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Of architects, sculptors and Martz

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  • Of architects, sculptors and Martz

    On a plane ride back from vacation yesterday, a guy sitting next to me noticed I was reading a football magazine, and we started talking about the NFL. He was of the opinion that coaching is extremely important to a team's success and (not surprisingly, as this leg of the flight originated in Dallas), mentioned Bill Parcells as an example.

    This got me thinking about the question of what makes a great coach.

    Here's what I concluded... there are two types of coaches. There are architects and there are sculptors.

    Architects start with a detailed plan and then try to built a team that fits that plan. It could be a "pound-it-out" ground game plan, a West Coast offense, a "run and shoot" or any other type of plan for success. The positive side of a good "architect," is that when they get the right players in place, a good plan can be hard to beat. The downside is that it is often hard to get (and to keep healthy) the right type of players, and when players that fit the plan are absent, the architect coach can have trouble adjusting and may stubbornly try to keep with the plan despite the missing pieces.

    Sculptors start with the building blocks of a team (the "clay," if you will), and then mold it into a finished product. The result is often dictacted, not by a plan, but rather by the nature of the materials. This is the type of coach that is often described as "getting the most of his players," and having a team of "overachievers." The truth is, its not a matter of overachieving, its playing to the strengths of individuals. The positive side of the sculptor is his flexibility and ability to turn a team around quickly. The downside is that there are true few sculptors and too many coaches who think they are, but are not.

    There have been successful architects. Bill Walsh may be the best example, as he built a team with the West Coast offense blueprint to perfection. Another was Jimmy Johnson, who built a team in Dallas with his blueprint and then failed to do the same in Miami because he lacked the right players (mainly the lack of a Emmitt Smith type back).

    There have also been great sculptors. Don Shula comes to mind, as he used the ground game in the 70s when he had Czonka, Kiick and Morris, then became a "passing coach" when he had Dan Marino. Parcells may be the consummate sculptor given his success with several teams (though some might argue he is really an architect with a one word blueprint: toughness).

    So where does Mike Martz fit in here?

    Clearly, he is an architect. He can sit in an office and devise an offense that, when properly staffed, can be nearly unstoppable. But his flexibility and ability to adjust when he has to deviate from the blueprint is questionable.

    Being the eternal optimist that I am, I hope he will improve in this capacity.

    I hope he will see the merit of using a grind-it-out offense at times now that he has a big bruising back in Steven Jackson. I hope he will allow the defensive coaches to deviate from the Cover 2 when necessary. I hope he will learn that the answer to an ineffective passing game on a given Sunday is not always "pass more."

    If Martz the architect can become a bit more of a sculptor, he could be a great coach.

  • #2
    Re: Of architects, sculptors and Martz

    As far as analogies go, I think it is a pretty fair perspective. And given your admission that you are the "eternal optimist" there is nothing to quarrel with here.

    He has had 4 years to make those sculpting changes that would instill confidence that he can improvise on the fly ... one whose vision can be re-shaped to make amends for squeezing too much clay in the "wrong place at the wrong time."

    sMartz will make an adjustment here and there but I am afraid it will only be enough to squelch some of his more vocal critics once in a while and convince others that an extension is in order. It will not be enough to restore the glory that should have been less fleeting and more lasting ... I admit ... I'm the cynic ...


    Related Topics


    • Guest's Avatar
      The Fire Within
      by Guest

      Congruence: The relationship between your words and your actions.
      Walk your talk.

      Talent is necessary however motivation is the fire that begins from a smoldering ember. Without fanning the ember into a flame, that ember will continue to smolder. The Rams have shown a smoldering ember that is capable of roaring into a bonfire. This was apparent in the final minutes of the Seattle game, in San Diego two years ago and against San Francisco in the final Monday Night football game of that same season.

      So what fanned those flames into bonfires within each of the players on those days? My guess is embarrassment. Embarrassed due to being apart of a grossly underachieving team.

      What fanned the flames of the New England Patriots when they upset the heavily favored Rams in the Superbowl? My guess is urgency.

      I also theorize that someone on that team (Probably Belichick) saw the urgency and implored that urgency throughout the entire squad.

      It seems that Mike Martz has recently discovered that talent alone is not enough. It took the Rams to drop to the parity level as far as talent before he emphasized the importance of getting his team up for games.

      Only after the loss in Miami did he come out and talk about intensity with intensity. I don’t know if anyone else has realized this but the recent articles from the Post Dispatch along with “Martz on the Mike“have shown a noticeable escalation in Martz talking about being up and ready for games.

      It looks as if he has discovered a new tool in coaching and is now going through the adolescent stages of applying it.

      What I am refering to when I say "adolescent stages" is hitting on Wednesday before the Seahawk game which to Mike Martz is what fanned the ember into a flame.

      I think Martz believed that it was the hitting that motivated the team. I believe it was more then that. I think the team was responding to Martz’s intensity more then the hitting itself and that intensity is what carried over into the game against Seattle.

      My feeling is that Martz may have put to much emphasis on the hitting and never realized that it was his own intensity and urgency that fanned the ember into a roaring fire.

      In sum Mike Martz may have had the illusion that all he had to do to get his team up was hit on Wednesday; not realizing the intensity he himself brought on the prior Week.

      I know there are a lot of fans here on the board that measure everything by wins and losses. This was oh so very apparent during the Warner Bulger debates. At that time, I was not compelled to look at the W/L column to base my feelings on. I saw a very good QB that looked to be getting a bum rap and I saw another QB that had great potential who probably felt as bad for Warner as anyone did.

      -11-23-2004, 06:24 AM
    • RamWraith
      Martz deserves his due for years of Rams success
      by RamWraith
      By Bryan Burwell

      I wonder what Mike Martz must be thinking right now as he sits out there on the West Coast quietly observing from a distance the long-overdue power shift unfolding at Rams Park.

      Is he smiling or cursing?

      Is he feeling some measure of vindication, or does it hurt too much to feel any satisfaction from a justifiable "I told you so"?

      I bring this up now because I remember an enlightening conversation we had more than three years ago, just before the start of his sixth and final season as the Rams' head coach. We sat in his office on the second floor of the team training facility, and as Martz sat on a soft leather couch with the windows to the practice fields behind him, he told me an incredible story. He said conspirators, saboteurs and incompetent meddlers were surrounding him and they were all plotting to get him fired.

      He told me that they would destroy him unless, of course, he destroyed them first.

      At the time I remember thinking, "Whoa, is this dude paranoid."

      Almost immediately though, I thought something else, having been around Rams Park long enough to observe the way things worked around there. "Yeah, he might be paranoid, but that still doesn't mean someone's not out to get him."

      Martz was the first man inside Rams Park who articulated perfectly just how dysfunctional things were behind that glittering glass and chrome entrance. And now he's coming back to town this weekend as the offensive coordinator of the San Francisco *****. But in reality, he is still a head-coach-in-exile. Seeing him on an NFL sideline marching to someone else's orders just doesn't feel right.

      If only the Rams Park environment was different back then. If only Martz had been surrounded by strong football men he respected and trusted, who knows how much different the recent history of the team might be? If only there were smart football men in charge back then like there are now. Maybe then someone could have saved the eccentric Martz from his own worst instincts and insulated him from the destructive office politics. And who knows? He might still be a head coach and the franchise would never have fallen on such tough times.

      But that opportunity was lost in his final days here, when his brilliant and turbulent stay ended with an unceremonious firing. Since then, Martz has been a vagabond, peddling his creative X's and O's from town to town, team to team, hoping that one day his image as a true football genius will again be restored.

      I hope it happens. But if he still has head coaching in his blood, I doubt if he will ever get another chance to prove himself in the NFL. What happened here probably left a permanent scar in the minds of too many team owners, presidents and general managers.

      But that...
      -12-19-2008, 06:16 AM
    • Guest's Avatar
      Looking At The Talent Issue
      by Guest
      Let’s put this into more of a prospective instead of a blanket statement regarding talent. First of all the title of the thread "I don't buy this no talent thing" alludes to the Rams having no talent. When I first replied to that thread I was in the mind-set that “No talent” really meant less talent which is undeniably true.

      Each year you go back, the Rams have been raped for players and we have been so inept in the draft that our talent level has suffered. This does not mean that the Rams defense is without talent, this simply means that our talent is not at the level it was in the past.

      Do I really need to go over each position and compare what we had in talent to what is on the field now? I won’t because I trust that everyone is clear on this. As far as the talent this team has, sure they all have at one time or another shown they can play, however the "one time or another" part is the problem. To say the Rams have all this talent because someone picked up a fumble and scampered 40 yards for a td six weeks ago or because someone had a sack or two in one game out of 9 is reaching as far as declaring that player has as much talent as someone who played that position in the past.

      One thing we all seem to agree on is what really ails the rams and that is motivation. Where I disagree is I think Martz is finally trying to address this problem albeit it may be too late but he is putting emphasis on being ready and fired up something he has shunned in the past. This has been my gripe since 2000 and while many pointed to the Rams W/L record as proof that I was full of it, I denounced the Rams achievements as underachievement.

      Martz fell into a crop of talent like no other coach I can remember and because of the tremendous talent the Rams had, the Underachievement during his rein has gone unnoticed by many. This of course is why you cannot simply look at the W/L record as the end all be all as far as how good a coach is.

      Now what you’re seeing is the inauguration of Martz into the parity level where coaches have to get at least the potential out of the players that he has and if he is worth his salt should be able to get more. What Martz is learning is he cannot get to these levels without motivation.

      Some believe that the Rams were the model of motivation because they won in the past now suddenly Martz cannot motivate them anymore. Wrong. This team under Martz has ignored motivation and now you’re seeing the alarm go off because now that the Rams possess talent equal to other teams in the league and far less then in the recent past the inevitable has become reality.

      To make matters worse he has hired a DC that has never shown that he can motivate a defense. Martz has now put the onus on himself to get the team motivated because he sees that there is nobody in the organization capable of doing it. Can he do it? Can he pull...
      -11-25-2004, 11:46 PM
    • RamWraith
      This article makes me sick!
      by RamWraith
      Why is Martz shouldering the blame. UNREAL!! Kick some arse Mike, not the poor me crap.


      By taking the blame for everything, Martz solves nothing

      BY JEFF GORDON Sports Columnist

      Mike Martz threw himself on his sword Sunday after his Rams served up a 37-31 victory to the Seattle Seahawks.

      In fact, Martz threw himself on his sword again and again and again. The poor guy was perforated by the time he ended his postgame news conference -– which was delayed, we presumed, by his search for more things to personally take the blame for.

      “This was Coach Martz’s loss,” he told the assembled reporters. “Put a big check mark on that.”

      OK, if you insist. Let’s look over all the key categories:

      The hideous play by the Rams secondary? Martz wanted to take the fall for that.

      “I asked the defense to put in a new coverage,” he said. “They threw for two touchdowns against that coverage.” He kicked himself for meddling with defensive coordinator Larry Marmie’s business.

      The team’s offensive woes in the third quarter? You knew that Mad Mike would shoulder that responsibility, too.

      “Bad job of coaching coming out in the second half,” he said. “That was my worst job of calling plays.”

      The overall game plan and play calling were lacking, too, Martz said.

      “I wasn’t myself this week,” he said. “I probably should have let Steve (Fairchild) call the game.”

      (Fairchild is the team’s offensive coordinator, which probably comes as a surprise to fans who didn’t realize the team had such a thing.)

      Finally, Martz beat himself up for creating an unwanted distraction with his own bad health.

      “I just feel like what happened to me really affected the team,” Martz said. “That breaks my heart.”

      And, yes, Martz promised he would fix that, and quickly. With the help of the Rams medical staff, he insisted he would get the upper hand on the infection that settled into his heart valve.

      Martz vowed he will feel better the next few weeks and get back to his old self, working long hours and obsessing over all the details.

      If fans could have seen this poor guy, they would be less upset and more empathetic. He looked like death warmed over. Coaching in the NFL is a brutal job, one that can make a man age quickly. The pressure and the grind are brutal.

      Relatively few coaches last for the long haul. Dick Vermeil, Bill Parcells, Joe Gibbs and Marty Schottenheimer are still around because they had long, long breaks.

      All coaches take losses hard. Some take it more personally than others, and Martz would fall into that category.

      But the fact is, the Rams just aren’t very good right...
      -10-09-2005, 08:11 PM
    • RamWraith
      Illness should remind Martz of what counts
      by RamWraith
      By Bryan Burwell
      Thursday, Oct. 06 2005

      As Mike Martz sat behind his desk at Rams Park nearly three months ago on the
      eve of another NFL training camp, the conversation took a rather surprising
      turn from complex X's and O's to wistful day dreaming.

      We sat there for more than an hour, and much of the time we talked about
      everything but football. We talked about the summer-long quest for the perfect
      retirement-vacation home. He talked about a house-hunting expedition with his
      wife Julie in their hometown of San Diego. He was almost giddy as he chatted
      about the good fortune of discovering an old house with a stunning, panoramic
      view of the Southern California oceanside.

      He then talked about his really big dream: finding a ranch a million miles from
      nowhere in someplace like Wyoming, Utah or South Dakota.

      "Look at this place," he said, pulling out a brochure and real estate
      prospectus that showed a ranch so far away from civilization that Lewis and
      Clark couldn't have found it.

      "Good gosh," I told him, "that place is a long way from everything."

      "Yeah," he said, grinning broadly. "It's perfect. I'd love it. I could be out
      there forever, just riding horses. It'd be absolutely perfect."

      This was a rather unexpected side of the very successful, yet highly polarizing
      Rams head coach. Maybe for the first time in the three years I've known him, I
      saw Mike Martz as just a normal guy. He did not look like a highly gifted, but
      often misunderstood genius trying to win football games while simultaneously
      venturing to protect his flank from enemies real and imagined.

      It took me three years to see that human quality in Martz. Yet since then, it's
      taken me less than three months to witness that very real human quality again.
      I saw it last Sunday in Giants Stadium when he struggled to walk because of the
      pain running through his body.

      He was a very sick man, and now that we're learning just how sick he really is,
      I immediately went back to that conversation we had last July. I kept thinking
      how silly and unimportant all these weekly football catastrophes are when
      compared to the real-life problem that Martz is going through.

      Here we were fretting about why he called an ill-fated goal-line reverse
      against the Giants, and it seems so trivial now that there might be a
      potentially deadly virus creeping through his heart.

      I just wonder if Martz feels that way, too.

      Knowing him, he probably doesn't, particularly since he's been going to work
      early every morning this week at Rams Park, charting practices and creating...
      -10-07-2005, 02:17 PM