Sunday, October 01, 2006
By Tom Kowalski
Whether they'll admit it or not, the two men have revenge and destruction on their mind. And, fortunately for football fans, they will be matching wits today.

Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Mike Martz and St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, who both operate unconventional but exciting schemes, will try to get the best of each other as the 2-1 Rams host the 0-3 Lions.

"The way I look at it, the two geniuses are going at each other," said Rams head coach Scott Linehan. "I'm just going to sit there like you guys and enjoy the show."

While winning the game is paramount to both Martz and Haslett, a victory will be a little sweeter because of the revenge factor.

Martz had great success during his days with the Rams as an offensive coordinator (winning a Super Bowl) and head coach (going to the Super Bowl), but he was dumped last season after squabbles with the front office.

Haslett, meanwhile, was a finalist for the Lions head coaching job in the off-season and got so close to getting it that he was waiting by the phone for the team's final decision. But the call went to Rod Marinelli instead.

For his part, Martz isn't talking about his return to St. Louis. He normally talks to the media at least once a week, but he declined all interview requests during the last week.

Despite the fact Martz is changing his routine for this game, Marinelli said it's just a routine game for him: "The game at hand, he's just looking at the game at hand."

The Lions offense finally showed some life last week, rolling up 424 total yards and scoring 24 points. Martz likes to use a lot of shifts and motions to create space for downfield passes. Linehan, a former offensive coordinator, admits that he kept some of Martz's ideas in the Rams' playbook.

"A lot of things. There are things that we've run in places I've been that are very similar, so we tried to keep those," Linehan said. "We've kept a lot of (things) similar because we have so many older players -- players that have been here. So, we've tried to make it easy on them and, like I told our guys here, I've basically plagiarized Mike Martz and every other great offensive coach that I've studied.

"I had a lot of plays before I even got here that were probably plays ran by the Rams before, so that's kind of how I look at it."

Rams quarterback Marc Bulger started his career as an unknown sixth-round draft pick by the New Orleans Saints but ended up in St. Louis and, after being coached by Martz, ended up in the Pro Bowl.

"I learned a great deal from him," said Bulger, who liked Martz's coaching style. "I know it's aggressive and you never give up and you go 100 miles an hour at all times. So, I learned a lot and I think that he definitely helped me get my career started."

Bulger said that even teams that try to copy Martz's scheme aren't really the same.

"They're still different because he's continually changing things and he never has a set offense -- he's always growing it and putting in new ideas and that's what made it fun to be in and I think that's why it's always been so good," Bulger said.

Haslett also likes to use a lot of pre-snap movement. Lions wide receiver Roy Williams called the St. Louis defense "weird."

"It's a progressive defense that plays good percentages and things like that, that an opposing team might run a certain type play in a certain situation. So, I guess it's a little bit weird or unconventional," Linehan said. "I think the great thing about our defense is that they start by being sound, but they try new ways to do maybe the same thing. It's not just offenses that shift in motion and disguise, I think defenses are getting to where they do a good job of not showing their hand either and I think we work very hard at that."