I admit it; I'm one of the guys with a lot of optimism about the hire of Mike Martz. I've never liked Ron Turner; I always thought he showed very little creativity in his game-plan, halftime/in-game adjustments, and play calling. Mike Martz was the architect for one of the best offenses the NFL has ever seen. That kind of knowledge will help Jay Cutler and the rest of the Bears. Martz's hire is not all unicorns and rainbows though. He has personality/ego issues, passes too much, and his QB's tend to get hit a lot, to name a few. I'll breakdown my thoughts on why this hire will elevate the Bears' offense to unseen levels in Chicago. What do you think? Poll below.
Mike Martz helped turn around an awful 1998 Rams team (4-12) to 1999 Super Bowl Champions. He was hired by Dick Vermeil before the '99 season to be the Offensive Coordinator. Martz was previously the Quarterbacks Coach for the Redskins. In just 1 off-season's work, the Rams went from 27th overall to 1st in the NFL. Of course, Martz did not do this all by himself. He had guys named Faulk, Warner, Bruce, Holt, Hakim, Proehl and more to run this offense.
The Kaiser had a clever FanPost highlighting the similarity between some of those Rams with current Bears players. The big question obviously is, will these Bears be able to produce like those Rams? Faulk ('94, '95, & '98 w Indy) & Bruce ('96 w StL) were both Pro-Bowlers before Martz. The Bears' have Pro-Bowlers in Hester & Knox, as returners though, not WR, and a Pro-Bowl season from Cutler, but that was with the Broncos.
Will Devin Aromashodu, Earl Bennett, Johnny Knox & Devin Hester be able to do what Proehl, Hakim, Holt, and Bruce did? I think they'll be closer than we think is possible when you add in the production we'll see from Olsen to the mix.
WHAT?!? But Martz doesn't use his Tight Ends?
In 1999, the immortal Roland Williams had 6 touchdown catches; Jeff Robinson had 2 more. 8 receiving touchdowns for TE's is not something to sneeze at. In 2000 and 2001, his TE's had 3 & 6 receiving TD's respectively. Martz clearly called plays in the Red Zone for his no name TE's. His playbook has the plays. I'm thinking a known "offensive genius" will figure out how to get the Bears TE's more involved in the overall offense. Especially when one of those TE's (Olsen) is an athletic freak who can burn most safeties & LB's in 1-on-1 coverage.
But what about our running game you ask? Martz doesn't like to run the ball!
Matt Forte is not Marshall Faulk. Agreed. Forte had 312 carries in 2008 (a year in which most agreed he had too many). Last year he had 258 carries and was obviously injured for most of the year as evidenced by his having surgery. Faulk had 253, 253, & 260 rushing attempts in the '99-'01 seasons. Faulk also averaged 83+ receptions from '99-'01. Forte does excel in the passing game though. According to Football Outsider's DYAR and DVOA running back receiving stats, Forte ranked 2nd in the NFL to MJD in 2008 in DYAR & 8th in DVOA. I figure our MF will be a lite version of theirs. Figure Forte to return to his rookie year form. He'll only get around 250 carries but will get 70+ receptions.
In 2009, the Bears had 563 pass attempts and 373 running attempts. That's a 60/40 split. We don't run the ball that much now (playing from behind kind of dictates that). In 1999, the Rams had 530 pass attempts and 431 running attempts. That's a 55/45 split. In 2000, the Rams had 587 pass plays & 383 running plays for a 60/40 split. In 2001, they had 551 pass plays & 416 running plays, for a 57/43 split. The two teams in the Super Bowl, Indy & NO, have 62/38 & 54/46 splits respectively. We can argue all day about what the optimum ratio should be, or why one team's is too high or too low. Does running the ball a lot lead to victory, or does being ahead in the game lead to the winning team running more? What these numbers tell me is that Martz is not some pass-whacky-chuck-it-all-over-the-field type. He'll run the ball, if his team is any good.
But there it is. If his team is any good. In Detroit in 2006 & 2007, his pass/run ratios were 66/34 & 64/36. In SF in 2008 it was 56/44 (I don't know the breakdown of before
Iron Samurai Mike to after, but I know Iron Samurai Mike did fire him because he wanted to be more conservative on offense).
I think the key to the Bears' offensive success lies on the Offensive Line. Lester detailed everything about our O-line yesterday & I posted something a few weeks back about their stats. The arrow for Omiyale is pointing up. Same for Chris Williams. Garza and Kreutz are solid and dependable. Right Tackle (if Omiyale stays at LG) is up in the air. Shaffer's the guy now, but he's no stud. But with this bunch, Cutler's going to get killed in Martz's system!!! Not so fast.
From 1999 - 2001, the Rams O-line gave up 33 (7th in the NFL), 44(21st), & 40(17th) sacks, respectively. The Bears gave up 35(19th) sacks last year. The Colts 13(1st) & the Saints 20(4th) were two of the best in the NFL in protecting their QB's. Wow, those are ridiculously great numbers. The Lions in '06 & '07 gave up 63 & 54 sacks. SF gave up 55 in 2008. Good teams protect the QB, bad teams usually don't. Martz's good teams did OK, his bad teams were really bad at protecting the QB. Martz has not had a scrambling QB like Jay though, and we don't really know how that's going to affect things. The Bears offensive line is just mediocre at protecting Jay. I think they are improving, and will be better next year. We'll see. Whether Martz is the O.C. or some other guy, if the Bears offensive line fails, the offense will fail. I really believe that if the offensive line plays well, Martz will be able to use Cutler & the rest of the guys to score a lot of points.
Now let's talk about the personality/ego issues. Martz has a bad reputation around the league. Surly, curmudgeon, and jackass are just some of the words that come to mind. Everybody will no doubt be on their best behavior in the offseason & preseason. The real test will come when the team faces some adversity. I do know that few people believe in this crew. In sports, the cliché of "nobody believed in us, except us" gets thrown around a lot. I think it will definitely apply to our 2010 Bears. Is that belief powerful enough to overcome some pretty strong, ingrained personalities? I've never met Mike Martz, and I'm guessing most of you haven't either. None of us know him well enough to understand his motivation to succeed and willingness to do what is necessary, or even recognize what is necessary, to win. Will it all work out? Your guess is as good as mine.
So what did this 1,200+ word dissertation mean? The Chicago Bears 23rd ranked offense will be better next year. I have no doubt about that. With Cutler, Olsen, Forte, Hester, DA, etc, they have some weapons, all on the upside of their careers. I think Martz is a very good offensive mind who will be able to figure out how to put it all together. I expect to see better game plans, and much better in-game adjustments. Will the Bears have the #1 offense? No, they won't. But they will improve at least 10 spots in my humble opinion (I figure about a 50 yds/game improvement).
Now the defense is whole different story; we'll save that for another day.