Dissension in Ranks
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
By Ray Ratto
Special to ESPN.com
Mike Martz has always been accused of having one of those faces that rubs folks the wrong way. It looks a little too smug, or it looks a little too bemused at the wrong time, or it just looks a little too, well, square.
Call it the Rick Adelman Syndrome. He's gotten the same critique for years despite a series of successful non-championship teams in Portland and Sacramento.
Anyway, back to Martz. And not really about his face, either. It's more about his coaching, or his manner, or the fact that the St. Louis Rams have almost always been accused of underachievement during his watch. He just isn't one of those popular coaches who gets the benefit of the doubt, and those who don't seize on his body of work seize on his manner.
But this Kyle Turley thing ... well, this is just plain strange.
It seems that Martz told a reporter that his talented but volatile guard wasn't fully devoted to rehabbing his surgically repaired back. It further seems that Turley reportedly threatened to, well, kill Martz. And it further seems that Martz reportedly called NFL Security to report the threat.
We use "seems" and "reportedly" here because Martz and Turley both deny the story. All we know is there is a report that something seems to have happened.
And what this tells us is this:
Someone really wants Mike Martz' hinder on a plaque.
Let's take the best-case-scenario first. If the death threat part of the story isn't true, then the person (or people) who told the story to the St. Louis Post Dispatch have a reason for telling it, and that is not helpful to Martz on any level, even though his owner and club president have both said he will not be fired. It brings his relationship with his players into question, and turns the internal politics of the St. Louis locker room into a CourtTV-sized suspicion-fest.
But if it is ... well, someone really wants Mike Martz' hinder on a plaque.
The blow-up between the two happened more than two weeks ago, on Dec. 13, and remained between the two until Tuesday night when Martz felt compelled to tell his side of the story, denial included.
In other words, this baby's been festering awhile, and someone felt compelled to air it out a few days before the Rams' biggest game of another disappointing year.
The timing is what gets you, you see. This came a few days after Martz was greenlighted for another year by both John Shaw and his imperial superior, Georgia Frontiere. And because Martz is such a hot button topic both in Archtown and across the league, only a fool wouldn't suspect something else is up here.
Yes, Martz has had what by any analysis can be considered an odd career as head coach, all the way up to that laughing fit he had at the end of the first half Monday night. He does stuff that goes against the grain, says things that brush up against the code, and in a hundred little ways make folks go, "Huh?"
And through all of it, he knows that Shaw and more importantly Frontiere have his back. They took it up again just the other day, and that was before the Rams beat Eagles Lite.
So how does this story break right after that? There is the possibility that someone decided to tattle on Turley in hopes of getting the Rams out from beneath his contract, or at least his presence, although as we saw it took nearly a year for the Golden State Warriors to be shed of Latrell Sprewell after he gave P.J. Carlesimo the five-fingered turtleneck.
That seems far less likely, though, than the alternative, in which a disgruntled person either inside the organ-eye-zation or close to Turley clearly dropped a dime, and the only conceivable reason is to put Martz into yet another shirt too tight for his neck.
It may not work, if Shaw and Frontiere are as good as their reported word. Like it or not, Martz may be the gift that keeps on giving.
But say this: The next "weirdest story ever" about Mike Martz is going to be downright bizarre, because this one beats all the others that preceded it -- whether or not it happened at all.
Lately it seems that this organization has gone from the circus atmosphere of the GSOT days to just a plain old circus.