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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    Martz does things his own way--ESPN Insider

    By Jeff Reynolds
    Pro Football Weekly

    ST. LOUIS It's June 1, and the temperature, climbing above 85 degrees on a cloudless day at a tucked-away corporate park west of St. Louis, creates the slightest haze outside the oversized windows at Rams Park.

    The blinds, tilted upward in his second-floor corner office, rob Rams head coach Mike Martz of a view of an empty practice field and a justifiably quiet blacktop parking lot.

    Even in a navy and gray floral printed polo shirt embroidered with the logo of a past golf tournament, Martz portrays perfectly the image of a studious football coach. Angling toward the front edge of his mahogany U-shaped desk, Martz shifts an iced Diet Pepsi to the right to uncover a bound, double-sided printout. The standard white, 8-by-11-inch paper stands about two inches thick, lying flat in Martz's outstretched hand.

    "Third-down plays we had ready and never called," Martz says, a sense of dissatisfaction in his voice. "We don't have a playbook. We have a book with the system in it as described with some of the base offense. If you put everything together on that top rack , that is about half of what we do. It's never-ending."

    Mike Martz has a 51-29 regular-season record as the Rams head coach.This is Mike Martz, the subject of justifiably passionate debate among football fans who can't agree whether he's brilliant, smarmy, stubborn, ignorant or some combination of those traits. The man often portrayed as a prima-donna dictator displays only pictures of his dogs, Rocky and Buddy, and his family. There is no Super Bowl ring, no glamorous display of career achievements. Nothing that says Martz is the extroverted narcissist many assume him to be.

    He is asked about defensive coordinator Larry Marmie, who has been ridiculed frequently since replacing Lovie Smith, who went on to become the head coach of the Bears.

    "Criticism, most often, is without understanding," Martz says in a persuasive tone, sounding like an attorney during closing arguments.

    He's not back on his heels, but there is evidence in his irritatingly relaxed posture that Martz has been here before.

    Many things make Martz an easy target. For one, his offense sits with some traditionalists the 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust generation as well as poetry does with a butcher. He also refuses to bother with self-defense, leading second-guessers to keep guessing. Take Super Bowl XXXVI for example, a loss that one confidant says still "haunts him" as has been widely speculated.

    Smith, who worked with Martz at Arizona State, was on the St. Louis coaching staff from 2001-03 and called that game "the toughest loss I've ever been a part of."

    The Rams lost to the Patriots 20-17 on a last-second field goal, and following the game, the Rams' game plan was dissected as only professional sports' highest-rated annual event can be. Running back Marshall Faulk had only 17 carries (and four catches) despite a 4.5-yard average that indicated he had success when he did get the ball. Many said Faulk didn't get the ball enough for the Rams, who were 14-point favorites. They trailed 17-3 entering the fourth quarter the time when Martz, who judges running game success on yardage per carry and not total yards or carries, normally got the ball to Faulk to put weary opponents away.

    When the Rams and Patriots met in the regular season, Faulk totaled 153 yards (83 yards rushing) and a touchdown. Although Faulk had only four games that year with more than 20 carries, he did average 116 yards in those four games.

    "Everything we do, have ever done, is pragmatic," Martz said, absorbing the blow and sidestepping the Faulk topic. "In '99 , we had great balance. Since then, we've had some issues in terms of depth. We're losing tackles in free agency, moved some guys around. We had to win how we could win. If you can't win by effectively running the ball, wouldn't you have to throw it?"

    The architect of an explosive offense a derivative of Ernie Zampese's "three-digit" system, sprinkled with John Robinson's run game design and Norv Turner's aggressiveness, spiked with a shot of "Air Coryell" Martz takes his share of arrows for remarks like, "It's not about them, it's about us," a comment overplayed in the media and one every coach must impart to his team even if not verbatim to reflect his own confidence in their abilities.

    Even the coaching fraternity pondered the tack of Martz apparently using an opponent to motivate his own team, trying an onside kick with a 31-7 lead late in the third quarter against the Jets in October 2001 in response to media speculation that the Rams' offensive puzzle had been solved by the physical Giants, who lost 15-14 at St. Louis a week earlier. At the time, Martz defended the decision to call an onside kick, as well as a later choice to challenge whether Robert Holcombe had fumbled despite a 20-point Rams lead with four minutes remaining. "We don't have different speeds we play at," Martz said at the time, defending his decisions.

    Smith understands the extra scrutiny Martz seems to receive from the media.

    "There's a reason why people talk about Mike Martz," he said. "People are taking notice. I've seen him at his very best when people are criticizing him.

    "Coaches tend to just follow what has been done in the past. Mike took a different approach to that with how he views offensive football. It's always neat to see somebody who doesn't want to blend in, not be like everyone else and be gray. I definitely wouldn't say Mike is gray."

    "Mike is going to be out there on the edge," Turner said. "When it works, it's genius. Right there with those guys . When it doesn't and this is just the game of football then it's described as something else.

    "He used some of what we had in our two-tight end sets and implemented those plays with three and four receivers. For periods of time, he's had the most explosive offense in the league."

    Bill Belichick, regarded by most as the NFL's elite active head coach, considers Martz an equal.

    "He created a very good overall system that is hard to defend," Belichick said two days before Super Bowl XXXVI. "He does a good job of getting the ball to his key players so they can be productive and, number three, he does an excellent job of making game adjustments so that, as soon as he sees what you are doing defensively, he's shifted and is already attacking another weakness you are showing."

    Success rates can dictate the degree to which coaches in the NFL are criticized. The Rams have had only one losing season since 1998 and have been to the postseason in four of five seasons with Martz as head coach. From 2000-04, the Rams' 25-10 mark against teams with a record above .500 at the time of the game is a league-best mark: New England (21-17), Green Bay (19-13), Tennessee (19-13) and Philadelphia (17-10) are the only ones who come close.

    Somehow, for someone whose career will be dissected largely on the basis of numbers, discussion on the topic of the top coaches in the game has a tendency to omit Martz. His penchant for throwing on third-and-1, calling the end-around on first-and-goal and a general "throw caution to the wind" approach carries the coach into the waiting arms of criticism.

    Even Martz confesses he's come a long way since he was a glorified notetaker with a name tag as an unpaid volunteer assistant for the Rams under Chuck Knox in 1992. After Martz was rejected by five other teams, Knox left Martz waiting with his secretary on two occasions, refusing to acknowledge his presence, before the Rams coach finally hired him. For the sake of chronological reference, the '92 Rams were situated in Los Angeles, they selected Pitt defensive tackle Sean Gilbert with the third overall draft pick, and both Jerome Bettis and free agency as we know it were still a year away.

    Working for nothing during his oldest son's senior year in high school and staying in a friend's basement rent-free, Martz fought hard to pinch every penny. Unconvinced he was part of the Rams' coaching staff, Anaheim Stadium security repeatedly charged Martz to park the family station wagon on game day. He remained focused enough to glean what he could from Knox, quarterbacks coach Ted Tollner, offensive coordinator Zampese and others when he wasn't held up in an office this one without a view charting on a 2-foot pad of paper the detail of every offensive play the upcoming opponent ran the previous week or drawing up scout-team cards.

    "Mike always had leadership qualities and the personality of a head coach," said Marmie, who first worked with Martz at Arizona State in 1986, when Martz coached quarterbacks and Marmie was defensive coordinator. "Before I left Arizona State, I already knew Mike was an outstanding football coach. I had a strong feeling he would make his mark as an offensive football coach.

    "We all grow in our jobs the longer we're in them. I'm certain Mike, and I've only been with him one year , has become more comfortable in his role. He has a picture in mind of what he wants to do, every aspect of a football team. He's not going to jump around or follow . We all know what he wants from us."

    At the heart of the Rams' system, beyond the double-reverse and vertical passing, is a fundamentally centered scheme that requires great discipline and execution to be effective. One layer beneath that lies the passion, drive and work ethic Martz acquired from his father, a high school coach and country club manager in Sioux Falls, S.D., and his brothers.

    "My father was passionate about the game, and I kind of idolized him at that point," Martz said, adding that his dad split the scene before Mike turned 13, after his parents' divorce.

    "And my older brothers all played. The most important night of my life was Friday night when they got to play. They were really good high school players. I wanted to be just like them. I wasn't; they were much better. I was not physically as mature as they were. Coaches kind of hung with me. I was Martz's little brother.

    "The realization that I had to live up to the standard that they had set overwhelmed me in high school. I didn't deal with that very well."

    As Martz matured, he obtained football success that was never realized by his brothers, who married out of high school. Martz played football at UC-Santa Barbara, then he transferred to Fresno State and earned a scholarship. He never considered professional football a possibility.

    "I never knew to dream that big," he said. "The best job I had was the job I had. I kind of fell into by accident more than anything else."

    Once the dream was realized, there was no reason to place limits on his career. Martz, described by members of the Rams' coaching staff as quick-witted with a dry sense of humor, chose to let it all hang out after seeing an exhaustive interview with former player/current Fox football analyst Howie Long. In the interview, Long said fear of failure was a driving force in his career.

    "It became evident that so many of us are like that," Martz said. "Before you realize it, the whole thing is over with, and you haven't enjoyed any part of it."

    To say that the 2001 season which appears to be the best of his career, with a 16-3 finish could go down as Martz's worst year seems preposterous. But even players on that team can see truth in that statement. Kurt Warner, the league's MVP that season, saw Martz's greatest strength as his greatest weakness.

    "An area I think he continues to work on is that he gets so involved from an offensive standpoint, because that's where his background is, and he's so into the game from that perspective and he's a focused individual that sometimes that does interfere with the big picture and being able to be on top of all of the little things a head coach has to do," Warner said.

    "Obviously, he makes up for a lot of it because he's such a great offensive mind. He does so many great things offensively. have to think that is part of the reason he struggles, because he is so focused in on the game and what he wants to do offensively, and being involved with that side of it, that unfortunately some of those other things may suffer a little bit here and there."

    Martz objects to such opinions but did admit he underrated the importance of defensive depth, which affected the Rams' special teams. Moreover, perhaps in an attempt to lie on a grenade for Marmie, Martz took the blame for the defense's struggles (29th against the run and 17th overall in 2004), saying he did Marmie an injustice by asking him to run much of Smith's defense. Now Marmie has complete control of his charges.

    Martz, looking over his rimless glasses at potentially discarded third-down plays, offers a brief, poignant explanation for his many critics.

    "The thing is, I don't want to do anything twice," he said. "I just don't."

    He plans to keep changing. In mini-camp, he installed parts of the Colts' red-zone package. He'll soon begin crafting the game plan for the ***** the Rams' Week 1 opponent. Even now, you can see his team trying to gain separation from the Rams' division rivals.

    "We are going to dictate how this game is played," Martz said. "We're going to set the tempo.

    "Catch us if you can."
    Last edited by RamWraith; -06-30-2005 at 04:27 PM.

  2. #2
    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: Martz does things his own way--ESPN Insider

    For what I thought was a very solid article, I'm surprised there's not more discussion about it.

  3. #3
    Scidog68 Guest

    Re: Martz does things his own way--ESPN Insider

    The phrase "Smash-Mouth" football is one that I hear quite a bit, and I understand the importance of a physical approach to the game. However, I believe that history will show Mike Martz to be the architect and Father of the Cerebral Gameplan.
    Like many great people before him, his greatness does not lie in original thought, but the untried combination of previously unrelated concepts.
    Hopefully, his continued growth will only lead to greater success for the Rams.

  4. #4
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    Re: Martz does things his own way--ESPN Insider

    Man, I found this a very open interview.

    Nick, your right. Its very interesting that this is a quiet thread.

    I am going to re read it a couple of times

  5. #5
    RamTime Guest

    Re: Martz does things his own way--ESPN Insider

    "Many things make Martz an easy target. For one, his offense sits with some traditionalists the 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust generation as well as poetry does with a butcher. "

    Those traditionalists have a problem with Martz's offense because instead of 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust its 20-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust and it scares the hell out of them. If those traditionalists had any sack they would jilt the NFL's favorite mistress (west coast offense) and run a more exciting downfield passing attack like the Rams run. The traditionalists play not to lose where Martz plays to win. Since I have manners I won't say F**K the traditionalists. Which of the traditionalists will dink their way to the superbowl this year? What the NFL needs to wake up the ignorant masses and shake them out of their wuss coast coma that Doctor Dink (Bill Walsh) put them in during the 1980's is a Raiders - Rams Superbowl. Turner against Martz. Moss Against Holt. It would go along way in getting rid of the Dink dink, dink dink, dink dink, dink dink, dink dink, dink dink, dink dink, dink dink, dink dink, dink dink, dink dink, dink dink, dink dink, dink dink, dink dink, dink dink, dink dink, dink dink, dink dink, dink dink, dink dink, dink dink, dink dink, dink dink, dink dink, dink dink, dink Punt.

  6. #6
    .ramfan.'s Avatar
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    Re: Martz does things his own way--ESPN Insider

    "Catch us if you can"

    Cant wait!

    GO RAMS!!!

  7. #7
    KurtWarner2005MVP Guest

    Re: Martz does things his own way--ESPN Insider

    Martz is a genious. Thing is, geniouses are never appreciated during their time. The rest of the peons aren't able to understand the genious until it's too late.

  8. #8
    ZigZagRam's Avatar
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    Re: Martz does things his own way--ESPN Insider

    This is the year the Rams win another Super Bowl. This is the year Mike Martz silences all of the critics.

    I can't wait.

  9. #9
    KurtWarner2005MVP Guest

    Re: Martz does things his own way--ESPN Insider

    yeah, im gonna love seeing all the national know it alls try and make martz look bad after he wins his 2nd ring. you know they'll try. but they'll look stupid and will fail.

  10. #10
    maineram Guest

    Re: Martz does things his own way--ESPN Insider

    Great article - sounds like he is going to be going for the throat more then ever this year. I think it comes down to having all the right players to fully run this offense. This year it sounds like he knows he has them.

    Maineram -


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