The brick hit me as I am sure it hit many of you. All of this wishing for Cam Cameron coupled with McCloughan's denouncing of the Martz rumors completely blinded me to the fact that the 49ers might actually hire the guy. When I heard the news it was like someone told me Brittany Spears was deemed mentally competent - so wacky you almost have to think it's fake.
Martz was certainly the dark-horse candidate with new GM Scott McCloughan even publicly saying that there was no truth to rumors connecting Martz to the 49ers. SI.com apparently confirmed the rumor through another source in the organization. Like many have already written - Martz's hire clearly shows who the "big trigger" is in this organization.
Front office shenanigans aside - I think he will do a better job than Jim Hostler. When you hit rock bottom you can only go up so really, Martz has only one way to go. The question at hand, though, is not whether Martz will better the offense, because I think clearly he will. Whether in St. Louis or Detroit he clearly shows the ability to produce offensively.
The question now is really whether Mike Martz will be the Mike Martz of 1999-2001 or the post-New-England-I-got-my-arce-handed-to-me-and-it-made-me-crazy Mike Martz.
The Super Bowl loss at the end of the 2001 season seems to be the turning point for Martz's offensive insanity. Remember, that game was "The Greatest Show on Turf" against a young, 6th round QB and a team that was supposed to lose by two scores. Belichick's Patriots dared Martz to run - they lined up in the nickel offense all game and said, "bring it." Martz, of course, never ran the ball and the rest is history. Thereafter, seemingly proving my case, Martz said that he should have passed the ball MORE during the game. If insanity is doing the same thing over and over all the while expecting a different result then this game produced the emergence of Mad Mike Martz.
It was like a switch flipped - he wanted to prove that he could do things his way and make them work, perpetuating his obstinate persona. Websites like DumpMartz.com and FireMartz.com (sound familiar niner fans?) started to spring up and Martz continued to throw. He took stubborn to a new level.
Thus, the case against Martz is quite simply that he is an obstinate fool who is content with never running the ball more than five times a game. Many would cite his paltry 87.8 average rushing yards per game in 2002 with the Rams, or more recently his 79.8 rushing yards per game in 2007 with Detroit. Some would even say that the Lions fired their offensive line coach in 2006 over personality clashes with Martz. In short, Big Ego + Stubbornness = Bad Coach.
But what about the potential positives? Martz's best years were when he had a dynamic running back in Marshall Faulk, a double threat who could damage teams on the ground or through the air. Similarly, the 49ers have Frank Gore, a player Martz quickly admitted will be the foundation of the offense. Under Martz, Faulk had two 1,300-yard seasons and the Rams were virtually unstoppable.
Beyond the personnel, Martz's best year in terms of ground production was his first year as coordinator, 1999, when Dick Vermeil was the head coach. Perhaps Nolan will interject enough caution to moderate the free wheeling, pass-happy offenses Martz tends to prefer.
Martz can certainly has an eye for quarterbacks. Trent Green, Kurt Warner, Marc Bulger and Jon Kitna can all attribute their success to Martz. In fact, Jon Kitna is very much a supporter f Martz and came to his defense even after Martz was fired from the Motor City.
"[I]f you look at our games the past two years, when we were in the game, not down 13 points at halftime or 21 points, we were a pretty balanced football team," Said Kitna of his recently deposed offensive coordinator. "In our seven wins this year, we rushed for more than 100 yards in six of them. But there were three different times this year when we gave up more than 30 points in the first half. It's kind of hard to run when that happens." In short, Kitna believes that Martz was the victim of circumstance, of a bad defense that made him throw early and often.
This, to me is the least convincing argument. Martz established a pattern in St. Louis, low rushing attempts, high passing attempts and high sacks - a pattern that persisted in Detroit. What is to say that the pattern will change now?
Head Coach Mike Nolan, I'm sure, knows plenty about football, but he knows little about the offensive side of the ball. He needs someone to take the offense and be left alone. This was why Turner and Nolan worked so well. Nolan could work on the defense, game day (you heard right, game day) and team management while the offense just worked. The team trusted Turner and his pedigree. This year, they did not trust Hostler and even Gore mentioned it to the press.
When it comes down to it, Mike Nolan is a defensive coordinator who can create an organizational chart, stick with it, and make decisions (as long as they don't pertain to the use of time outs or 4th down calls). If one thing is certain, when Nolan makes a decision, there is no going back.
Martz's autonomy is a double edged sword, though. Too much autonomy and you have the potential for Martz to continue his patterns. Too much meddling and you now have a coach who is not an offensive maven trying to meddle with the guy he hired as the offensive coordinator.
Even more than that, though, Martz sees this as perhaps his last opportunity to move back into the head coaching ranks. This poses a unique dynamic since Martz may not want too much interference from outside parties. Will he want to again prove that he can do things his way, or will he want to prove that he can run the ball when he has a capable running back? Will the relationship these two men apparently established in Washington be enough to minimize the potential clash of egos?
There is no doubt that Martz is the type of offensive coordinator the 49ers need, someone who is good with quarterbacks, someone who can handle the offensive side of the team autonomously, someone who can put some offensive imagination into a team that draws it's character from a cautious head coach. And perhaps more importantly, he is a coordinator the players will trust - just like they trusted Turner. There is certainly the potential to succeed.
Wether or not he is the type of person the 49ers need is the biggest question.
Year by Year Mike Martz Stats