Martz's future - and the Rams' - up in air
John Czarnecki / FOXSports.com
Posted: 12 minutes ago
There is no question that the St. Louis Rams can be a dysfunctional operation. John Shaw, the team's president, seems to prefer an organization where there is constant in-fighting and a clash of creative differences.
For example, in the final weeks of their only Super Bowl championship, then-head coach Dick Vermeil and his cronies were watching their backs. For a club on the verge of a championship, Rams Park wasn't a happy place because there wasn't enough credit to spread everywhere. Back then, offensive coordinator Mike Martz was the bright light because he discovered Kurt Warner. And too many teams wanted to hire him, enough that Shaw had to extend his contract and say he would be the next head coach if Vermeil retired.
Rams president John Shaw seems to like chaos. He's going to get some more in the wake of Mike Martz's illness. (Tom Gannam / Associated Press)
Interestingly, Vermeil did exactly that a month after the Martz deal was struck. His cronies thought he was pushed toward retirement.
The Rams have never been like the Philadelphia Eagles, where ownership, the front office and the head coach are forever on the same page. The Rams prefer intrigue, where the head coach, the very ill Martz, distrusts his general manager, Charley Armey, and believes the other executives — from Samir Suleiman to Jay Zygmunt to Shaw — are undermining his moves and decisions behind his back — or, not totally supportive, depending on your point of view.
Whether real or imagined, all of it has made Martz paranoid about his job and his future, so much so that he kept asking for a contract extension in the off-season with two years remaining on his deal. Now, his critical heart infection has put Martz's future in limbo. He's fighting for his health. He could miss a month or the rest of the regular season. He's so sick he may never coach again at this highly competitive level.
How did this happen? Well, Martz has been sick for months. And like Browns receiver Braylon Edwards, who had emergency surgery for an arm infection last weekend, it may take weeks of studying the infection cultures before isolating the exact disease. Right now, the Browns don't know if Edwards will be out weeks or months and he's only 22-years-old. Martz is 54.
Joe Vitt, a career assistant who can be a cantankerous sort, will be the head coach until Martz returns. Steve Fairchild, a junior college quarterback once coached by Martz, will monitor the offense and start calling the plays next Monday night against the unbeaten Indianapolis Colts. This combination may work, but let's not forget that Martz's creative juices kept his offensive players alive and intrigued by what he would do next. He may come across as a softie, but Martz was also tough, critical and demanding of his players.
There is no doubt that the front office has been highly critical of defensive coordinator Larry Marmie, a very good friend of the head coach. Martz would never want to fire him. Now, who knows about his future, especially if Martz isn't around to save him?
The NFL is a funny business in that coaches are blamed for the inadequacies of their players. In the salary-cap era, coaches have benefited as much from the NFL largesse as the players. But they also have been fired more frequently because it is easier than ridding your roster of under-performing talent.
We all wish Martz the best as he fights this heart infection. If he whips it, and he's cleared to coach again, we expect him on the Rams' sidelines next season. It's the right thing to do.
First month surprises: Everyone knows about the improvement of the Tampa Bay Bucs, especially when they have a healthy Cadillac Williams, but the Cleveland Browns never figured to be 2-2. If they were in the NFC North, they would be in first place with wins over Green Bay and Chicago.