Martz's best call: Stepping aside to focus on getting well
BY JEFF GORDON
STLtoday.com Sports Columnist
Rams coach Mike Martz looked just awful Sunday afternoon at the Edward Jones Dome.
The 37-31 loss to the Seahawks was tough enough to take. Martz always shoulders the responsibility for such disasters. He feels every media salvo fired his way. Criticism wounds him personally.
NFL coaches are under extraordinary pressure to win -Ė given the general league-wide parity in talent -Ė and Martz internalizes that pressure. Sundayís defeat was devastating, particularly with a daunting trip to Indianapolis on the horizon.
Such a mistake-filled loss on the home field would lay Martz low in the best of circumstances. But with his ongoing illness, this infection of his heart valve tissue, the personal toll is magnified.
Martz talked Sunday about regaining his health for the sake of his team, but his face and his body language told a different story. He looked physically and emotional beaten.
It was time to stop the fight. Martz will step aside for up to six weeks on a medical leave of absence. Assistant head coach Joe Vitt will take over, as he did for part of the previous work week when Martz was shelved by the illness.
Rams president John Shaw explained the decision Monday afternoon at Rams Park. (By the way, it was great to see John actually on the scene, actually running the franchise. The whole absentee management thing wasnít working this year.)
ďMartz advised us today that after he met with his consulting physician, his physical condition had worsened and he will be readmitted to the hospital later this afternoon,Ē Shaw said in a statement released in advance of his 5 p.m. news conference. ďAs a result of the condition, he will be unable to perform his head coaching duties for an indefinite period of time.Ē
Whoever really made the big call Monday -Ė team doctors, Shaw, Martz himself, Mikeís wife Julie -Ė did the right thing.
It was foolhardy for Martz to coach in his condition. I certainly admire his determination, but common sense dictated that he take a break and focus all of his energy on getting well.
Martz has had an excellent coaching career. He has plenty more coaching left in him. There was no point to risking long-term health problems (or worse) by pushing on while ill. Remember, this particular illness can be deadly.
The team could also benefit from this change. Itís time for these assistant coaches and these players to take responsibility for their mediocrity.
Martz stood in there valiantly Sunday afternoon and tried to take the blame for most of what went wrong.
Miserable pass coverage in the secondary? That was his fault.
The offensive mishaps in the third quarter? That was his fault, too.
The teamís overall struggle in the Seahawks in such a large game? Martz apologized for allowing his own illness to affect the team.
But now he is out of the equation, at least for the time being.
Now itís time for the players to play, the leaders to lead and the coaches to coach.
Vitt is the head guy now. Our advice to him: Hit the restart button. Change things up. Kick some backside. Appeal to the pride of the key players and get rid of those who are clearly hopeless.
Thereís got to be some punters out there who can punt, right? And punt returners who actually want to return punts? And safeties who donít present so much danger?
Steve Fairchild has the title of offensive coordinator. Now itís time to coordinate the offense. Itís up to him to prepare the game plan and call the plays.
Larry Marmie is the defensive coordinator. His unit got strafed the last two weeks, so now itís up to him to find the solutions. His buddy Mike isnít there to take his heat for him.
This is Marmieís time to make a stand. Weíll find out during the next 11 games whether he is really up to this challenge.
As for Mad Mike, itís time to get well. Stay away from Rams Park, quit working 24/7, stop taking the fall for those who are failing you.
Get stronger. Use your down time to reflect and refocus. Rather than doodle new plays on napkins, ponder the larger issues of team and game management.
Come back refreshed, energized, a new coach. But most of all, come back well.
Re: Martz's best call: Stepping aside to focus on getting well
Why should he come back? The vocal minority will villify him for something.
If I was Martz, I would just tell the St. Louis fans you got your wish, I officially step down.