Martz points to new horizons
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
In terms of the 2006 season, it's head coach or bust for Mike Martz.
"Either that, or I'm going to sit out," Martz says. "Either that, or I'll just take the year off. That's what I'm going to do. I'm not interested in anything else, really."
Not even being an offensive coordinator somewhere in the National Football League?
"No," Martz said.
It's hard to imagine the work-aholic Martz sitting out a year. But on the phone from San Diego on Friday afternoon, Martz presented a convincing case.
"Where I'm standing right now, I'm on my front porch overlooking all of Mission Bay," Martz said. "There's an aircraft carrier moving along the horizon. It's 82 degrees. I could probably do it."
But he may not have to. The New Orleans Saints, looking for a replacement for fired head coach Jim Haslett, called Thursday.
"Mickey Loomis called me," Martz said, referring to the Saints' executive vice president-general manager. "I returned the call. He expressed some interest, and wanted to know if I had interest. I said, 'Absolutely.'"
Martz then put Loomis in touch with Martz's agent, Bob LaMonte, to set up an interview, possibly at the end of this week. Martz didn't want to discuss the particulars of the Saints' job other than to say, "I'm very positive about it."
At face value, the Saints job doesn't appear to be very attractive. Following the damage to the Louisiana Superdome by Hurricane Katrina, there's no guarantee the team will play all of its games there in 2006. There's the possibility the franchise could end up moving. And, oh by the way, the team is coming off a 3-13 finish.
But the talent base is good at wide receiver with Joe Horn and Donte' Stallworth. Although he's coming off a knee injury, Deuce McAllister has been an elite running back in the past. With the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, the Saints - at worst - will get either Matt Leinart of Southern Cal or Vince Young of Texas to solve their quarterback problem, assuming Young turns pro.
At the moment, it's difficult to gauge whether Martz is a leading candidate - or even a serious candidate - in New Orleans. There appear to be few other options on the horizon. Two of the nine NFL head-coaching vacancies already have been filled, and coordinators are gobbling up almost all of the head-coaching interviews.
So far, Martz (from New Orleans), and Haslett (from Detroit) are the only fired coaches known to be drawing any interest from around the league.
"I think new owners might have a tendency to want coordinators, and kind of grow together, so to speak, with them," Martz said. "This is just my speculation. I really don't know. Obviously, there's a place for you somewhere. And you'll find your match eventually. If not this year, next year. I'm fine with that."
After firing Norv Turner, Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis expressed some interest in Martz when quizzed by Bay Area reporters.
"Mike has always been of interest because he is dynamic," Davis said. "He is not afraid. But there is a fear right there (with Martz) of the physical. I don't know if we are ready to accept that."
In other words, Davis has some concerns about Martz's health, following a season in which Martz missed the last 11 games because of a bacterial infection of the heart valve.
"I'm completely healthy," Martz said. "Absolutely. There are no issues with my heart. The cardiologist gave me a clean bill here about six weeks ago. . . . I'm healthy and ready to go and rested."
But back to Davis and the Raiders. When asked follow-up questions about Martz, Davis thought he was being asked about Martz as a potential offensive coordinator - not as a potential head coach.
"You were talking about as head coach?" Davis asked reporters. "I see. OK, I would have to really think about it. I thought you were talking about working for us in a particular vein as an offensive coordinator."
With that in mind, some of the questions Martz will be asked are obvious if he interviews in New Orleans, or elsewhere:
-- Why did the Rams' struggle so much on defense the past two seasons, and what are Martz's thoughts on a potential defensive coordinator since Larry Marmie has been such a disaster in St. Louis?
-- Why have the Rams struggled on special teams? And how can Martz correct that?
-- What about the front-office discord in St. Louis? Can Martz get along with his co-workers, particularly in the area of player personnel?
On Friday, Martz had a ready response for the front-office issue.
"I was with the organization for 12 years, and 5 1/3 years as a head coach, with basically the same people within the organization," Martz said. "I mean, that doesn't happen if you don't get along with people. If I didn't get along with people, I would have never gotten my contract extended (in 2002)."
In addition, Martz has been dropping strong hints lately that he's not hung up on having final say in personnel. But he wants enough input to avoid getting someone forced on him.
Obviously, Martz brings strong pluses to the table as well. In a league where it's hard to win big without good quarterback play, Martz has demonstrated a unique ability to run offenses and develop quarterbacks.
"He can create what no one else can create," LaMonte said. "He's the only guy beyond (Jon) Gruden who can take road-kill QBs and make them MVPs. Not just Pro Bowlers, but MVPs."
At the end of the day, it's hard to overlook Martz's won- loss record. Although officially, he inherits Joe Vitt's 4-7 record as interim head coach, Martz was 56-36 before taking a leave of absence because of his illness in October.
"I know this," Dick Vermeil said. "I've been here in Kansas City five years, and there's (only) eight teams that have won more games than we have in those five years. And St. Louis was one of them. So they must have been doing something right.
"I know what Mike Martz can do when he puts his mind to it. There isn't anybody that can do it any better. I will always be in debt for the job he did for us in '99. When you take another team back to the Super Bowl, like he did in 2001, you've done a great job.
"But sometimes relationships disintegrate, and things don't go well. Just like they do in marriages after 20 years sometimes, and it's time to move on. Hopefully, once he gets his mind right and wants to do it again, someone will give him the opportunity. He has proved he can do it."
Re: Martz points to new horizons
"Martz did an unbelievable job of helping me become a head coach. I'm doing the same thing. I want to do it for Ron [Rivera] and Ron Turner. I want to see our position coaches move up to coordinator positions. That is the normal progression you make, and I will do all I possibly can to make that happen.''
-- Lovie Smith, Dec. 30, 2005
Re: Martz points to new horizons
mike, take a year off and rest some more,then come back stronger than ever,no need to jump right back into it.