Let me count the ways…
1) The Greatest Show is no longer that Great. Here are some stats from the Rams offense under Martz in 1999 and 2001, the two years he "led" the team to the Super Bowl:
- 1999 – 526 total points; 343 completions on 530 attempts for a 64.7% completion rate; 4,353 passing yards, 42 TDs, 15 interceptions, 33 sacks, a QB rating of 106.6
- 2001 – 503 total points; 379 completions on 551 attempts for a 68.8% completion rate; 4,663 passing yards, 37 TD, 22 interceptions, 40 sacks for a 102.2 QB rating.
Now let’s look at the three top offensive teams so far this season: (Right after the jump, and congrats on the front page bump!)
- Saints – 457 total points; 418 completions on 585 attempts for a 71.5% completion rate; 4639 passing yards, 37 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 23 sacks for a 109 QB rating.
- Patriots - 437 total points; 351 completions on 530 attempts for a 66.2% completion rate; 4461 passing yards, 35 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 24 sacks for a 106.7 QB rating.
- Packers - 480 total points; 324 completions on 479 attempts for a 67.6% completion rate; 4173 passing yards, 40 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, 37 sacks for a 118.5 QB rating.
What was once special is now commonplace among the best teams in the league. In other words, if "the Greatest Show on Turf" were around today, it would just be another good to great offense. Nothing special.
How exactly is it that possible that Mike Martz keeps getting work based solely on what he did back then? He never replicated his success after 2001, and while he did improve the Lions and Niners offenses, he improved them from terrible to average. In the case of one Lions year, very slightly above average.
He’s done nothing else to prove he has adapted and grown with the league, and if anything has proven that he can’t adapt, yet he still somehow has enough pull for the franchise to dump first round draft picks because he says so? What?
2) Jay Cutler has gotten better in spite of Mike Martz.
Up against the Vikings 23-3 in Week 6, the Bears offense saw a 3rd and 7. The play call left Cutler visibly agitated as you could see him grumbling and clearly unhappy about what would turn out to be a draw play that effectively threw a white flag of surrender and gave up on the drive. And as the huddle broke, Cutler took a few steps to the sideline and let loose the now infamous curse.
"Tell him I said f@*k him."
Is it coincidence that after letting the invective fly, Jay Cutler started playing the best football since his Pro Bowl season in Denver? His best stretch of football as a Bear by far while leading the team on a five-game winning streak and what should have been an easy Wild Card berth in the playoffs? A month after that game, the Bears were considered one of the best teams in the league and one of the few teams that could derail what looked like an unbeatable Packers team.
The Bears offense during that five game winning streak resembled a Mike Martz-called offense while also looking the least like any Mike Martz offense that had been seen before. Cutler started looking more at ease and started looking like the franchise QB Chicago had desperately hoped he would be. Some might argue the Martz offense was finally clicking for him, but I argue that he had tinkered with the Martz offense until it fit him. He was doing things we'd never seen in a Martzfence before, and it was working.
And then the unthinkable, Cutler is injured and goes out for most of the rest of the season. Caleb Hanie, who backed up Jay fairly well in the NFC Championship Game the season before, was pegged to start a stretch of winnable games against three teams from the AFC West and Seattle Seahawks. Sitting at 7-3, the Bears would only need to win two or three more games out of the remaining six to essentially lock up a playoff seed.
3) But then something…unexpected happened.
The Caleb Hanie-led offense came out and was awful. He was so bad that he would eventually be benched for a guy who hadn’t played in the league in years. The offense not only failed to win games, but actively lost games. Hanie threw 9 interceptions to only 3 touchdowns over a 4-game losing streak. Hanie would be out-dueled by Tyler Palko, Tim Tebow and Tarvaris Jackson: three of the worst quarterbacks in the league.
The Bears offense was one of the worst in the league during this stretch. It regressed and looked as awful as it did during the Week 2 and 3 massacres against the Saints and Packers and as bad as it did during the early stretches last season: when Mike Martz clearly had not taken into account whether his personnel would fit his system and was trying to make them fit anyway.
Watching Caleb Hanie struggle has only convinced me that our winning streak was about Jay Cutler molding the Mike Martz offense into his own version rather than Mike Martz molding Jay Cutler and the Bears offensive personnel into his offense. It has only further convinced me of what I have been sure of since the Martz hiring: that the NFL has passed him by. He’s a dinosaur trying to compete with race cars that use old dead dinosaurs like him as fuel to go faster.
Mike Martz was always the wrong choice for offensive coordinator, but as we know all too well, one of Lovie’s major weaknesses is his cronyism. From bringing in washed up former Rams like Adam Archuleta, Orlando Pace, and Brandon Manuateshamua, to dumping Bears great Ron Rivera as defensive coordinator for Bob Babich, Martz is just another in a line of Lovie’s friends that have failed to do a respectable job in Chicago.
Just like with Archuleta, Pace and Manuelephantitsofthebodyuna, Martz’s time in Chicago has come to a close. I understand the argument against dumping him: Jay Cutler would be learning yet another offensive system. I don’t care. We need an offensive coordinator who works with the talent he has to make an effective offense, not a coordinator who is so stubborn and set in his ways that he is determined to make the talent fit into his own offense, even if it means trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
It’s time for Martz to leave Chicago.