A few years ago, I sat in Mike Martz's office, which is quite larger than my living room. His eyes were red. His voice was resigned. "Don't get into coaching," he told me, as if I were about to. "It's not worth it."
I thought about that this weekend when I saw Martz quoted saying that national media types are always after his head. "You can't help but hear it in the national media, and yeah, I am puzzled by it," he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "But I understand that my personality may be such that I rub some people the wrong way."
I'm puzzled by questions of Martz's job security, too. After all, since 2000, when Martz took over as head coach (after he was virtually the head coach in the Rams' 1999 Super Bowl win) he has a 51-29 record. Bill Belichick has a 53-27 record, just for comparison's sake. In his time as offensive coordinator and head coach, he's produced two Pro Bowl quarterbacks (Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger, both of whom came to the Rams after being cut elsewhere), the then-highest-rated quarterback ever (Warner), three-straight league MVPs (Warner, Marshall Faulk, Warner), two Super Bowl appearances and one ring, and an offense that holds records for most points and yards produced in a three-year span. Of course, he's also produced a few bust defensive linemen, but what can you say? Everyone thought they were good picks when he made them.
There is no coach I'd rather listen to than Martz, who in addition to being occasionally blunt (calling underachieving Kevin Carter a "dog") is bizarre in his tactical and personnel moves, leaving plenty to write about. I still remember a decision Martz made late in the 2002 season opener against Denver, best summed up by columnist Bernie Miklasz: "The Rams had a fourth down and nearly 2 yards to go at Denver's 9-yard line. The decision was simple: Your team is playing on the road in a hostile stadium, so kick the field goal, tie it up, silence the crowd and make [Brian] Griese and the Broncos squirm some more. Play a little traditional football. "Instead, Martz went for the first down and the gamble failed, taking the pressure off Griese and the Broncos. And to make matters worse, the fourth-down pass play was apparently designed to go to fullback Chris Hetherington. Huh? You can choose from Faulk, Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Ricky Proehl or Ernie Conwell … and you make Hetherington the money guy?"
Bad decision? Probably. But I remember Hetherington being open on the play and dropping the ball. Anyway, inspired by Martz and fellow blogger Bruce "Today's List: Top college fullbacks who squat at least 400 pounds in season holding a whey shake" Feldman, here are my other favorite coaches to interview. Remember, these aren't necessarily the most media-friendly guys, or the best X's and O's coaches, just the ones I enjoy talking to the most:
2. Belichick: Known as a boring quote, he very well can be. But in one-on-one situations, if you do your research and ask sharp, smart questions (as I've done) he's very insightful and his dry humor translates well. But if you ask stupid questions (as I've done, too) he shuts down, looks at you like you can't spell your own name, and goes into press conference drone mode.
3. Herm Edwards: Thinks in anecdotes and statements, a must for reporters. His unblinking, engaging approach forces you to keep eye contact.
4. Brian Billick: He'd be higher if not for how he snootily reasons his career-long quarterback woes. But he's very candid on other topics and no one is better in giving access to reporters, a rarity.
5. Jim Mora: Very polished. He speaks in perfect grammar, even when he called out an ESPN TV reporter during last year's playoffs. His voice never raised, his style never changed. He'll never yelp, "Playoffs!?!" like his old man. He's in control and smooth. Gotta admire that.
posted: July 25, 2005 1:10:28 PM PDT