The Mike Martz Experience

It is unusual for me to make a fan post on the site of another team.  It is doubly unusual for me to do this at WCG considering that I am not the most popular of "trolls" here on your site.  I seem to regularly get my posts deleted, even when I am being nice. Nevertheless, I am going to take a chance on this and see how it goes.

The Bears and Lions have a common thread between them.  We seem to like sharing coaches.  I can understand the decision to bring Rod Marinelli to the Windy City.  He is a good defensive coach, even if he was in a bit over his head as a head coach in Detroit.  I am not surprised to see Rod have success with the Bears defense given that the Bears have some very fine players on that side of the ball.

The point of my discussion is more about Mike Martz.  I am going to go on record that I really dislike the man.  I feel that he is directly responsible for the dysfunction of the Detroit Lions that led to the infamous 0-16 season.  I will impart this tale to you after the jump so that you can see how it relates to the Bears.

First, I will apologize for the long post.  I have a lot to say about Martz.  So I might as well get to it.

I see Mike Martz as an evil genius.  There is no dispute that his offensive system is complex and beautiful when it can be executed well.  We have all seen the highlight reel performances from his years with the St. Louis Rams.  The "Greatest Show on Turf" was an awesome spectacle that challenged the conceptions of NFL norms and helped to reinforce the momentum toward a pass happy league that was started by the success of the American Football League teams after their merger into the NFL.

The success of the Martz system in St. Louis was a perfect storm.  He had a beautiful blend of talent to implement his mad designs.  It all starts with an extremely talented offensive line.  The Martz system usually requires minimal blocking schemes with lots of receivers going out on routes.  

The largest requirement is having a top tier offensive tackle that can protect the blind side of the quarterback.  Since the QB will be expect to make a lot of deep drops into the pocket, the pass rushers will have extra time to get to pressure the passer.  You will need the pressure from the back side to be contained so that the QB can allow his receivers time to get into their proper places.  Orlando Pace was Martz's savior with the Rams.

The Bears currently do not have anybody on the roster that can perform at this level.  In order for the Bears to secure a Pro Bowl quality left tackle they will have to suffer a very bad season and get a very early draft pick.  I am not even sure that the 2012 draft class has a left tackle of sufficiently high quality to merit such a pick.

One of the reasons for the deep drop by the quarterback is that Martz loves to run plays that develop slowly.  Consequently, you need at least two receivers that have very good speed so they can get to their spot as quickly as possible with some separation.  Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt filled this role in St. Louis.  If you do not have very fast receivers that can get separation, then the quarterback must hold the ball a very long time and give the pass rushers even more time to get to him. 

Players like Devin Hester and Johnny Knox have enough speed, but lack the overall route running and timing skills that wide outs need to prosper in the Martz offense.  To make the Martz offense work, you will need at least two new receivers in Chicago that have excellent speed and route running abilities.  That is assuming that Hester or Knox do not develop to fit the role, of course.  Dane Sanzenbacher is a fine young receiver, but I do not think he has the speed to stretch the field the way that Martz prefers, so he would settle into a more conventional possession receiver role.

Now add in that Martz requires a quarterback that can deliver a ball in the right place and on time in a large variety of timing routes.  Some of the routes are fairly long, so they also need a pretty strong arm. The Martz offense places a heavy premium on a hyper accurate game manager.

Jay Cutler definitely has a strong arm, but he was never known as a hyper accurate quarterback.  His interception numbers have always indicated that he has a tendency to miss the timing or accuracy on his throws.  He is more of a gunslinger than a game manager with a hyper accurate arm.  While Cutler can fill the role that Martz requires he will not be playing to his strengths.  Cutler would be much better in a clean pocket with time to make decisions because Jay can rely on his strong arm to force throws under pressure, that turn out to be bad decisions.

You have also probably seen Martz messing with Jay Cutler's passing mechanics in order to improve is accuracy and release.  That experience is not always successful.  Martz completely wrecked Drew Stanton in Detroit and nearly ended his career in the NFL.  Since Mad Mike has left the Motor City, Stanton has managed to show he is a legitimate NFL quarterback despite the depredations of Martz.  The machinations of Mad Mike cost Stanton the first three years of his NFL career.

The Bears are fine at running back with Matt Forte.  He fits all of the qualities that Martz prefers in a running back. Whenever Martz remembers he has a running back, that is.  Forte is the saving grace for the Bears offense with the current personnel in place.  He gives Cutler a place to throw the ball when the other receiver struggle to get open.  Forte also runs the ball well and forces the opposing defense to play honestly against the run instead of pass blitzing on every down.

In order to make the Martz Experience work for you, the front office has to be heavily committed to getting the players that Mad Mike needs for his offense.  He will not be flexible about it and learn to fit players into his system by adapting.  He will discard players that do not fit, ala Greg Olsen.  That means that if a team wishes to make his system work you have to make a total and compete commitment to Martz and allow him to make personnel decisions.  If you are not willing to do that, the Martz Experience is doomed to failure.

Another problem with Martz is that the experience with him is like being addicted to pain killers.  While you are in his influence the problems with your offense are often disguised, but you ignore them because he makes it all seem good when you see those big passing numbers.  Then you come down from the high and realize you are living in fantasy.

Like most experiences with drug addiction, the withdrawal can be painful.  It is also much easier if you stop taking the drug as early as possible.  As a Lions fan, I have to admit that I would love for the Bears to keep Martz around a couple more years.  The longer you have him, the more dysfunctional your organization will become as he consistently creates anger and conflict internally.  He always causes the locker room to split into opposing camps.  As a human being, however, I urge the Bears to get rid of the cancer as quickly as possible and salvage what you can.

<em>This FanPost was written by a Windy City Gridiron member, and does not necessarily reflect the ideas or opinions of its staff or community.</em>

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