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  1. #1
    Fat Pang's Avatar
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    The Hidden Dangers of the Mainstream

    One of the things that could always be guaranteed, in as much as anything could during his tenure, was that Mike Martz would make things interesting. Whether the discussion at hand was gameday management or the outcome of another wildly experimental draft day, Mike always provided sufficient fuel for polarising argument. A comprehensive examination of all threads on this board containing the word 'Martz' would give a fairly accurate indication of how differently his legacy can be judged by those who have a mind to do so.

    Were the Rams an offensive juggernaut stamped indelibly with the mark of Martz or were they a happy coincidence that the fortunate Martz happened to be able to ride for a season or three until his poor judgement and overwhelming arrogance ruined it for all of us? I happen to have consistently argued the former but the latter is a reasonably prevalent opinion and well argued by those who feel the justice of it.

    I have a feeling that It will ever be thus and that there will never be a definitive opinion of Martz in his time at the Rams. A SuperBowl victory may well have provided the vindication that Martz supporters are looking for but this would be by no means certain. Martz was a figure of controversy even when enjoying the dominance that perennial playoff achievment brings. A Superbowl victory could still have been described by those who wished him gone as something that happened in spite of him rather than because of him.

    It was a time of extremes. Gaudy statistics, outlandish play design, rosters full of flair and talent, disgruntled offensive tackles, draft day gambles, draft day disasters, and front office tensions can all be remembered as part of his unique approach to the game. As long as you're winning then people are inclined to let some, if not all, of these things ride for a while. When you start to lose what were previously eccentricities become fatal character flaws. 'Mad Mike' changes from being a term of affection into a dangerous characature.

    By stark contrast, Scott Linehan has largely trodden a path well worn by those in his profession. Given his offensive background, he had been descibed as Martz 'Lite' largely on the back of his time in Minnesota but he was without some of those aberrant tics that Martz was prone to. He has been responsible, compliant, dutiful safe and responsible in public whilst steering his team to a par total of 8-8 last season. There were little in the way of alarming game-day gaffes, public faux-pas, trademark brilliance or wacky wizardry in his management of our Rams.

    They performed largely as they were expected to do, they could maybe have been a game better or a game worse but 8-8 was where most of us thought they should be and that's exactly where they were come the season end. He didn't give rise to the same level of divergent opinion as his predecessor and it could be argued that this was exactly what the team needed after the distractions of the Martz years. He could be described as a 'safe pair of hands'.

    Thing is however that I believe that this is as much a curse for Linehan as it is a boon. What Martz engendered was a debate that, consumed with his personality, occasionally clouded the stark facts of his record as a coach. Linehan by contrast hasn't bedecked himself with the same personality distractions and so will be judged entirely on his record and his record alone.

    Some argue that this is exactly as it should be, I by contrast, have always felt that its too dynamic a game and situation to be judged as quantitatively as this. Football is far more than X's and O's and won/loss records and part of a coaches job is to go deeper than the statistics and measurables to find how to make a collection of indiviudals achieve collectively. To judge purely on record is a little simplistic for me and it discounts much that isn't immediately quantifiable.

    Due to the absence of a catalogue of personality quirks however there is little else to judge Linehan by. The mainstream in which he operates in contrast to his predecessor isn't as 'safe' as it might be for an incumbent coach. Eccentricity can provide a distraction in testing times, Linehan won't provide that and so will be vulnerable to charges laid simplistically by way of his record.

    What makes this ever more likely is that those who berated Martz for his performance over the last two years of his tenure did so largely on the dubious basis that we had a roster stocked with talent. On the basis that we have had two solid drafts since then, then the logic would be that this would be the year when a return to the playoffs is mandatory. I have detected mutterings in this vein already and we haven't even got past our first minicamp yet.

    Personally I like what I saw last year and am encouraged by what I've seen so far this year. My expectations however, looking at our schedule and our roster at this point are 9-7, maybe a game either way. If we fall short of this then I'll be happy if I can see some qualitative improvement and I'll expect to see the franchise give him a third year in the knowledge that it takes at least this for a coach to wholly put his mark on a club.

    Linehan swims in the mainstream but he might find that there are those who hunt in those waters on the basis that it's the 'safest' place to be.


  2. #2
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    Re: The Hidden Dangers of the Mainstream

    Beautiful, ramtastically beautiful! Written w/Martzinian poignancy. Classy. Thanks FP! :r


    ...There will never be a definitive opinion of Martz in his time at the Rams. A SuperBowl victory may well have provided the vindication that Martz supporters are looking for but this would be by no means certain. Martz was a figure of controversy even when enjoying the dominance that perennial playoff achievment brings. A Superbowl victory could still have been described by those who wished him gone as something that happened in spite of him rather than because of him. -- FPang

    I supported the Master of Madness since 1999, even when I was upset with some of his subsequent mistakes (I sometimes regret my own madness and mistakes just the same). And yet I welcomed and support Coach Linehan too. Looking good...

    Thanks for your top notch article, FP. A fine observation of the MM era placed in contrast to the Linehan leadership of today.

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    laram0's Avatar
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    Re: The Hidden Dangers of the Mainstream

    First of all welcome back FP.

    Great article, I am a Linehan supporter and I am in favor of the direction he has our team headed. Mike Martz, as much as liked the guy, I will admit he had me pulling my hair out at times.

  4. #4
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    Re: The Hidden Dangers of the Mainstream

    Thanks for the good read, Fat Pang.
    I for one am not a Martz hater, but I definitely prefer the more balanced style of football that Scott brings. When we were under Martz, I always felt we that we were viewed more like the NFL's version of the "Harlem Globe trotters" than an actual football team. With Scott at the helm, it slowly feels like other teams and critic's are slowly starting to regain respect for us. I do disagree with you on one thing tho. In the end, the Rams and Linehan and Co. will be judged by how many Win's we have and the legacy they leave on the Field. All the rest of the talk is just a time killer until the next game begins.

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    Re: The Hidden Dangers of the Mainstream

    So what are the hidden dangers of the mainstream?...Mediocrity? low risk, low reward results? boredom for the press and the fans?
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

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    Re: The Hidden Dangers of the Mainstream

    Very possibly all of the above. I think that I tried to point out that Martz often rode out criticism by nature of his offensive reputation and memories of the greatest show. Combined with a mercurial personality, this meant that he was afforded a fascination that drew attention away from his record.

    Opinions such as this were the most prevalent:

    "Martz is a genius alright but if he could only sort out the D we'd be back to the show"

    Linehan is a different beast and as we saw last season with the S.L.O.P campaign there were criticisms levelled at him that were born wholly of our mid-season struggles and slide in record. There was scant credit given to being a team subject to much re-building, overhaul in coaching staff, and a resurgence in the fortunes of our division rivals.

    "Linehan is wasting all the talent this team has. 5-8? what a joke!"

    I think that when we look at coaches and their records we should look at the context that underpins their performances. Belichick was a 'failure' at Cleveland but now Cleveland have a coach who owes his position to Belichick's success at New England. So context is important when judging whether a coach is a success or a failure. Linehan, because he's so much more understated than Martz, is more likely to be subject to bald criticism of him based purely on his record which fails to take into account the context within which he is operating.

    Martz was often judged against a background of undoubted offensive talent.

    Therein lies the danger for Linehan and I guess that time will tell.

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    Re: The Hidden Dangers of the Mainstream

    I was a member of S.L.O.P and I had some real issues with Linehan's play calling. We lost several games that could have been won with the right person calling the shots. I have been much happier with Linehan since he stepped away from play calling during the game.

    Martz was entertaining, I do miss his antics.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  8. #8
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    Re: The Hidden Dangers of the Mainstream

    Nice read, thanks
    RnD

    GO RAMS!!

  9. #9
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    Re: The Hidden Dangers of the Mainstream

    I don't know if the Rams are any better under Linehan, but my mental health is certainly improving. Gone are those outlandish challenges that Mike Martz drove me up the wall with. That in itself is worth about 5 years at the end of my life. Thank goodness he's gone.

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    Re: The Hidden Dangers of the Mainstream

    I am so happy that your mental health is improving Fortune. That is good news indeed.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

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    Re: The Hidden Dangers of the Mainstream

    Thanks for your concern Utterblitz.

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    Re: The Hidden Dangers of the Mainstream

    Good read as always FP. Nice to see you posting again.
    BRUUUUUUUUCE


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    Re: The Hidden Dangers of the Mainstream

    Nice trophy!

    As for posting, I have you, GC, Alpha, Realram, Coy, mike and Bruce=GOAT to thank for that................

    Thanks again for the support gentlemen.

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    Re: The Hidden Dangers of the Mainstream

    I think it was a well-written piece, and for the sake of keeping the peace it was probably good to be a little soft on the main issues here, and not really tell the full story yet.
    I think the time will come when it's been long enough that we can look back and say that Martz's record was far, far, far too successful for there to be so many people ripping the guy, that it's inexplicable and wrong for so many Rams fans to have the level of outright hate the guy built up. Yes, he went against the "way it would seem to the average fan things ought to be done," but again the record spoke for itself. Those who raised cain about his challenges were to be asked "how many NFL wins do YOU have a head coach" but that never happened, the naysayers got louder and louder and weren't challenged enough, and eventually the press jumped on board in ways that were inappropriate and ugly but which played right into the hands of a large segment of fans. I'd come into the whole sordid affair with a pretty high personal regard for Rams management, and came away thinking they left a whole lot to be desired. They should have very early in the whole thing come out strongly supportive of the coach, backed him when people who don't know .0002 percent as much about pro football were bashing the daylights out of him on the radio for unpopular decisions about timeouts and challenges, decisions quickly forgotten when successful and saved away in a gunny sack, all of which would be used to beat him up, when unsuccessful. The team won more games over the period than all but a handful of coaches in the first few years of their career in league history. When fans read about the way fans turned on him, they'll think the teams when 3-13 or something.
    I continue to think that in addition to a depressing lack of support from the front office (probably because of personal disagreements about which we'll probably never know the full story) the main reasons behind some fans' vicious hatred of Martz revolve around two things...one, the benching of Kurt Warner and disagreements with him and his family, and two, the Super Bowl loss to New England. And I think the further from both we get, the more time will show Martz was right in both cases.
    On the Warner issue, emotions ran extremely high. Here was a very popular player who won everyone's heart with his back-story while bringing the Rams our first championship since 1951 being tossed aside for Marc Bulger, of whom most of us had barely heard. That one's easy to get fired up about at the time, but I think the lack of success Kurt's had (which is really too bad, I'll continue to root for him and hope he makes a comeback somewhere down the line, as long as he's not beating the Rams in the process) and Bulger's developing into one of the better QBs in the league backs that one up pretty well. But even those who supported the move, or at least saw it was working out, weren't going to ease up on Martz.
    The Super Bowl was an immense disappointment to us all. I think we foolishly assumed we'd win the thing big...we were still "The Greatest Show" and nobody realized at all how great that Pats team would prove to be. We didn't know Tom Brady was the Tom Brady we now know. Who'd have guessed Belichek would be viewed as the best coach in the league in a few years? I think most of us assumed we'd beat the Pats by 14 or 17 points. Instead, a heart-breaking last second defeat. And when a game you expect to win easily is lost, someone's gotta be blamed, usually the coach. There was a ton of criticism after the game about playcalling and the "mix," people saying we should have run more and passed less, looking for more "balance." Consider for a second the old adage about "dance with the one who brung you." We had the greatest pass offense in league history quite possibly, AND we were pretty far behind much of the second half. In addition, during times in the game when we DID try to establish the run, it failed miserably. Martz was right to continue trying to throw the ball in the 2nd half, and it very nearly led to a come-from-behind win. Had we done so, or had the Pats kicker shanked that FG, Martz would still be at Earth City, I'd wager.
    One also has to do something I almost NEVER do in times like this, which drives me crazy when others do it to much, but it just has to be at least mentioned in regards to the Super Bowl loss...point fingers at officials.
    A big part of the passing game for the Rams was Marshall Faulk. He was being held on every pass play and it almost never got called. My opinion? Sour grapes? Nope...the words of the Pats defenders themselves! One play on which it WAS called, the NE Interception return for TD which was called back, led a Pats defender in the locker room after the game to utter "we did that on every play!"
    And if you watch the tape, yep, they sure did. The only problem was it was against the rules. The league's reaction was a LOT of help, pretending to change the rule in the offseason when in fact all they did was remind officials that this was illegal and tell them to stop ignoring it.
    There's been a lot of discussion about this one, but very little about a call I think was just as vital on the key play of the game, ANOTHER interception, this one also a New England TD only this one not called back. It wasn't a good throw and was a good defensive play, but after the throw Warner got clobbered with a helmet-to-helmet hit. These were supposedly cut down during the season, with fines and even suspensions for violators. During the regular season, this would have been called back, a 15 yard penalty called, and the Rams given first and ten. No flag came out, and what's amazing to me is that there was so little discussion about this one, even though THAT is the picture that made the cover of Sports Illustrated the next week. That one just blows my mind.
    One word was an overwhelming part of the discussion in the final months of this sad affair..."arrogance." Yes, Mike Martz was so arrogant about his abilities being greater than the drunken guy in row 47 who played 2 years of high school football 25 years ago yelling "Go for it!!" while Martz punts, or vice-versa. Yeah, he came across as arrogant in the media, too. Maybe he was.

    Name me an NFL head coach who is humble in insecure. Arrogance is pretty much a requirement for an NFL head coach, for anyone who is at that level of any professional sport, you HAVE to assume you know very well what you're doing, and it's not up for a vote of the fans. That's true for coaches who don't have Martz's gaudy record and a couple of Super Bowl appearances.

    By the time he finally was fired I was just so disgusted with the whole thing I was almost glad it was over. It became obvious he had no hope of making it when they didn't even let him call his coaches during a game, and that this perversely strange incident was made public knowledge. There were people at Earth City trying to make MM look bad. The team had a poor season, no surprise given the uproar around them and lack of reliable coaching and distractions to burn, and I was so sick of the attitude of so many of the fans that it was almost a relief, thank God at least it's done.
    Only it wasn't. Not content to have run a winning coach out of town because they disliked him, they continued and continue to attack him, his decisions, his character, his honesty, his clothes and hair. A record shows the Martz time as one of the most successful eras in the last couple of decades for any NFL team, yet to hear most fans discuss him you'd have thought we were talking about Rich Brooks.
    He'll not be brought back, of course. Nothing's going to change, so maybe there's no point in even bringing it up, one should just let the people who hate him so hate him and just ignore them. But if we're going to take a dispassionate look at the whole incident, the role of the fan and the very solid proof that in fact they were wrong and Martz was a very good coach has to be part of the debate.
    But don't worry, I've no intention of wasting much time in said debate. Letting these guys get my goat was a big mistake, and it's robbed me of much of my enjoyment of the Rams and football the last couple of years. When we turned things around and first made the playoffs in '99, a local TV station branded me the biggest Rams fan in my part of the state, a pretty significant honor of which I'm really proud. If you'd have told me at that point that I'd have watched and talked about as LITTLE pro football as I have the last 18 months, I'd have assumed it meant I had my head chopped off or something. But it's not. I just love football so much and to see it messed up as badly as it was in my eyes made it downright painful to watch. I was disgusted with a whole lot of my fellow fans, people who claim to love the Rams yet boo their own players, an inexcusable act, or sit on their hands silently or leave early or not show up at all because of a few losses in a playoff season in which the old Rams fans would have seen them through to the Super Bowl one or two more times...I just couldn't stand it. I couldn't stand to immerse myself in Rams information 24/7 when even Bernie was taking cheap shots in print at Martz. I know the guy has papers to sell, but I really expected more. Groups so devoted to the Rams through thick and thin that people made constant jokes about us were overrun with "Man, these guys stink!" types. It just stopped being fun.
    Meanwhile, the league continues it's ridiculous moves toward so much "parity" that there's no excellence left in the league. Good players are moved out or cut or traded because of the phony-baloney "salary cap," rewarding mismanagement and incompetence and punishing success and excellence. The league's ultimate goal appears to be 32 8-8 teams, and one year they'll succeed. The last couple of Super Bowl winners have been good, but not great teams. That Patriots team that put a nice little run together was the only thing even close to the great teams of the past, the old Packers or Steelers or Cowboys or whiners would have destroyed the most recent Steelers team which won it all or last year's...uh, who was it? Oh, yeah, those Colts. Decent enough story, pretty good offense, Manning...and a mediocre defense. Think THAT'S greatness?
    Is there ANY greatness left in the league, aside from individual greatness in guys like Little and Holt? It's got me watching more college ball, where we can still see real greatness and excellence. Yes, it WILL mean some teams have no chance of winning. As it should be. Some teams aren't as good if some teams are great. It means that occassionally we'll see a 63-7 game, but that's what SHOULD happen when a Nebraska or Oklahoma or Florida plays Duke or Rice or (God bless the poor guys) Minnesota. I followed an Oklahoma State team as a kid that once or twice a year could be counted upon to lose by 40 or 50 to the Sooners or Huskers or Buffalos. Some teams are great, we weren't. The answer to that was for Oklahoma State to keep working and getting better, not to throw chocks under the wheels of greatness so everyone else had a chance.
    We should do the same in the NFL. Instead of rejoicing because 85% of the league is still eligible for post-season play in week 15, they should realize that a team which is 7-8 doesn't DESERVE to be in the playoffs. We need to go back to loving the NFL because of the greatness of the teams of lore, Lombardi's Packers and Landry's Cowboys and even perhaps Vermeil/Martz's Rams, at least for a year or two, instead of tearing them apart so that Cardinals and Bengals fans have a "reason" to buy tickets in December.

    So between the league's screwy rules and fans who lack the decency and dignity to support thier team on good days and bad, and fans and press running off a coach with a great, great record of success because of one loss and moves that TV bigmouth commentators don't "get" I let myself get dragged down. I let watching football become a chore, something that I did because it's what I did, not because it's what I wanted. And last season I even missed a couple. I work at the church and instead of running out like the devil was chasing me on NFL Sundays, I stayed behind a little longer and got updates on my cell phone. I stopped sending away for tapes of any games I may have missed recording, and stopped spending the rest of a week watching last Sundays game for tendencies and to see magic I may have missed. I had so much anger and sadness about the last few years, the attitude that permiated the Dome, that it just became something different. Things changed.
    Now, I look at things a little differently. I was never a player...I was a scrawny little thing in high school, I've caught up and then some sense but when I was a kid I'd have been killed trying to play football. But I spent more time around the game than a lot of players, as a trainer and coach. And I remembered that the players and people closest to the game always knew that even when they heard the knuckleheads in the stands, they didn't make decisions, they didn't have to face the music if mistakes were made, they didn't have to run gassers till they puked or risk losing a scholorship or a career. If it means getting more into my own relationship (imagined, or course...but we're ALL fans and ALL have some imagination in the Rams being "us," in "our" game this weekend, in how "we" are 8-4 going into the bye week, in how "we" will do against San Fran) with the team, how I react to players and coaches and plays and wins and losses. I still want to visit with my friends online, this can still be awfully fun. But I'm going to do it a lot less, and argue a lot less when someone's saying something so foul and wrong that I know what I ought go do. I'm going to go back and find where the joy was in the game, where it was that I made myself into the biggest Rams fan in Central MO, to the point of following the team in LA when surrounded by Chiefs fans, so overjoyed as to be almost in tears when it was announced that they were moving down the road, the magic moment of my first trip to the new dome to see my Rams in person for the first time (playing road kill for the Saints) and then the exctasy of every minute of the 99 season, from the final gun of the final game of '98, defending Tony Banks and promising "Next year, we'll be so much better you won't believe it." Predicting a successful season (and missing it by one game, you can look it up, I said 14-2, and if Vermeil had really tried in Philly or Wilkins makes lousy kick in Nashville I'd have nailed it) and all the comments and congratulations from friends who realized how this guy who'd been loyal to the worst team in the league, whether they were on the other side of the world or right down the street, and how WE deserved this championship and the joy that went with that last Mike Jones tackle.
    We gotta get THAT feeling back. If I find others with it, I'll enjoy their company on Sundays. If I don't, I'll find it within myself. If I have to turn off the sound on the TV to drown out dopey announcers and rotten "fans" booing our own boys, I'll do it. It's time to get back where I belong, with the Rams 100% win lose or draw. I got disgusted with the league, with a lot of fans, maybe even with myself. But the boys never let me down, and that's where I'm staying, no matter who the front office puts out to coach, the Rams are my team and I'm with them for keeps, every day and every season. Running off Martz was foul and stupid, but it's also over. Like every other mistake, it's been survived, and now we can move forward into a new season, one with all the promise and all the potential you'll allow yourself to see. I'm going to find plenty. Will you join me?

    Go Rams!
    Daddo's the oldest of the old farts at myspace!http://www.myspace.com/darrenhellwege

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  15. #15
    ramsanddodgers's Avatar
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    Re: The Hidden Dangers of the Mainstream

    Amen, Hallelujah, and pass the Kool-Aid!
    RnD

    GO RAMS!!

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