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  1. #1
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    Chris Mortensen gets it....from ESPN.com

    Tuesday, October 12, 2004
    Criticizing is easy; winning isn't

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    By Chris Mortensen
    ESPN Insider

    Before I wax a lot about Mike Martz and a little about Marty Schottenheimer, let me concede something.

    One of the flaws in my game, so to speak, is that I give head coaches a lot of rope in analyzing their performance on the sidelines. There are reasons for that. My career goal was to be a coach – my high school coaches were great influences on me. I ended up in journalism, and at one stretch I spent 10 years covering major league baseball only to switch to the NFL on a full-time basis 20 years ago. I immersed myself in the offices and film rooms of coaches who were willing to re-teach me the game of football. Even then, the constant evolution of the sport leaves me as a remedial observer.

    I have a great appreciation and respect for the amount of time coaches pour into their jobs. I understood perfectly what former Saints coach Jim Mora meant when he told the New Orleans media, "You think you know, but you don't know." It was blunt but true. The game is never as simple as we think. The quarterback isn't at fault for half his interceptions. The offensive line isn't guilty of about half the sacks you see. That cornerback you think blew coverage may have been doing exactly what he had been taught.

    So only reluctantly will you see me criticize coaches, and seldom will you see me attack a coach, although as Giants owner Wellington Mara reminds me, "The great thing about our profession is that every (coach) ultimately grades his own performance by his record." Yes, the bottom line is winning.

    That brings me to Martz and Schottenheimer, two coaches who have been slapped around in recent years. If I I trusted everything I heard on TV, heard on the radio and read in print, you would think Martz and Schottenheimer are two of the biggest buffoons in the history of football. This follows the same line more than a month ago when our media world was demonizing Giants coach Tom Coughlin.

    Martz and Schottenheimer are different in many respects. Schottenheimer is a great fundamentalist coach, and Martz is, well, he's just out there, on the edge – so much so that former ***** coach Bill Walsh has said, "You can't emulate what Martz does."

    I know they should never be characterized as buffoons. These guys have won a lot of football games.


    * * *

    Has anyone noticed what Martz has done for the St. Louis Rams? True, his team is only 3-2, which makes him 46-22 during the regular season since he became the Rams' head coach in 2000. And, I'm sorry, but I have a difficult time not crediting him with 13 more wins and a Super Bowl championship in 1999, when the Rams won it all with Kurt Warner.


    The previous two seasons, Dick Vermeil's Rams went 5-11 and 4-12, and Vermeil nearly was run out of town. Vermeil was pressured, to put it mildly, to hire Martz as offensive coordinator. The result, as we know, was a 13-3 season, the Super Bowl, and an offense that almost doubled its point total (285 to 526) in a single season with Mad Mike calling the plays for "the Greatest Show on Turf."

    Yes, Mad Mike is a little unconventional. He throws it when we think he should run it. He asks for instant replays when the world can see the officials got it right. He uses timeouts like they were loose change. Interceptions? Don't worry about it. His postgame and Monday press conferences to explain all of it? Sometimes bizarre.

    Now, again, some of that is reality and some of that is perception. The point is, as if we can't make it enough, is that Martz is a little different than the rest.

    "Mike is different, but in this league, it isn't about the art of coaching, it's the art of winning," said Jay Zygmunt, the Rams' president of football operations. "Just like Coughlin is Coughlin, Mike is Mike. They win, and let me tell you, there are no easy games in this league."

    Even Martz told me Monday, "Everybody has a preconceived idea of how things should be done, and I guess I don't fit the mold. But I can't change. I'm not going to change."

    For Martz, there is more method to his madness than most of us are willing to acknowledge. Let's tie some recent events together to make the case.

    Sunday in Seattle, the Rams made a noble, furious comeback from a 27-10 deficit in a key NFC West game. The Seahawks' defense was backpedaling in the final minute as the Rams marched, trailing 27-24. Marc Bulger's 16-yard pass to Dane Looker put the Rams on the Seattle 18 with 18 seconds left. First down. The TV analysts reasonably wondered why Martz wasn't taking at least one more shot into the end zone as he sent kicker Jeff Wilkins out to tie the game with a field goal, forcing overtime.

    Sound familiar?

    Last January, in a second-round playoff game, Martz was crucified for a similar strategy, when he played for a tie against the Carolina Panthers, who went on to win an overtime game and subsequently advanced to the Super Bowl as the NFC champion.

    Yet there was a foundation for what Martz had done in both instances. Two years earlier, in 2002, the Rams trailed by three when they staged a last-minute drive against the Redskins that took them to the Washington 5 with 11 seconds left. Martz went for the gusto instead of kicking a game-tying field goal. Kurt Warner got sacked, lost a fumble and the Rams lost in Martz's only losing season (7-9).

    "Our guys had fought their asses off to get back into the game, and I blew it," said Martz. "I lost that team when I did that. I promised myself that if I ever had another team that had the heart to come from behind in the last seconds that I would play for a tie and give them an opportunity to win the game in overtime."

    Agree or disagree, there is enough logic in his new philosophy. Sunday, he played for the tie, and the Rams stunned the Seahawks in overtime 33-27 to suddenly get our attention again.

    As for our preconceived image that Mad Mike's only goal in life is to erase the record books by throwing it every down, take another look at what he did Sunday.

    The Seahawks' offense had overwhelmed the Rams' defense, registering nine first downs in the first quarter alone. By halftime, the Seahawks led 24-7 with 17 first downs and 306 yards total offense. It was one-sided. What did Martz do? He settled the game down and played ball-control in the third quarter, keeping the football for 11:44 of the 15 minutes. And while the Rams managed just a field goal in the third quarter, Martz managed to change the flow of the game and throw the Seahawks' offense out of rhythm.

    The Rams went from jabbing their way back into the fight to delivering some haymakers for a late knockout. Sound unconventional to you? Now the Rams seemingly have our attention again, which they should, because as they rebuild their offensive line and try to get healthy on defense, they are proving capable of defending their division crown, which seemingly already had been handled to the Seahawks.

    In an ode to the late Rodney Dangerfield, talk about no respect? That's Martz.

    Even last year's 12-4 season went unappreciated, I thought. Martz accomplished that with Marc Bulger – Marc Bulger! – playing quarterback for 15 games in which Marshall Faulk either was not available or not 100 percent physically throughout most of the season. Now, I'm certainly not ready to induct Bulger into the Hall of Fame, or Martz for that matter. But do you realize that Bulger is 22-6 as a starter under Martz?


    * * *

    Like the Rams, the San Diego Chargers are 3-2, and if we can call Martz "Mad Mike," then can I label Schottenheimer as "Mad Marty"? After all, the Chargers have scored 140 points in five games – only the Colts (159) have score more.

    In fact, Schottenheimer stunned Chargers' fans Sunday against a physical Jacksonville defense by allowing Drew Brees to open the game with six straight passes and go to the air on nine of the first 11 plays.

    Think about this: When the Chargers wrapped up Sunday with 34-21 win over the Jaguars, it was 10 more points than Peyton Manning could score and 20 more points than Steve McNair managed against the same Jacksonville defense.

    Schottenheimer, whose style of play has been described as "boring," had some fun with the media after Sunday's win on a day when he even lined up Pro Bowl running back Ladainian Tomlinson at quarterback for two plays.

    "We are in the entertainment business," he said. "Was that entertaining?"

    Monday, as Schottenheimer reminded me, "Winning is entertainment."

    Really, the Chargers' 3-2 record is one of the season's most intriguing stories for a franchise that has been ridiculed by many, including yours truly.

    The Chargers' starting lineup is the second youngest in football and, other than Tomlinson, is dotted with a lot of so-called "no names."

    Even Brees is playing like, well, Dan Fouts. OK, that's a stretch. But since top draft pick Phillip Rivers was promoted to No. 2 on the quarterback depth chart, Brees has completed 72 percent of his passes for five TDs with no interceptions and only one sack for a passer rating of 135.9 against the Tennessee Titans and Jaguars.

    Schottenheimer has assembled a heck of a staff. Can't name them all, but it's funny that his offensive coordinator is Cam Cameron, whom Martz once succeeded on Norv Turner's staff with the Redskins. The line coach, Hudson Houck, is long acknowledged as one of the best in league history. Wade Phillips has solidified the defense. Steve Crosby has revved up the special teams.

    And just a reminder: Marty Schottenheimer has won 168 games in 17½ season as a head coach in the NFL.

    You don't do that by being a buffoon


  2. #2
    AvengerRam's Avatar
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    Re: Chris Mortensen gets it....from ESPN.com

    Nice job by Mort. And he's right. We fans can be tough on Martz, and the media is even worse, but in the end, he is the guy I want coaching this team right now.

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    Re: Chris Mortensen gets it....from ESPN.com

    I agree that we should keep Martz but I don't agree that he shouldn't be criticized just because he has a good record. I don't agree with booing him at the stadium or running him out of town.

    However, his coaching has cost the Rams some wins, too. He isn't perfect and no one can be expected to be but there are some issues that, if "fixed" would make the Rams a very dominant team in my opinion. I don't think Martz would argue that although his "style" is successful, there isn't room for improvement.

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    Re: Chris Mortensen gets it....from ESPN.com

    and you know what mokler, he always says there is room for improvement. Every press conference those words come out.

  5. #5
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    Re: Chris Mortensen gets it....from ESPN.com

    I think it depends on the manner in which the criticism is made.


    For example, if Steven Spielberg makes a bad movie, I will criticize it. But I don't suggest that I could make a better one.

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    Re: Chris Mortensen gets it....from ESPN.com

    Well, one thing I don't believe in any more are the words that Martz says in a press conference. He's as bad or worse than Shanahan at using the media for his own end. Which is fine and it took me a while to figure that out about Martz.

    And, as much as I'll never forgive Martz for ONE particular thing(a certain qb not retiring as a Ram), I really do like him as the coach of the Rams. I love his aggresiveness, innovativeness and loyalty to the players among other things, but I don't feel that motivation, discipline and playcalling have changed much, if at all, since he took over in 2000.

    We'll see if the devil may care attitude toward certain aspects of the game will work on a championship level at some point, I just think with a little nudge here or there, life would be so much easier for Martz as the head coach.

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    Re: Chris Mortensen gets it....from ESPN.com

    Point me in the direction of a perfect coach or the perfect person. Why must everyone be criticized for their mistakes daily? Martz has done wonders for this team and continues to. He never gives less than 110% and expects the same from his players.

    It's too bad us fans and the media can't spend a little more time patting people on the back for the thankless jobs they do. Martz has kept at us a competitive level his entire tenure he has been in St. Louis and I expect that same from him each year. And here lies the problem. We fans have come to expect perfection. Martz preaches it, we believe it, and we expect it. Anything less than perfection tears us apart, thus leaving us to tear apart a coach.

    As much as I get frustrated with the guy, I must say he has been the best thing for the Rams since the days of Robinson. There is not this 3 year rebuilding window with Martz. Its put up, or get out. I like that.

    I am proud he is our coach! If he left today he could write his head coaching job to whatever town he wanted...and you can put that in your pipe and smoke it.


    Quote Originally Posted by moklerman
    I agree that we should keep Martz but I don't agree that he shouldn't be criticized just because he has a good record. I don't agree with booing him at the stadium or running him out of town.

    However, his coaching has cost the Rams some wins, too. He isn't perfect and no one can be expected to be but there are some issues that, if "fixed" would make the Rams a very dominant team in my opinion. I don't think Martz would argue that although his "style" is successful, there isn't room for improvement.

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    Re: Chris Mortensen gets it....from ESPN.com

    Great article from the only person worth a damn on ESPN. It certainly makes me rethink some of my criticism of Martz.
    Clannie Nominee for ClanRam's Thickest Poster

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    Re: Chris Mortensen gets it....from ESPN.com

    I have no problem with criticism as long as it is done with respect towards the person you are giving it to. I will keep criticizing Martz because as fans that is what we do. I just hope I have the class to do it in a respectful manner.
    Sprtsmac :football:

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    Re: Chris Mortensen gets it....from ESPN.com

    Good point SM and I agree. Good constructive criticism is heathly for everybody, whether perfect or not ;-)



    Quote Originally Posted by sprtsmac
    I have no problem with criticism as long as it is done with respect towards the person you are giving it to. I will keep criticizing Martz because as fans that is what we do. I just hope I have the class to do it in a respectful manner.

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    Re: Chris Mortensen gets it....from ESPN.com

    I was going to add to this argument but you know what. Everyone has said what needs to be said

    Good article and some good responces.

    Long live Mad Mike


  12. #12
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    Re: Chris Mortensen gets it....from ESPN.com

    Mort talks a lot of sense

  13. #13
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    Re: Chris Mortensen gets it....from ESPN.com

    Sound familiar?

    Last January, in a second-round playoff game, Martz was crucified for a similar strategy, when he played for a tie against the Carolina Panthers, who went on to win an overtime game and subsequently advanced to the Super Bowl as the NFC champion.

    Yet there was a foundation for what Martz had done in both instances. Two years earlier, in 2002, the Rams trailed by three when they staged a last-minute drive against the Redskins that took them to the Washington 5 with 11 seconds left. Martz went for the gusto instead of kicking a game-tying field goal. Kurt Warner got sacked, lost a fumble and the Rams lost in Martz's only losing season
    pardon my ignorance here but what in the hell does one game have to do with the other? the game against the skins Martz made the correct decision. This is a ridiculous comparison due to the fact that had Warner not fumbled the rams still could have kicked a FG. He makes it sound like it was all or nothing on that play. enter the playoff game vs carolina and there was time to win the damned game. I agree that Martz has done some fabulous things for this team however good deeds don't replace logic. trying to sweep away the carolina game because of his regular season record is crazy. I don't know about anyone else but i am frightened about any close games we may have in the playoffs.like most, I am happy to have Martz as our coach however; i worry about him out there all alone during the post season.

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    Re: Chris Mortensen gets it....from ESPN.com

    Hey RamTime, you live by the sword and you die by the sword an often used expression but in this case, very well placed LOL.


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    Re: Chris Mortensen gets it....from ESPN.com

    I agreed with the kick against the Hawks, even told a buddy that when the game was on. But the situation in playoff game last year was completely different. Too much time was still available.

    Martz is a great OC. He is a successful HC. But he reminds me of that eccentric millionaire. Obviously smart enough to do his job, but just does some quirky things that make you say "Huh???"
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