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Haslett returns as Rams assistant

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Old 11-11-2007, 01:07 PM   #1
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Haslett returns as Rams assistant

Haslett returns as Rams assistant





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By SHELDON MICKLES
Advocate sportswriter
Published: Nov 11, 2007

Page 1 of 2

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There’s little doubt Jim Haslett’s emotions will run the gamut when he walks into the Superdome today to coach a football game in the building for the first time since Aug. 26, 2005.

Haslett was the head coach of the New Orleans Saints that night, just three days before Hurricane Katrina unleashed her fury on the Gulf Coast. As his team dropped a 21-6 decision to the Baltimore Ravens in a dull exhibition game, little did Haslett — or anyone else —know what was to come.

Haslett’s sixth season as the Saints coach would soon be turned upside down. Chased from New Orleans, the Saints set up shop in Oakland, Calif., then San Antonio and played “home” games in three states.

The Saints went 3-13 despite Haslett’s best efforts to keep his team together under the circumstances, and he was relieved of his duties the day after the difficult season ended.

Haslett later was hired as the defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams, who come to the Superdome today, while the Saints returned to New Orleans and started anew with Sean Payton.

Haslett compiled a 43-39 record before Katrina struck, notching the franchise’s first playoff win. He still finished his career as the second-winningest coach in franchise history with a 46-52 overall mark.

Sixteen players that Haslett brought to the Saints are on the active roster, while three more — including two-time Pro Bowl running back Deuce McAllister — are on injured reserve. So the memories are sure to flow for him and two other Rams coaches who were members of his Saints staff — Rick Venturi and Willy Robinson.

Haslett did not respond to interview requests from The Advocate this week, but he told St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer Jim Thomas he didn’t know what to expect when he goes against his old team.

“I don’t know what it’s going to be like until I walk in there,” Haslett said in a story in today’s Post-Dispatch. “It’ll be loud. They’ve got great fans down there.”

Haslett said he tries not to think about the horrific 2005 season.

“The whole thing was a bad experience,” he said. “It was probably the most unprofessional environment ever to try to win a game. But I give credit to the players who were there because they worked hard and practiced hard.

“Hopefully, nobody else in this league will ever have to experience something like that again.”

Déja vu
Haslett, Venturi and Robinson won’t be the only coaches going back in time for today’s game between the Saints and Rams.

Joe Vitt, the assistant head coach/linebackers coach for the Saints, was the Rams interim head coach for the final 11 games of the 2005 season. He led the Rams to a 4-7 record after taking over from Mike Martz, who was forced to the sideline by a viral infection of the heart.

In his second game as interim head coach, Vitt notched his first win with a 28-17 decision over Haslett and the Saints on Oct. 23, 2005.

Vitt joined the Saints staff shortly after Payton took over in 2006.
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