I spent an hour or so on Sunday morning flipping between Chicago sports talk radio station's ESPN 1000 and 670 The Score. I had my choice between Dan Hampton and Steve McMichael and couldn't make up my mind. Oddly enough both shows had the same theme going throughout. Both were questioning the job being done by Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz. Could he be doing a better job playing to the strengths of his personnel?
This wasn't the first time I've heard football experts questioning the Martzfense, but this one got me thinking more so than usual, and after seeing the Bears game on Sunday my thoughts came back to the earlier Bears chatter. During the game it was pointed out that Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski is a two tight end NFL style playcaller, and having a player like Cam Newton at quarterback was something he had to adapt too. Staying in the shotgun so much and the zone read type run plays was an offense he wasn't accustomed to running, but he molded his offense around his talent. He molded his offense around his talent. Yes I said it twice...
Last year after the bye week Martz started calling his games more balanced, and it led to Jay Cutler taking fewer hits. Martz scaled back some of the deep drops and went with more runs and quicker developing pass plays. It was effective. Through the first few games this season Cutler is on pace to get sacked even more than in 2010. He's dropping back gun-shy, anticipating pressure that isn't always there, and even when Martz calls a run heavy game (like Sunday) Jay is still bothered on pass plays.
I'd love to think the answer to the Bears offensive troubles is to simply run the ball more, but the Panthers run D is crap. Two straight years the Bears ran all over them. They won't be able to do that every week, they'll have to pass better, and the playcalls will have to put the players in a better position to succeed. But I'm afraid Martz has a team full of round pegs and his voluminous playbook is a square hole. I think the best case scenario is if the offensive line can gel and that will allow Martz to do what he wants to do, because I don't think he is capable of switching it up enough.
I've been optimistic since Martz was hired last off-season. I expected the players to flourish in year 2 of his system, and it's still early enough where that's a possibility. But I'm not seeing improvements. I'm beginning to think the team, as currently constructed, is set up to fail.