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Letters to Gordo: The grounding of Air Martz
BY JEFF GORDON
STLtoday.com Sports Columnist
Many Rams fans got their wish Monday when coach Mike Martz stepped aside, at least for the time being. His illness was making it impossible (and yet risky) for him to coach.
What does Rams Nation think of this development? Here is another sampler of the electronic mail that rolls into this corner of cyberspace:
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ďThere are those who obviously see his illness as a Ďblessingí for this team and that's between them and their conscience. But they're about to find out exactly how good Martz is with an offense. They're about to find out that while his offense puts Marc Bulger in jeopardy at times, he also helps make Bulger look as good as he can. Losing Martz and his ability to put points on the board isn't good for a team that needs to score 30 points a game right now just to have a shot at winning. And I think the fact he's been sick since before the season opener explains why this offense hasn't been what we thought it was.
ďThis is not good for the Rams and if you don't believe me, just ask the players. Judging from the stories I've read already, the players know this is a bad thing in every way.Ē
GORDO: Offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild is in an interesting spot, isnít he? Can he play the chess game and stay a step ahead of the opposing defensive coordinators? Will he take a more conventional approach to calling plays, or will he embrace the element of surprise as passionately as Mike did? The next several weeks will be fascinating.
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ďI wish I would have been at that press conference. My question to John Shaw would have been ĎWhere have you been?í This is the St. Louis Rams, not the Los Angeles Rams. Close that office and resign. I also wish there were a way for Mike Martz to step down as the head coach, become the offensive coordinator with a fancy title and bring in a new head coach with experience and patience. We have the talent . . . we have no leadership.
GORDO: There is talent, for sure, but there are some problems, too. The Rams have huge problems at safety and cornerback, so the road to the playoffs from this 2-3 start will be long and winding.
Martz may someday become an offensive coordinator elsewhere, but thatís not going to happen here.
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ďThe City of St. Louis can take partial credit for Coach Martzís health. We have become spoiled sports fans. We have won a Super Bowl, been to another one, been in the playoffs I believe four out of five years and we treat the guy and his players like dirt. Itís embarrassing to listen to the idiots and morons who think they know about football. Fans think, because they were a Ďsecond team holder on the field goal unití they know the game. We sound like Chicago or New York fans. Itís embarrassing.Ē
GORDO: Fans have a right to complain, of course. But it is strange to see Martz singled our for such harsh criticism, much like the abuse heaped on Tony La Russa until the last few seasons. Mike is unconventional and can come off smug, but heís really a decent guy. His won-loss record is superior to most of his peers. He hasnít had dominant talent overall, despite fan assertions that he has. He has won close games and tough games. He has taken injury-riddled teams into the playoffs.
We all enjoy helping him coach, with our priceless advice, but for fans to develop such an intense loathing for him . . . well, that I donít get.
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Great advice to Martz and his assistant coaches. I often disagree with the way Martz coaches, but I will pray for his health because I think he's a decent sort of fellow. It will be interesting to see how the team reacts -- they could easily become inspired and play much better, or things could fall apart even worse than they are now and the season may be lost by the mid-point. We'll see.
GORDO: Yeah, Iím eager to see how the players respond, too. There is plenty of leadership in that locker room. Now itís time for those guys to step forward. And if Marshall Faulk isnít going to play more than a few plays, then give him a headset and let him join the brain trust. He knows this offense as well Martz does.
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ďI truly feel bad for Mike Martz. The way the public has attacked him is reprehensible. The man has a brilliant offensive mind. If it were not for Martz there would have been no 1999 Super Bowl championship. His winning percentage shows that he has really done an incredible job during his time in St. Louis. Imagine the reaction of the St. Louis fans if he had gone to three straight NFC championships in a row and only had one Super Bowl appearance, and that being a loss, to show for it. Yet Andy Reid is considered one of the upper-echelon coaches. It seems that St. Louis loves a scapegoat, so here is one for you, Dick Vermeil.
ďIf Vermeil doesn't get all misty-eyed and decide to ride off into the sunset, and then change his mind three months later, Martz gets more time to learn the job by watching and working with Vermeil. Instead, Martz gets thrown into the fire and has to learn to be a head coach on the job. Baptism by fire is never an easy situation. Yet Martz has taken his team back to the Super Bowl, and they are a perennial playoff contender. Maybe having Martz out a while might bring some accountability to the rest of his coaching staff and to the players, and bring some perspective to the fans.
"I grew up in St. Louis, but now live in Phoenix, so I know what bad football looks like. St. Louis needs to get a grip and enjoy the good times while they can. St. Louis used to be one of the greatest sports towns in America, but the way they have treated Martz gives the city a black eye.Ē
Matthew Heinz, Phoenix
GORDO: Iím not sure Iíd go that far, since football coaches always get a rough ride. Some get a honeymoon, some donít. Fans turned on Mike during his first season, which was marred by injuries and free-agent defections, and, overall, they havenít let up on him since.