Last Friday, MDS pointed out that the Rams had fired equipment manager Todd Hewitt, a 44-year club employee who began working for the team as a ball boy at the age of 11.
Earlier today, the team’s treatment of Hewitt became the subject of a fairly spirited debate during my weekly segment with Evan Makovsky of KSLG in St. Louis (but not nearly as spirited as our debate regarding the 18-game schedule). Though the firing of a guy who was affiliated with the franchise for nearly half of a century makes for interesting reading, Rams fans who are up in arms about the move need to consider the situation more broadly.
Players are fired all the time. Coaches are fired less frequently but they have far less job security than the average person. The reality is that anyone who works within the confines of a team’s football operation faces the prospect of termination, pretty much at any given moment. And if any of the people who are charged with supporting the efforts of the team and the man who coaches the team create even the slightest issue or distraction or controversy, they could be — and arguably should be — replaced, without consideration or debate.
The following paragraph from a recent interview of Hewitt with DailyRFT.com seems to confirm the notion that Hewitt didn’t assume the kind of seen-but-not-heard and/or speak-only-when-spoken-to demeanor that ensures no disruption in the operations of the football, um, operation.
“Over their two years together, the relationship between head coach and equipment manager had grown frosty,” writes John H. Tucker of DailyRFT.com. “To hear Hewitt tell it, Spagnuolo brought a militaristic dysfunction to the locker room. He criticized the way Hewitt distributed socks. He questioned the way he hung wall fixtures. He scoffed at him for loading the team plane too slowly. He warned him never to talk back to him. By the second year, Hewitt couldn’t assign a number to a new player without checking upstairs first. ‘He made life miserable,’ Hewitt sums up.”
Since the Rams declined comment for the interview, it’s clear that the paragraph was sculpted by Tucker with information from Hewitt. And we suspect it’s not the first time Hewitt has shared with another person his litany of complaints about Spagnuolo. We’ve all worked, at some time or another, with someone who feels compelled to complain about anything and everything. Typically, people who have been with an organization for a long time are inclined to resist the changes that can be introduced by a new head coach.
For an employee of a football team, the options are to adapt without complaint, or to resign. Hewitt apparently opted to gripe and/or to resist. So Hewitt had to go.
It sounds cruel on the surface, but it’s one of the basic realities of the football business. Anyone who is providing any degree of distraction from the challenge of preparing for and winning football games must immediately be replaced, unless that person possesses some sort of rare skill or ability that makes him or her something other than fungible. Hewitt should know, based on his 44 years of experience, the importance of adjusting to new coaches; the Rams have had plenty of them during his tenure with the team.
Thus, before Rams fans allow themselves to get worked up over shoddy treatment of a long-term employee, Rams fans need to realize that the goal of winning demands the elimination of any and all distractions or disruptions. In some way, Hewitt was making the head coach less comfortable and able to do the job he’s expected to do. That’s just the way it goes for anyone who works for a football team.
Could the Rams have handled the actual termination better? Yes. But football coaches aren’t exactly warm and fuzzy when doing what they routinely must do as part of their job — telling someone that he or she no longer is a part of the team.