By Bryan Burwell
Of the Post-Dispatch
10/03/2004

Sports Columnist Bryan Burwell

SAN FRANCISCO - So now that he has our complete and undivided attention, aren't we all dying to know exactly what Mike Martz has up his sleeve?

Now that he has thrown down the gauntlet in such a bold and defiant fashion to the entire football world, who isn't genuinely intrigued by the endless possibilities for Sunday night's game against the San Francisco *****?

"Look, you need to find another coach then. . . . Fast and furious. . . . That's the way it is. Get used to it."

Talk about your perfect, intoxicating sound bite. It was almost like our favorite white-haired football eccentric was singing some alluring siren's song when he stood before a room of reporters on Monday afternoon and pridefully defended the methods to his offensive madness. If ESPN didn't send him a thank-you note for that ratings booster, well then they should have the moment he stood there defiantly proclaiming that he had no intention of conforming to our ho-hum way of thinking.

"Look, you need to find another coach then. . . . Fast and furious. . . . That's the way it is. Get used to it."

Words to live by. Words to die for.

So now just about every pro football-loving eyeball in America - and certainly everyone in St. Louis - ought to be glued to their television sets tonight, waiting to see whether Martz truly can still win football games and influence people with his old (and formerly reliable) thrill-seeking attitude.

With one brash and beautiful (did someone say crazy?) uttering, Martz turned a mundane early-season game between his 1-2 Rams and the deficient, winless 'Niners into "must-see TV," all because he confirmed something we long ago suspected. When it comes to conjuring up offensive game plans, he really does think he's smarter than the rest of us.So now he gets to prove it.

He gets to shove it back at all of us - the critical TV talking heads, the second-guessing, know-nothing sportswriters, the shrill radio yappers, not to mention the vulgar, inebriated morons who constantly curse his every move from their cushy seats in the stands (hmmm, TV, newspaper, radio? Yikes, I'm three out of four of those!).

But how will he do it?

That, boys and girls, is the million-dollar question.

After he talked so tough with that "fast and furious" stuff, I wonder if that was all a clever ruse. Sort of like telling us, "watch the right, watch the right, watch the right," just before clobbering us with a wicked left hook.

So what's he really going to do tonight?

Is he going to zig just when we think he's going to zag?

Is he really going to do exactly what he said with his "fast and furious" proclamation? Will he really try to revive the old Greatest Show on Turf days?

It is an intriguing question, particularly when you realize that this is the first time in ages where he has all his offensive toys at his disposal. He has Marc Bulger throwing brilliantly. He has Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce catching everything. Now that Steven Jackson is comfortable with the offense, Martz shouldn't have any fear of putting his No. 1 draft pick in the same backfield with Marshall Faulk anymore.

And let's not forget one not-so-minor detail about this offense that generated 403 yards and 25 points last week: For the first time since Az Hakim left the building, Martz finally has a blazing sprinter (a healthy Kevin Curtis) as his critical third (slot) receiver.

So will he go for broke and throw the ball all over the field just because he wants to, or because he has to?

Remember now, because his defense has been playing a matador style that lets even no-names like Aaron freakin' Stecker rush for more than 100 yards on it, Martz probably thinks the only way to compensate for that is by scoring as many points as he can as quickly as he can.

So what's he going to do?

Martz has stalked the sidelines in plenty of big games before. Super Bowls, playoff games, late-season, gut-tightening thrillers. But it's no exaggeration to emphasize just how big this early October contest is, because at least on paper, the schedule really favors a quick turnaround.

With three of their next four games against decidedly inferior teams (0-3 San Francisco, 3-0 Seattle, 0-3 Tampa and 0-3 Miami) this could be the start of a winning surge.

But if they come out West and lose - particularly if they come out here and lose badly (they were blown out in their last two trips to San Francisco) - this could be the beginning of a nasty downward spiral.

So if you put all of those fascinating ingredients into the mix, it's no wonder that Martz has us all salivating about what method he will use for his football salvation. We are spellbound, Mike, and curious as can be.

We are about as anxious and edgy as Indiana Jones making a break out of the Temple of Doom. Is that an escape route ahead of us in San Francisco, or is that a big, nasty boulder about to come crashing down on our heads?