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The Impact of the Ex-Head Coach: Mike Martz's Rams Edition

With the plethora of ex-head coaches on the Bears' payroll, the big focus entering the 2010 season was on how the offense would instantly improve; Jay would be sacked a million times, but with young, speedy receivers he would have a monster offensive season. I recapped this in my last long (overly wandering) FanPost over here. Now, though, its time to look at our assistant head coaches in a different lens: How their teams drafted, and improved, in their first year under the new coach. To start off, we'll look at Mike Martz's 2000 St. Louis Rams and the collaboration of Martz and Rod Marinelli's 2007 Detroit Lions - today, the Rams; tomorrow, the world! the Lions.

To recap, the 1999 St. Louis Rams won the Super Bowl under Martz' famed Greatest Show on Turf offense. For an idea of how the GSOT won their games, check out some of these final scores... Trouncing the Atlanta Falcons in week three 35-7; putting up a stretch of three games immediately after that of 38, 42, and 41 points; beating the Carolina Panthers 35-10; the New Orleans Saints 43-12, the Vikings in the playoffs 49-37... You get the idea. Only five times out of 19 games, playoffs included, did the Rams score below 30 (including beating the Buccaneers 11-6 in the NFCCG and the Titans 23-16 in the Super Bowl).

The season statistics for the 13-3, Super Bowl Champion 1999 Rams are below:

Offense: 526 points (1st), 6412 Yards (1st), 64.7 Completion Percentage, 42 Passing TDs to 15 INTs (1st, 7th), 4353 Passing Yards and 2059 Rushing Yards (1st and 1st), 13 Rushing TDs (10th).

Defense: 242 points (4th), 4698 yards (6th), 1189 Rush Yards Allowed (1st), 4 Rushing TDs Allowed (1st), 3509 Pass Yards allowed (20th), 19 TDs allowed to 29 INTs (7th, 2nd).

Let's keep in mind, the team had some great personnel in place (and by that I mean All-Pros and Hall of Famers Marshall Faulk and Kurt Warner, and fellow Pro-Bowler Isaac Bruce). And let's not slight a defensive line starring end Kevin Carter (All-Pro, 17 sacks), end Grant Wistrom (6.5 sacks), D'Marco Farr (8.5 sacks) and Ray Agnew (2.5 sacks, age 32). So, how do you improve on that?

Here's how the Rams' 2000 Draft went down...

Rnd 1, Pick 31: RB Trung Canidate (career 240 Rushes, 1095 Yards and 7 TDs, out of the league in 2003)

Rnd 2, Pick 62: DB Jacoby Shepard (off the Rams after 7 games in 2001; played 4 games with the Jets and Lions each before being finished in 2003 - 1 career INT)

Rnd 3, Pick 94: OT John St. Clair (Remember him? Played two years in St. Louis before going to Miami, then to the Bears, then to the Browns.)

Rnd 4, Pick 104: OT Kaulana Noa (Who? Exactly.)

Rnd 5, Pick 139: DT Brian Young (Played four years for St. Louis, finished his career playing until 2008 with the Saints. Had 10.5 sacks and five forced fumbles with the Rams, made 31 starts playing in 59 games. Expected to replace Agnew.)

Rnd 6, Pick 198: DB Matt Bowen (Yes, him. Played all sixteen games in 2000 and played one game in 2001 before going to Green Bay, where he played five games in 2001 and all of 2002; then played three years with Washington and 2006 with Buffalo.)

Rnd 7, Pick 220: OG Andrew Kline (Nothing.)

Out of seven drafted players, the 2000 draft class produced all of 176 games played in their Rams careers - 17 for Bowen, 59 for Young, 22 for Shepard, 46 for Canidate, and 32 for St. Clair. Canidate was held behind Faulk, so that's understandable. St. Clair was to be the right tackle, but of course we know how well St. Clair plays (well enough to hold a job, poorly enough to not start).

With a fourth round pick and a seventh round pick being cut, two defensive backs taken, a first rounder spent on a position with a Hall of Famer inhabiting it, and John St. Clair not seeing the field in 2000, it's fairly easy to guess what happened next... A 10-6 record and a first-round playoff exit.

Offense: 540 Points (1st), 7075 yards (1st!), 5232 passing yards (1st), 64.7 Completion Percentage, 1843 Rushing Yards (17th), 37 Passing TDs to 23 INTs (1st, 28th), 26 Rushing TDs (1st).

Defense: 471 Points Allowed (31st), 5494 yards (23rd), 3797 Passing Yards Allowed (27th), 32 TDs Allowed to 19 INTs (30th, 11th), 1697 Rush Yards Allowed (13th), 18 Rushing TDs Allowed (27th).

The Rams played Arena Football before the AFL was really popular. They scored above 20 points in all but one game, and routinely scored 40 on their opponents, including a 57-31 beating of the San Diego Chargers. However, the defense took a large step backwards. The draft picks made little impact; Shepard had one interception, Bowen matched him in tackles with 14. Young played in 11 games, no starts, and recorded only four tackles.

Several of the starters on that 2000 defense were either undrafted (London Fletcher), old (Todd Collins, the linebacker, not the QB; Todd Lyght), or both (Mike Jones). Ray Agnew was finished after the 2000 campaign, as was Collins.

Offensively of course is where all your interest lies, I'm sure. The Rams went from 33 sacks in 1999 to 44 sacks in 2000, and of course the injury to Warner that led to 30-year-old Trent Green getting his playing time back. Yardage increased from 6.5 yards per play to 7.0, gaining the Rams an additional 600 yards from the year before.

The thing to draw in this comparison is that, as head coach of the Rams, Martz's focus was almost entirely on the offensive side of the ball, as you'd expect, though with picks that didn't pan out. As offensive coordinator of the Bears, that problem should be mitigated with other voices involved in the defense, as well as a defensive-minded head coach. (Fun note: After the 2000 season, the new defensive coordinator in 2001? Lovie Smith. The defense jumped to 7th in points allowed, and 3rd in yards.) Tomorrow we'll look at the drafting of the 2007 Detroit Lions and see how Martz and Rod Marinelli tried to improve a team that was 3-13 in 2006 to 7-9 in 2007.