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Let's hope Martz proves us wrong with his madness

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  • Let's hope Martz proves us wrong with his madness

    Let's hope Martz proves us wrong with his madness
    By Bryan Burwell
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    Sports Columnist Bryan Burwell

    If most of the football world already thought Mike Martz was a maddeningly stubborn football eccentric more than willing to bite off his nose to spite his face, wait until they get a load of him now.

    At his Monday afternoon news conference at Rams Park, the Rams head coach fiercely defended his swashbuckling way of football life as if ... well, as if his life depended on it, which in a way it probably does. He is coaching an obviously flawed football team with a 1-2 record and a defense that is springing more leaks than the Titanic. But as Martz relies on his signature aggressive offensive methods for rescuing this young but very shaky season, he knows he's being confronted with outside resistance.

    He is surrounded by a world full of conventional football thinkers who want to fit this aggressive, damn-the-torpedoes square peg into a very conservative round hole. We want him to play it by the old-school book. If the defense can't stop anyone - and after three weeks of play, there is faint evidence that this bloodied and battered group can - then why not go with a clock-gobbling, smash-mouth style of offense that relies on Marshall Faulk's fleet feet and Steven Jackson's brutish blasts?

    In essence, what we want is for Martz to stay inside the lines, which of course is just about the most repugnant thing you can say to a guy with his aggressive offensive temperament. Why not just ask dogs to start living with cats?

    "Look ... look ... don't ... uhhh," he said, practically spitting out the words like they were a bad piece of meat. "You need to find another coach, then. We're going to play fast and furious, that's what we do. We're going to run it when we ... want to run it, not because somebody (uh, that would be you and me) feels like you have to be balanced."

    He smiled almost defiantly when he said that. And just in case you didn't understand it the first time, Martz put this exclamation point on his soliloquy:

    "That's the way it is. Get used to it. That's the way it is."

    Now here's what I learned from this rather revealing State of the Rams address: Mike Martz doesn't particularly care what the outside world thinks he should do. He has a plan, and he's going to stick with it. It may not be the plan you want, but it's the plan you're going to get. And here's something else gleaned from Martz's feisty words: He will get every opportunity over the next 13 weeks to either sink or swim with his convictions.

    I don't presume to know more about football than Martz. His credentials as an offensive innovator and a football motivator are certified by his impressive NFL head-coaching won-loss record, a trip to the Super Bowl, and three playoff trips in four years. He has broken more imaginative ground in the fine art of passing, running and scoring than a whole lot of his coaching contemporaries.

    But despite all of that past glory, for some reason that just hasn't been enough to satisfy his critics. As he pointed out during his news conference, he's been booed and hissed by some folks since the day he took over this job.

    So wouldn't it be something if after all he'd already done, it turns out that this greatly flawed 2004 football team could wind up providing the most defining moment of his head-coaching career?

    Think about it for a moment.

    Imagine what people will have to say if there's a real method to his madness.

    Imagine what people will have to say if Martz can take this team with so many glaring weaknesses and too many faulty spare parts and somehow transform it into another fast and furious playoff team.

    There are a lot of folks out there now (myself included) who already have presumed that this Rams squad is a dead team walking.

    But what if Martz is right?

    Now, I'm not saying he is. In fact, I'm the guy who was arguing tooth and nail with him Sunday over his reluctance to embrace the rushing attack. We all know there are two basic ways to protect a glaring weakness on the defensive side of the ball - either play keep away from the other team with a run-oriented attack, or just score so many points so quickly that it won't matter what the other guys do.

    I think we all know which path Martz has decided on. Still, it's something of a puzzle, particularly after he spent so much time during training camp talking about the renewed emphasis on the running game.

    "We threw the ball pretty well (on Sunday), didn't we?" Martz said.

    "But you lost," he was reminded.

    "We got ahead at the end of the game by throwing the ball, didn't we?" Martz responded.

    "Yeah, but you still lost," he was told.

    "Do you think that running the ball would have won that game?" Martz asked.

    Well, it sure couldn't have hurt. Four years ago, when faced with a similarly defensive-challenged team, Martz let it all hang out offensively with a high-octane offense that scored an eye-popping 540 points. Martz probably thinks history can repeat itself this season.

    If he's right, and he finds a way to compensate for this defective defensive bunch, they ought to erect a bronze statue of him right in front of Edward Jones Dome.

    But if he's wrong, the only thing disgruntled Martz bashers will want to erect is a gallows.

    E-mail: [email protected]
    Phone: 314-340-8185

  • #2
    Re: Let's hope Martz proves us wrong with his madness

    Martz problem is the team is not discipline. Penalties, turnovers. The coach can't make a tackle, but he can prepare them better than this. The team is a direct reflection of the coach. Martz dose not pay attention to details. We are betting ourselves right now. Great coaches don't allow that to happen.


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      ST. LOUIS It's June 1, and the temperature, climbing above 85 degrees on a cloudless day at a tucked-away corporate park west of St. Louis, creates the slightest haze outside the oversized windows at Rams Park.

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      Even in a navy and gray floral printed polo shirt embroidered with the logo of a past golf tournament, Martz portrays perfectly the image of a studious football coach. Angling toward the front edge of his mahogany U-shaped desk, Martz shifts an iced Diet Pepsi to the right to uncover a bound, double-sided printout. The standard white, 8-by-11-inch paper stands about two inches thick, lying flat in Martz's outstretched hand.

      "Third-down plays we had ready and never called," Martz says, a sense of dissatisfaction in his voice. "We don't have a playbook. We have a book with the system in it as described with some of the base offense. If you put everything together on that top rack , that is about half of what we do. It's never-ending."

      Mike Martz has a 51-29 regular-season record as the Rams head coach.This is Mike Martz, the subject of justifiably passionate debate among football fans who can't agree whether he's brilliant, smarmy, stubborn, ignorant or some combination of those traits. The man often portrayed as a prima-donna dictator displays only pictures of his dogs, Rocky and Buddy, and his family. There is no Super Bowl ring, no glamorous display of career achievements. Nothing that says Martz is the extroverted narcissist many assume him to be.

      He is asked about defensive coordinator Larry Marmie, who has been ridiculed frequently since replacing Lovie Smith, who went on to become the head coach of the Bears.

      "Criticism, most often, is without understanding," Martz says in a persuasive tone, sounding like an attorney during closing arguments.

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      Smith, who worked with Martz at Arizona State, was on the St. Louis coaching staff from 2001-03 and called that game "the toughest loss I've ever been a part of."

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      -06-30-2005, 02:01 PM
    • RamWraith
      The Martz era may end soon in quiet divorce
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      The last time I saw him, Mike Martz stood on a slight hill just behind his sprawling home in the St. Louis suburbs, looking out at the glorious autumn view that spread out in front of him. As he walked down the tree-lined path full of vibrant fall color toward a shimmering lake, the Rams' unappreciated genius, controversial mad scientist and head-coach-in-exile chatted dreamily as if he had at long last discovered Shangri-La.

      "We just love this place," Martz said as he proudly pointed to all the landscaping details along the path. "We're putting a tackle box down here on the dock so that the kids can come here anytime and go fishing. We've got a few more things we'd like to do back here to make this place real special."

      As always, Mike Martz saw things the rest of us couldn't. He sounded like a man who would be staying here for a lifetime, even as most of his visitors raised a few eyebrows at all this talk of long-term living from a man we all knew was working in a short-term world.

      Back in October, Martz figured he would be on sick leave for only a few weeks, then back on the sidelines to handle his business and defiantly battle against the tide of discontent that has been swirling around him for his entire head-coaching career in this town. That is the way Martz should have finished up his career here in St. Louis, forever battling against all his real and imagined enemies with his distinctive style of pride and genius, arrogance and attitude, boldness and bravado.

      But it appears more and more that Martz will not get a chance to go down in a blaze like an old gunslinger. The longer you watch the behind-the-scenes machinations at Rams Park, the more you know that the Mike Martz era will soon end quietly over a conference table with lawyers and accountants negotiating the inevitable buyout.

      And that will be my greatest disappointment, because I'll never get to see what a healthy Martz would have done in his final season with the Rams. I wanted to see him with the ball in his hands on the final drive, not standing on the sidelines while the other guys ran out the clock.

      Illness has robbed him of that opportunity to save his job in a fast and furious finish, or crash and burn in spectacular fashion by thumbing his nose at all sorts of football convention, rankling his conspiratorial bosses, spiting his many detractors and creating one more improbable, eccentric chapter to this strange saga in Rams history.

      We have been flipping ahead of a lot of pages in this book lately, scribbling down new tales, imagining various plot twists and discussing all the candidates to be his successor. It gave the impression that we were all trying to shove Martz out the door, when the truth was most of us were just facing the inevitable - that his bosses were the actual culprits with...
      -12-09-2005, 02:31 PM
    • RamWraith
      Martz deserves his due for years of Rams success
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      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.

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      -12-19-2008, 06:16 AM
    • Guest's Avatar
      Rams play well but Martz wants no part of winning!
      by Guest
      Mike Martz again puts the rams in position to lose. instead of continuing to run the ball down the raiders throats Mike Martz calls a putrid reverse that sent the Rams backwards to a second and 17. then after a modest gain he runs the ball up the gut on 3rd and long. is this idiot ever going to stop pulling these idioc stunts? This is exactly what I am talking about when I say we are at a disadvantage at parity. We may have as good of talent as there is in the league but our coach always seems to do something stupid to assure us of a loss. AM I WRONG HERE?
      -09-02-2004, 11:02 PM
    • HUbison
      Do you think Martz enjoys it?
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      Whenever he throws the media a bone, they run with it and then everyone in Ram Nation goes crazy. I mean think about all the little tidbits he's thrown out there for the message board world to feed on:

      1. Pisa is a SS
      2. Arch is a FS
      3. Barron is our starting RT
      4. Barron is 2nd string RT
      5. Barron is 2nd string LT
      6. We're going to change our D front
      7. Jackson is the starter
      8. Martin will be our backup
      9. D-Lew is a DE
      10. We're going to use more 2 TE sets
      11. Chris Claiborne will shore up our run D
      12. Tucker will be fine as our RT
      13. Williams will be fine as our RT
      14. Saipaia will be fine as our RT
      15. Arch is the SS again
      16. Pisa is a LB again

      ...the list goes on and on. Martz doesn't have to tell the media anything. He could no comment his way through all of it, but he doesn't. And many question as to why. Does it mean that Martz can't make up his mind? Does it mean that Martz is some kind of evil genius? Does it mean that Martz is crazy? Does it mean that Martz has no business being a head coach? Does it mean that Martz is the greatest head coach in the world? I'd be willing to bet the farm that for every question brought up about Martz and his statements to the media, there is someone who would be willing to answer with a resounding "YES"!

      But can we really believe that he is going to give the media (ie. the public) any valuable information as to how he plans to approach the season? If we had a choice, would we even want Martz to give the media that kind of information? Let's put ourselves in his situation for a moment. We're the HC and the media approaches us with concern over something (a certain player, a certain coach, a certain scheme, a certain unit, etc.). What would we do? We wouldn't give him a straight story. Let the opposing coaches do their own work. If we were Army Generals we wouldn't broadcast our battle plans to enemy troops, would we? Well, if we were CNN we would, but other than that we wouldn't. We'd do exactly what he always does....tell the media something to cling on that may or may not have the slimmest morsel of truth associated with it, and put everything else in terms of generalities.

      But we don't have to listen to what Martz says, we can see what they do on the field. We see the way they line up, we see what schemes they run. Oh really, do we really? I think Shades put it best (as he usually does) when he said... I hate to burst a few ego bubbles, but unless there are NFL coaches on this board right now, none of us know an inkling about what the Rams do, are doing, have done, will do, or need to do with any aspect of their game.

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      -08-24-2005, 09:03 AM