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Rams fans should take a broader view of the Todd Hewitt firing

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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.

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33 Responses to “Rams fans should take a broader view of the Todd Hewitt firing”
  1. robertamberg says: Jan 13, 2011 1:04 PM

    Agree with the loyalty issue. Were the negative comments towards Spags made to the reporter before or after he was terminated?

  2. dayglo80 says: Jan 13, 2011 1:08 PM

    I still don’t agree with you… Just like you pointed out in the article that the Rams have had a ton of coaches go in and out of St. Louis during his time, Spag’s is just another… the difference between a HC being fired and an equipment guy is that the head coach still gets paid his ballooned paycheck while the 30k a year equipment guy has to file for unemployment.
    So yes there is a problem with Spag’s not getting over his over-paid ego and letting this guy do the only thing he knows. If he could not deal with the way the equipment manager was working he could have had the asst coach deal with it or another coach.
    And if this is causing Spag’s to “lose” focus from gameplanning he has got serious issues. Sounds like an excuse for not winning your division at 7-9. He did coach for Coughlin and he too know’s how to deflect the fingers being pointed at him.

  3. jedi1963 says: Jan 13, 2011 1:14 PM

    Thanks for the wisdom, Deepak.

  4. krow101 says: Jan 13, 2011 1:23 PM

    Spin it all you like… it’s still petty. I’d have thought Spags was above something like this.

  5. phinfan says: Jan 13, 2011 1:25 PM

    micro managing. Even the equipment.

    Idiot material

  6. albanyhawker says: Jan 13, 2011 1:33 PM

    My first reaction to hearing this is that the guy got caught doing something (i.e. stealing), or had something discovered in his personal life (i.e. dwi, molest, etc.).

    But you laid out the bottom line perfectly. When there’s a new sheriff in town, you either go along or get along.

    Granted, we’d all be happier if the new coach or CEO could come in and respect the way you’ve done your job the past 40+ years, but it’s their prerogative to change it.

    And we all understand a coach putting up with a wing-nut player due to special talents, but with an equipment manager, there’s no room for insubordination.

    At least he didn’t bring in Manny Ramirez to punch the guy out!

  7. geezohman says: Jan 13, 2011 1:43 PM

    it sounds like ‘micro-managing’ which having been in the manufacturing business for over 30 years.. i’ve come across some of ‘those’.

    I think it speaks ton’s of either the upper management (as being a nit-pick freak) or not ‘trusting’ supervisors or leads to do the job.

    I just worked at General Electric as a consultant for awhile in one of their union mfg plants during the summer. At one point when work wasn’t going at the door fast enough for the ‘manager’, he started to actually assign work to each worker in the assembly department !

    So.. that will teach you to distribute ‘socks’ faster !

    Prediction, if that is what is going on… sooner or later that Manager” will be gone.. if he stays… the team will lose as ‘people’ will not work under micro managing too long.

  8. Panda Claus says: Jan 13, 2011 1:49 PM

    “We’ve all worked, at some time or another, with someone who feels compelled to complain about anything and everything.”

    And as phinfan points out, we’ve all worked for someone who feels compelled to look over our shoulder for every minute and mundane thing we do.

    To rebel against or question the authority of a new boss is one thing. To call into question each particular task a well-qualified employee does when not needed is another.

    Whether he was fired or eventually left on his own terms, it sounds like the quality of life for Hewitt probably improves after leaving the Rams.

  9. citizenstrange says: Jan 13, 2011 2:02 PM

    Spagnuolo’s nephew probably needed a job. That’s just the way it goes. Do you really think Kyle Shanahan is a qualified offensive coordinator?

  10. iamthorny says: Jan 13, 2011 2:09 PM

    Under Hewitt without Spags the Rams won a SuperBowl…under Spags w’Hewitt, they were unable to beat a 6-9 team to get into the playoffs.

    Clearly, Spags is the problem, here.

    On a serious note, you’re going to advocate a HC being a JERK just because he can and say that Hewitt should’ve just gone along with it. I’m actually happy for Hewitt because he doesn’t have to work for a jerk anymore.

  11. bluvayner says: Jan 13, 2011 2:11 PM

    Based on 44 years of experience, and working with countless coaches, I’m sure that Hewitt is well versed in “adapting” and meeting the needs and expectations of different coaches. Otherwise he would have been fired a long time ago.

    I’m also sure that most of us at one time or another, have had a micro managing boss, who was ill suited to be in charge of an opperation.

    As someone who was once in a similar situation, it sounds to me like the boss had it out for him from the beginning. It’s sad that someone who has been loyal to an organization for decades, is cast aside, in favor of an inexperienced boss, who in all likelyhood, is a short timer. I’d be willing to wager that the Rams sided with the wrong guy. In my case, luckilly I’m still here, and the butthole is long gone.

  12. PFTiswhatitis says: Jan 13, 2011 2:12 PM

    Written like a true LAWYER. While your premise of be seen but not heard is reasonable you overlooked the fact that the management actually may have caused the distraction in first place by micro-managing (as if they don’t have enough t do). In any case, the whole thing is lame.

  13. bbrophy1 says: Jan 13, 2011 2:16 PM

    @dayglo80

    Spagnuolo’s the boss, not Hewitt. Spags shouldn’t have to adjust to Hewitt or use an assistant coach as an intermediary. These are guys who already work 16 hour days. They don’t have time for that nonsense. I only feel bad for Hewitt in the sense that it may affect his ability to support his family. In this case it sounds like he had the opportunity to fall in line and chose not to. So if he wasn’t worried about supporting his family, then I won’t either.

  14. fordman84 says: Jan 13, 2011 3:12 PM

    Spags is the man there right now and he has the right to do what he wants. If the freakin equipment manager can’t get through his head that there is a new way to do things, then it was time for him to hit the road.

    I guarantee that this equipment manager said to himself and his buddies more than once “That place would fall apart without me” or “they couldn’t run that place without me, so I’d like to see them try”.

    Those type of people annoy me more than anything. The kind that have worked one little niche and think that because they have done something for a long time that they are owed something. Well Mr Hewitt, good luck out in the real world. See how far that line on your resume that says “Equipment manager for 44 years” gets ya. I guess you should have shut your mouth and played the game.

  15. dhaab1965 says: Jan 13, 2011 3:28 PM

    Seriously, people are this upset about an NFL organization firing an equipment manager? Wow

  16. hobartbaker says: Jan 13, 2011 3:40 PM

    Now Todd will be able to realize a lifelong dream of spending some time in Dubuque, Iowa.

  17. xtb3 says: Jan 13, 2011 3:46 PM

    Spagnuola must have learned it from Kommandent Coughlin.

  18. reddskeletor says: Jan 13, 2011 3:47 PM

    This incident may foreshadow problems in the future for the franchise.

  19. bcknights says: Jan 13, 2011 4:03 PM

    As you have reported Mr. Hewitt has seen many coaches come and go in 40 years. He must be doing something right. A coach that has been there for two years want to change things in the locker room. Stick to coaching the players on the field. That’s more important. Don’t fix something that’s not broken.
    Rams management is a joke!!!

  20. dolphins4 says: Jan 13, 2011 4:07 PM

    Next Spags will get the axe for not winning.

  21. dakotah55 says: Jan 13, 2011 4:16 PM

    “We’ve all worked, at some time or another, with someone who feels compelled to complain about anything and everything.”
    __________________________
    Alternatively, “We’ve all worked, at some time or another, for someone who feels compelled to micromanage everything and everyone. We’ve all thought they were jackasses, too”

    Yeah, phinfan bet me to it.

  22. cometkazie says: Jan 13, 2011 4:17 PM

    Didn’t like the way he distributed socks?

  23. goforthanddie says: Jan 13, 2011 4:30 PM

    Apparently his sock-handling methods were satisfactory for 40+ years, maybe he wasn’t the problem?

  24. drbob117 says: Jan 13, 2011 6:00 PM

    He ‘adjusted’ to all of the coaches that had been there for the last 42+ years , so I’m guessing that Spags never wanted him there or gave him any type of chance; probably because he has a friend he wants to put in that position. That’s also a reality of working in that profession. If I were Hewitt , I wouldn’t have shared anything with the media, but maybe Spags is bad mouthing him to local colleges or any team that may be looking for an equipment manager, so he wanted to fight back. There no doubt that Spags was higher than him on the totem pole, and he should have realized that, but there are worse things in life than not having the opportunity to work for a jerk.

  25. commandercornpone says: Jan 13, 2011 6:26 PM

    does an employee need to learn to work with a new boss? sure.

    but you can learn a lot about a new boss etc based on he treats lowly paid people like waitresses, waiters, janitors etc…

    turds treat the hired help like crap.

  26. bluvayner says: Jan 13, 2011 6:29 PM

    dayglo80 says:
    Jan 13, 2011 1:08 PM
    “… the difference between a HC being fired and an equipment guy is that the head coach still gets paid his ballooned paycheck while the 30k a year equipment guy has to file for unemployment.”

    30K for a head equipment manager? Guess again. At the NFL level, or top college level, most EMs would pull down six figures.

  27. drbob117 says: Jan 13, 2011 6:47 PM

    C’mon Mike, you not even being honest with yourself. The interview was clearly given after the firing; reading of the article would tell you that. Any speculation that he was a loose lip with the media is just that…speculation. The way he was made to clear out his office shows that Spags just wantyed to be a jerk about it. I’m an Eagles fan, and he used to be an asst. here, so I had hopes for the guy; but he seems to be the kind of guy that people aren’t going to want to work for.

  28. Deb says: Jan 13, 2011 8:02 PM

    Spoken like an employment attorney with a history of representing management. Hewitt served the Rams 44 years through numerous coaching regimes. Seems he had that adaptability thing down until Spagnuolo. It’s ridiculous to paint him as a chronic complainer simply because he commented on his termination.

    If anyone is distracting the team from winning, it’s Spagnuolo. You’d think a head coach would have more important concerns than how socks are distributed. I doubt the Rams record will improve because he fired the equipment manager.

  29. nothimagain says: Jan 13, 2011 8:20 PM

    What sad times are these when passing ruffians disguised as head coaches can treat equipment managers like a player, coach, or gm.
    There is a pestilence upon this land, nothing is sacred. Even those who arrange and design socks and lockers are under considerable economic stress at this period in history.
    Nee!

  30. umrguy42 says: Jan 13, 2011 9:13 PM

    “I’d have thought Spags was above something like this.”

    If memory serves, when Spags got here, he had them take down ALL the pics of old Rams / glory days in the training facilities. “Micro-managing” / ego / God complex doesn’t begin to cover it. (I think it was Jim Haslett as interim HC who had them change the frakkin’ PLANTS in the building, though.)

    And keep in mind, as a Rams fan, I *liked* (and so far, still do) the hiring. (Talk to me after next season, though…)

  31. richm2256 says: Jan 13, 2011 9:28 PM

    goforthanddie says:
    Apparently his sock-handling methods were satisfactory for 40+ years, maybe he wasn’t the problem?
    ——————————————————–
    Clearly Hewitt has not kept up with the latest developments and technology in sock-handling, which is where teams like New England and Pittsburgh excell.

    Seriously though, on one hand one could say that Hewitt survived numerous regime changes in 44 years without issue, which puts the onus clearly on Spagnuolo. On the other hand, once Hewitt sensed a problem with the HC, the onus was also on him to get along or be fired.

    Spagnoulo was a douche, but he was the HC douche.

    He had hand, Hewitt had no hand

  32. speedel says: Jan 14, 2011 8:32 AM

    Im Calling BS on the sock thing. I reckon that he is using this example that was either a one off (handing out socks during am important moment) or did that action repentantly thus inciting the coaches wrath

    He was most likely loyal to the last coach and didn’t play the game or didn’t adjust to the way that the new coach does things.

    I used to work a checkout way back when and if I got a new boss and he said bag it differently, i bagged it differently or i didn’t get more shifts.

  33. cleverusername99 says: Jan 5, 2012 1:01 PM

    Yes, Hewitt was certainly the distraction that was keeping them from winning football games. They might have gone 0-16 had they kept him.

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