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Mike Martz & the Bears' New Offense

Wcg_thumb_notes_medium With his latest interview, Jay Cutler has put to rest most of the rumors that him & Martz do not see eye-to-eye.  But how will this marriage of cocky gunslinger to mad scientist work?  If you are into fantasy football, then the answer is really well.  If you're into winning Super Bowls?....we shall see.

Mike Clay, from Fantasy Depth Chart, took an in-depth look at Mike Martz as an offensive coordinator & head coach from 1999-2008.  LINK

Regardless of whether or not you feel the hiring will translate into wins for the franchise, one thing is for sure: the Bears will throw the football…a lot.

The Cutler-led Bears threw the ball on 58% of their offensive snaps (4% were sacks, 38% runs), which was good enough to place them as the 4th pass-heaviest team in the NFL behind only Arizona, Seattle, and Indianapolis. I took the time to break down the boxscore of every game since 1999 where Martz was a team’s Head Coach or Offensive Coordinator. His average Pass:Run:Sack ratio over those 8,757 plays was 58 % pass, 37% run, 5 % sack. The first thing that should jump out at you is that 5% sack rate (yes, that’ s high. We’ll get to it later), but also note how close his pass:run ratio is to what the Bears put up in 2009. This tells me that we should expect about that ratio (if not more passing) in 2010.

There is a big difference in run/pass ratios on Martz's winning teams vs. his losing teams.  This is probably true of most teams, because if you're behind, you're throwing the football more. 

In the 5 other seasons, his team was .500 or better and passed between 53-58% of the time. His 2 best seasons in terms of record (1999 and 2001) were also the two seasons he passed the least (53% and 55 %, respectively).

If the Bears are winning, we'll be running the football plenty. But they will pass...a lot.  Which in my opinion is a good thing.  Our running backs are better pass-catchers than runners, we have Jay Cutler, our WRs and TEs have talent, our offensive line seems to be more finesse pass-blockers than smashmouth road-graters.

If we look at the distribution of carries that Martz has used in the past when he had two good running backs (2004 with 51% to Marshall Faulk and 35% to Steven Jackson), we can somewhat predict that's how Martz will use Forte & Taylor in the run game.


The next thing they look at here is the distribution of the ball in the passing game.  In Martz's coaching career, it comes as no surprise that TE's were only targeted a total of 9% of the time.  The number 1 TE averaged 6% of the targets with a high of 10% with Ernie Cromwell in StL and Vernon Davis with SF. 

Regardless of what is said by Lovie Smith or Mike Martz, odds are pretty good that Olsen sees no more than 10% of the passes this season [I disagree]. 

Olsen, who was the most targeted player on the Bears roster in 2009 with 20% of Jay Cutler’s passes going his direction.

No wonder he's a little pissed.  I disagree with the analysis here a little bit.  First off, in 2008, Vernon Davis was mentally challenged and not the receiver he was in 2009.  "Can't win with him...can't do it."  The rest of Martz's roster of TE's was pretty pathetic.  Will Greg Olsen put up 90 catches?  I don't think so, but he'll do what he did last year, which is good enough for me.

The interesting thing about this breakdown is how much this offense has favored the slot receiver.  We'll see if Martz's vision of Hester in the slot comes true, or does Lovie Smith dictate to Martz that Hester play on the outside?

Since the Bears do not have a top of the line receiver like Isaac Bruce or Torry Holt, the author looks at what Martz had done in Detroit and SF:

Where we need to focus most of our attention is the last few seasons, when Martz focused more on the team’s slot receivers. While coaching in Detroit, Martz had Jon Kitna force feed the ball to slot WRs Shaun McDonald (21% of passes in 2007) and Mike Furrey (26% of passes in 2006, 17% in 2007). This was mainly a result of not having elite players at WR1 and WR2 [which the Bears don't have]. Considering this will be the case in 2009, the reception splits are worth noting. In 2007, McDonald’s 21% was the highest mark on the team. In 2008 with San Francisco, 18% to slot man Arnaz Battle led that team. This bodes well for whoever ends up playing the slot for Chicago. In fact, it likely bodes well for 2 Bears slot receivers. The 2 receivers split out wide should be expected to catch around 30% of the passes, where as the 2 guys coming across the middle will end up totaling a figure around 40%.

Moral of the story here is that you’re going to want to target the speedy, possession receivers who will line up in the slot and catch 6-7 balls a game, especially in PPR formats. This all bodes well for Devin Hester, who is a perfect fit to carry on the Az-Zahir Hakim/Dane Looker/Kevin Curtis/Ricky Proehl/Furrey/McDonald/Battle/etc tradition.

The fact that the author mentions 2 slot receivers seeing lots of catches, leads me to believe that a lot of those targets will actually go to Greg Olsen lining up in the slot.

The other thing to note was that Martz typically targets all RB's on 25% of his passing plays, his high was 31%.  With quality pass-catching RB's in Forte & Taylor, I could definitely see them getting up to 30% of the passes thrown their way. 

Add it all up:  30% to all RB's, 30% to outside WR's, 40% to slot WR's and 10% to TE's...wait...that's 110%.  I could see that slot 40% really being roughly 20% to the slot WR and 20% to the Greg Olsen/Dez combo.  

  • Outside receivers Aromoshodu & Bennett (with a little Hester & Knox too) get 30% of the passes.
  • Inside receivers Hester & Knox (maybe Bennett too) get 20% of the passes.
  • Olsen & Dez get 20% of the passes.
  • Forte & Taylor get 30% of the passes.

We'll just have to wait and see...