BY JEFF GORDON
Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
Thursday, Dec. 30 2004

Mike Martz drives people crazy.

Average fans, sportswriters, broadcasters -– folks on the perimeter of pro
football get worked into a lather watching this man work. Folks who haven’t
been within miles of the Rams locker room insist that Mad Mike has lost his
team this season.

This latest bit of nonsense with Kyle Turley and the embattled coach has become
the most overplayed NFL story since Janet Jackson suffered her "wardrobe
malfunction."

Does Martz make even his own players scratch their heads from time to time?
Sure.

When a team loses eight of its first 14 games in a season, there is going to be
what today’s business leaders like to call a “disconnect.”

But to suggest there is some sort of mutiny brewing in the Rams ranks . . .
well, now, that seems like a stretch. Rams spokesman/defensive lineman Tyoka
Jackson addressed that topic Thursday in an otherwise quiet locker room.

“It’s a joke what’s going on out here,” Jackson said. “I just shake my head. I’
m perplexed. People that have no idea what’s going on, have no idea what it’s
like to play football in the National Football League or run a football team,
and they criticize him.

“Mike Martz got the game ball from the players last week. Did that lead off
(the news)? Did anybody talk about that?”

Uh, no . . .

“Well there you go,” Jackson said. “If it bleeds it leads. People want to hear
about negativity. You guys and others are more than happy to give it up. That’s
just the way it works. That’s the way society is. If it bleeds, it leads.”

But Jackson claims the relationship between the Rams and their coach isn’t
bleeding.

“He got the game ball from the players Monday because he stayed focused and did
his game plan with all the (bleep) that was going on,” he said.

Jackson wondered why reporters carry agendas into their job -– and why they
attack without knowing the truth.

“If your motive is to destroy a group of people, you have to know what was
going on,” he said. “Do you guys not want the Rams here? I don’t think so. Do
you really want the Rams to lose? Probably not.

“I don’t know who it came from, but when I hear things like ‘the players have
shut it down, they quit, they don’t want to play for him, they don’t like him’,
what are you talking about? Really, have you ever heard a player say that?”

Well, not for the record, anyway . . .

“People who don’t know him away from the cameras, away from the microphones,
make statements as if they do. To me, that’s just unfortunate. If you only know
one aspect of a person’s personality, it doesn’t give you the right to talk
about the rest of the guy’s personality.

“What kind of journalistic integrity is there to make blanket statements about
a guy’s personality, and (you) don’t know him that well . . . When you walk out
of here, you don’t have people yelling obscenities at you.”

That’s not entirely true . . .

“Why are people who never played the game . . . what are they talking about
when they critique people who sit there and work 18 hours per day to win a
football game in the National Football League, and they sit and critique one or
two plays. What are you thinking? I don’t understand people.”

Yeah, well, it’s a living. During his Thursday news conference, Martz
acknowledged the media beating he has taken -– and he expressed appreciation
for the support he has received from his players.

“As long as you’ve got your guys, your players and coaches, I feel I like I can
withstand anything,” Martz said. “It just kind of makes you stronger. We’ll
deal with that part of it. I’m not concerned about criticism any more from the
national media.

“It shocked me in my first year as a coach. You have to follow your
convictions. The connection I have with these players, that’s why I coach.”

Martz misted up as he said that. The assembled media mob was almost touched by
Coach’s watery eyes.

But then folks got ahold of their emotions and got back to the task of making
Mike mad.