Critics be damned, Martz goes to playoffs - PD
Critics be damned, Martz goes to playoffs
By Bernie Miklasz
Of the Post-Dispatch
Sunday, Jan. 02 2005
Well, now. Mike Martz got it done. He defiantly thumbed his nose at the outside
world and arrogantly continued to do things his way. Martz held the Rams
together long enough to take advantage of the chronic, comedic mediocrity in
the NFC. And the NFC West was so bad, the prison team from the film "The
Longest Yard" would have won the division.
But the NFL is a bottom-line league, and Martz has crashed his way into the NFL
playoffs. As the NFL's most controversial and unpopular head coach, Martz
enters as an uninvited guest, an unwelcome guest. But he's in the door, and no
one can push this half-mad, maverick, eccentric coach back onto the street.
He's cleared the velvet rope. He's in the exclusive NFL playoff club.
"I guess our head coach won't be fired now," running back Marshall Faulk said
in a fine display of sarcasm.
But Martz will be fired upon. On the day the Rams survived the New York Jets to
win 32-29 in overtime, Martz got pounded again by ESPN football analyst Tom
Jackson. Asked to name the worst coaching decision of the 2004 season, Jackson
barked "Anytime Mike Martz did anything on the field."
And Friday, in an interview on the NFL channel on Sirius satellite radio,
washed-up Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Warren Sapp said Martz was "a little
on the girlie side." Asked about the Martz vs. Kyle Turley confrontation, Sapp
apparently fantasized about being in Turley's place and said, "I'll just stomp
him (Martz) right across his damn head because he really thinks his (stuff)
don't stink and you really don't like those kind of guys in this league."
Martz wouldn't win elections, but he does win games.
As if to annoy those who embrace conventional wisdom, Martz went retro on
Sunday, taking the Rams back to 1999, having quarterback Marc Bulger sling for
450 yards against the Jets. Oh, so we want Martz to run the freaking football?
Well, take a number and get in line. Martz doesn't care what you think, what I
think, or what the crew at ESPN thinks. He doesn't even care what his assistant
coaches, bosses or players think. It's always Martz against himself, Martz
against the world.
So on Sunday at The Ed, the Rams ran the rock 19 times and put it in the air 42
times, squandering all of those passing yards with three turnovers and other
drive-snuffing mistakes. Instead of trying to protect a 21-10 lead by working
the clock, Mad Mike staged an air show for his critics, and probably hoped to
crash-land his plane into the press box to make a point.
"All the garbage that's been said that's just so untrue," Martz said. "I'm so
very proud of this football team. This is why you coach, for moments like this.
It really is. This is why you coach."
I won't be a phony here. I've been hard on Martz this season, and the man
remains perplexing, frustrating, fascinating. I'm adamant in the belief that
the Rams 2004 regular season never should have come down to this Sunday
afternoon OT drama. The Rams gave away some regular-season games, and Martz
went oddball in his game management on too many occasions.
Making the playoffs doesn't erase Martz's bizarre handling of the team, his
moodiness, his contradictory public statements, or the juvenile way he seeks
controversy. Martz's paranoia was evident Sunday in the Rams' childish refusal
to post the Minnesota-Washington score on the video boards. (The outcome of
that game had a direct impact on the Rams' playoff hopes). It was not only a
disservice to paying customers in the stadium who deserved updates, but it was
also silly. I mean, did Martz really believe his team was so fragile that it
couldn't cope with the developments coming out of Washington?
The Rams wouldn't have reached the NFL postseason tournament if they competed
in a respectable division. Before this season, only four 8-8 teams had
qualified for the playoffs since 1990. The Rams had the soft cushion of the NFC
West to fall back on in their playoff bid. And certainly the Rams were
fortunate to draw Philadelphia in the 15th game of their season; the No. 1-seed
Eagles rested star players in advance of the NFC playoffs.
Still, the Rams were face down on the pavement after getting wiped out by 24
points in Arizona. They HAD to win their final two games; the pressure was
extreme. Martz had an imposing challenge: pick his players up and win the final
two games. He came through. The Rams were hungry and desperate and displayed an
admirable survival instinct. And the will to win overcame the team's flaws. If
we're going to blast Martz for not having his squad prepared, then it's only
fair to give The Mad One props for his leadership over the last two-plus weeks.
I'm not sure how Martz's triumph will be received in St. Louis. Rams fans in
the Dome were fired up by this exciting game and the resulting playoff berth.
But e-mailers and talk-show callers also made an instant connection: Martz in
the playoffs means that Martz is safe, and he will be coaching this team next
year, and likely into 2006, the final year of his contract.
After all, Martz has led the Rams into the playoffs four times in his five
seasons as head coach. In St. Louis pro football history, Don Coryell, Jim
Hanifan and Dick Vermeil got their teams to the playoffs only four times,
combined, in 14 seasons. And Martz has, by far, the best winning percentage
(.638) of any St. Louis NFL head coach, easily exceeding Coryell (.607),
Charley Winner (.536), Vermeil (.458) and Hanifan (.444).
So to those who think Martz will destroy the franchise before he's through had
better deal with the reality of having him around. Martz isn't going anywhere -
except the playoffs.
Re: Critics be damned, Martz goes to playoffs - PD
I cannot find anything to disagree with in this article. The team wins despite Martzie's antics.
Re: Critics be damned, Martz goes to playoffs - PD
I swear my IQ drops 10 points every time I read a Bernie article.
Anytime you quote Warren Sapp, you lose credability, it's that simple. In order to maintain any concept of serious sports reporting don't use those 3 little words "Warren Sapp said".
washed-up Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Warren Sapp said Martz
Are you kidding me, Bernie? Why would you want the Rams scoreboard watching all day when they have their own game to play? These are multi-tasking chess champions. For the most part, they are 20-something-year-old kids that are running off adrenaline every Sunday. Don't confuse the situation on the field by causing a distraction on the scoreboard! I agree with the decision. And what disservice? The fans paid to see the Rams, not the other game's scores. To call this a "childish refusal" is ridiculous, Bernie.
Martz's paranoia was evident Sunday in the Rams' childish refusal to post the Minnesota-Washington score on the video boards. (The outcome of that game had a direct impact on the Rams' playoff hopes). It was not only a disservice to paying customers in the stadium who deserved updates, but it was also silly. I mean, did Martz really believe his team was so fragile that it couldn't cope with the developments coming out of Washington?