnuolo's staff, with the exception of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, have contracts that expire in February.

"Our new coach will be encouraged to interview all of our assistants and handle that as he sees fit," Demoff said.

But it is rare for more than an assistant coach or two to be retained by an incoming staff. Demoff also acknowledged that McDaniels may have other coaching opportunities in the NFL, opportunities that possibly could present themselves before the Rams have a new head coach is in place.

"It's going to be fluid, but I think we'll figure out what's best for both parties," Demoff said.

Until a new general manager is hired, Rams vice president of player personnel Mike Williams will head the personnel and scouting department on an interim basis.

Demoff praised Spagnuolo's attention to detail, leadership skills and rapport with players. He cited the team's high number of injuries as well as the Rams' brutal strength of schedule — their opponents had a league-high .590 winning percentage.

"But at this time it made sense to seek a new vision, to seek new leadership, and to seek new voices," Demoff said. "I don't think (Spagnuolo and Devaney) are solely responsible for anything that went wrong this year. I think that would be shortsighted. But we have an opportunity to make a change, and we thought this was the right time to figure out who we want to become and what we want to be."

Demoff said Monday's decisions also should send a strong message to the fans concerning the organization's commitment to make things right.

"The status quo was unacceptable," he said. "You can't go 2-14, you can't be 10-38, you can't be 15-65 — whatever the numbers are — and tell our fan base that's OK," Demoff said.

"Our fans deserve better. We have wonderful, passionate fans. We've tried to grow our fan base in the St. Louis region. We've tried to get people into the Edward Jones Dome. But we know we've got to put a winning product on the field.

"I think one of the things people wanted to see was how decisive we would be, how quickly we would act, and hopefully today's message shows that we're serious about getting this right and we're serious about building a winning tradition in St. Louis."

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