End the Charade: Fire Mike Martz **UPDATE**

Nov 11, 2008 at 1:14 PM


One thing needs to be clarified: The 49ers should be beyond moral victories. In 2005, with a rookie running back and a rookie quarterback, the 49ers were allowed moral victories. Heck, all the way through 2006 they could get away with just competing. "They were so close! They fact that they could compete means something, doesn't it?"

Four years into a rebuilding project that shelled out hundreds of millions of dollars on both sides of the ball fans should be reaping rewards, no looking for silver linings.

The 49ers played on helluva game but they are still fatally flawed. The flaw begins and ends with the offense. For years Mike Nolan was dependent on an offensive coordinator and the lack of consistency eventually spelled his demise. From a West Coast scheme (McCarthy) to a Coryell scheme (Turner) to having no scheme (Hostler), Nolan could not take control of the offensive play calling when the team needed the face of the franchise to be just more than a suit on the sideline.

Fast forward to Singletary's 49ers. Yes, Singletary has fire. Yes, he got the team up for this game on the road. Yes, Singletary may be a good CEO-type head coach. But with the game on the line, Singletary was dependent on his offensive coordinator. He could not take the game over and be the ultimate decision maker.

Instead of taking over Singletary defaulted to his offensive coordinator. But Mike Martz's play calling in the fourth quarter was simply pitiful. Playing with a lead and a running game that had been working with moderate effectiveness all game the 49ers decided to place the onus of moving the football on the passing game. Clearly, Mike Martz responds to criticism and runs the ball. But when push comes to shove he defaults to his nature, his core, the downfield passing game.

A great coach is fluid and dynamic. Bill Walsh developed an entire new offense in Cincinnati when his strong-armed quarterback, Greg Cook, succumbed to injury. Virgil Carter, a more mobile and accurate quarterback with a weaker arm led Walsh's first iteration of the west coast offense simply because the offense did not meet his skill set.

Martz had a chance to implement a game plan and an offense around Shaun Hill, a more accurate quarterback suspect arm strength. Rather than being fluid, Martz stuck to his guns and pretty much wanted to show the world that he could do it his way. His way cost the 49ers the game.

Mike Martz is a stop gap, a place holder. He is not the answer to the offensive woes. Yes, he can improve an offense, but his play calling has been a cause for concern since his final years in St. Louis. At some point people realize that Mike Martz, regardless of what he says, is going to throw the ball when it matters most. His rigid philosophy, encompassed by his inability to let the quarterback make decisions, is a fault of Martz's hubris. He knows better, and he knows he knows better. The quarterback doesn't get to choose, Martz chooses. The problem is that when Martz is wrong, the whole offense falls with him.

****************

So what to do about the 49ers offense? I have to agree with Kevin Lynch on this one. Bring back the West Coast offense (WCO). Marketing wise, you can get back to the foundation of this team, the fertile crescent of the most potent and influential offensive scheme in decades.

The personnel fits the WCO. Hill would flourish in a west coast scheme. He is smart, accurate, and makes good decisions with the football. The wide receivers are big and can catch in traffic. Second year man Jason Hill showed that he can contribute on this team in a meaningful way. Josh Morgan can be a legitimate number one receiver in this league with the right coaching.

You have a multidimensional backfield with a fullback (Michael Robinson) that can catch, run, and throw. With Gore and Robinson the defense would have to account for both of them as receiving threats, exactly as Bill Walsh intended. The tight ends, Davis and Walker, could also be used as receiving threats to flood zones and give Hill plenty of targets underneath, his favorite place to throw.

It takes more effort to overhaul a roster than it does hire a new coach. Fire Martz at season's end and get a coordinator, or head coach, who can maximize the 49ers' talent.

**UPDATE**

Apparently Mike Martz thought the ball was on the 1/2 yard line, not the 2 and 1/2 yard line. That still doesn't explain why Martz put the ball in the air so much in the fourth quarter.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


8 Comments

  • Airbart
    What do you think after the playcalling against the Jets?
    Dec 13, 2008 at 1:24 AM
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    Response: If Singletary can indeed rein Martz in and basically keep him balanced, than I think Martz can do some great things. I thought the play calling against the Jets was good. This still doesn't solve the matter of having a continuous coordinator. Will Singletary keep Martz after this year? Will his system fit this team? Who knows. Rather than have two years of a placeholder it might be better to just take the lumps now and get someone in place who can hold the job down long term. If Martz continues on his moderation streak, though, he could be an asset.
  • Johnny Niner
    No need to fire Martz. Let's try to get some stability for once.
    Nov 15, 2008 at 5:11 PM
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  • BOOMER
    I agree with Logical. How many friggin OC's coaches, QB's. WR's, etc, etc are we gonna have to go through before all the sports pundits out there are gonna not want to fire someone else. We already got rid of Nolan. Martzs' system can lead to success, lets just give him time. All this hire and firing is getting old with the Niner franchise. Lets stick with Hill, lets stick with Martz and with Singletary for at least another 2 seasons. All this musical chair playing is getting ridiculous. If anything in the Niners franchise needs to change, its the ownership.
    Nov 13, 2008 at 9:01 AM
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  • Ninerhigh
    The only Apericio I know of who is great in sports was with the CHicago White Sox. You sir simply do not know enough about football to write a knowledgeable comment. You can not change our offensive system to the West Coast style in the middle of the season. Further, Martz knows a million times more about winning football than you display here. Why don't you clean stalls in the Candlestick men's rooms where your football expertise will equal those of the regular Sunday visitors?
    Nov 12, 2008 at 1:30 PM
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    Response: Perhaps I was unclear. I meant fire him at season's end. You are right, continuity has really hurt this team. But is the answer sticking with an offensive coordinator who has an offensive scheme that seems designed to give up sacks? A coordinator who defaults to throwing 5 and 7 step drops when he should have a more ball control offense? Martz is a good coach, but his system is flawed and it is becoming more risk than reward.
  • logical
    Talk about jumping the gun. The problem with this team is the lack of continuity. How many coordinators have we gone through? How many QBs? Offensive Line getting shuffled. Continually changing the system will cause another lag just to get everything down. STICK W/ MARTZ!
    Nov 11, 2008 at 11:00 PM
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  • Andrew
    He sometimes throws the ball in the 4th quarter because the defenses put 8-9men in the box, he tries and makes them pay and keep them on their heels. On paper it is brilliant, it loosens the run defense and keeps them guessing. Our team just isn't ready yet to make our opponents pay. We lack "that" Quarterback for that mentality and system.. that WCO did pretty well for us the past 3 years didn't it? This is by far our best offense since the Nolan era. We just need a QB, forget another system, another years toll on this long rebuilding project.
    Nov 11, 2008 at 9:21 PM
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    Response: We didn't run a WCO the last three years. We ran a weird hybrid WCO with Coryell terminology under Hostler. Turner brought the Coryell digit system. The last time we ran a WCO was in 2005 under Mike McCarthy and we had so little talent at the time it was laughable. At some point the franchise has to realize that what they are doing is not working. You need one last change before you can keep it steady.
  • HB
    1st down to hill @46 seconds to go the head coach is responsible for calling the immediate timeout, spike, or quick play before calling timeout. Running 20 seconds off the clock essentially cost one down and perhaps the game. Martz got screwed by the team video people upstairs who did not review the replay promptly. If they had been competent in reviewing replay they too would have seen the hand on Gore's back and deduced down at the 2 1/2 and a winding clock would ensue. Had a good replay team upstairs been able to communicate the eventual outcome before the official then a play would have been ready for the 2 1/2. Instead Martz got first wind of the ball being moved back to the 2 1/2 from the official who then proceded to go spot the ball and start the play with the niners goal line package in and no time to change out. Too bad but all could have been prevented by spiking or calling timeout at 46 seconds. The physical effort was great but some individual discipline was once again lacking. Too many mental mistakes. The personal fouls, false starts, and other mental errors are inexcusable.
    Nov 11, 2008 at 7:45 PM
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    Response: Part of Sing not being able to take control is due to Martz having complete autonomy of the offense. He will always want autonomy of the offense. Martz is not the guy to implement someone else's system. This is the major problem with having a coach that can't take the offense into his own hands. I agree, though, that there were too many mental errors at the end of the game.
  • Scappman
    I agree that the Niners need to go WCO with Hill, I was pleading for Nolan to go with Hill and the WCO weeks ago when JTO was starting to fall apart. I disagree about Martz using the pass too often. Go Walsh, pass more to open-up the running game. Gore cannot pound the ball and since they haven't utilized other RB's the opp. can key on Gore and stop him in clutch situations. T. Clayton would have scored on the play Gore fell down on. Arizona stacked the line, Gore's not quick enough to bounce outside, he gets jammed-up behind a weak O-line. Instead using Robinson, go with Gore and Clayton's speed. JTO and Hill have been hurried way too often, the O-line is way below standard. The Niners need Martz to be creative like we saw during the preseason. Remember how successful Clayton was? Quick high percentage short passes to multiple backs and receivers. Mix in the run and then throw long just to keep the D honest. If given adequate time like opponent's QB's, Hill can move this offense. The Martz I see now has been bending way too much to appease his head coaches. What do they have to lose with a creative passing game? Straight forward running plays are not the answer
    Nov 11, 2008 at 7:04 PM
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    Response: Walsh passed, but with a different philosophy. Walsh threw short passes, 3 to 5 step drops, as an extended hand off. Then when they got the lead they held onto it with a strong running game. Martz, though, passes to get the ball down the field. And in the 4th quarter, with a lead, he passed some more. Gore is fast enough to be one of the better running backs in the league. Clayton is not the answer. Perhaps a quicker hitting back might be a good compliment, but I think Michael Robinson fits that mold better than Clayton.

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