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Martz mesmerizes football world: What will he do next?

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  • Martz mesmerizes football world: What will he do next?

    By Bryan Burwell
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    Sports Columnist Bryan Burwell

    SAN FRANCISCO - So now that he has our complete and undivided attention, aren't we all dying to know exactly what Mike Martz has up his sleeve?

    Now that he has thrown down the gauntlet in such a bold and defiant fashion to the entire football world, who isn't genuinely intrigued by the endless possibilities for Sunday night's game against the San Francisco *****?

    "Look, you need to find another coach then. . . . Fast and furious. . . . That's the way it is. Get used to it."

    Talk about your perfect, intoxicating sound bite. It was almost like our favorite white-haired football eccentric was singing some alluring siren's song when he stood before a room of reporters on Monday afternoon and pridefully defended the methods to his offensive madness. If ESPN didn't send him a thank-you note for that ratings booster, well then they should have the moment he stood there defiantly proclaiming that he had no intention of conforming to our ho-hum way of thinking.

    "Look, you need to find another coach then. . . . Fast and furious. . . . That's the way it is. Get used to it."

    Words to live by. Words to die for.

    So now just about every pro football-loving eyeball in America - and certainly everyone in St. Louis - ought to be glued to their television sets tonight, waiting to see whether Martz truly can still win football games and influence people with his old (and formerly reliable) thrill-seeking attitude.

    With one brash and beautiful (did someone say crazy?) uttering, Martz turned a mundane early-season game between his 1-2 Rams and the deficient, winless 'Niners into "must-see TV," all because he confirmed something we long ago suspected. When it comes to conjuring up offensive game plans, he really does think he's smarter than the rest of us.So now he gets to prove it.

    He gets to shove it back at all of us - the critical TV talking heads, the second-guessing, know-nothing sportswriters, the shrill radio yappers, not to mention the vulgar, inebriated morons who constantly curse his every move from their cushy seats in the stands (hmmm, TV, newspaper, radio? Yikes, I'm three out of four of those!).

    But how will he do it?

    That, boys and girls, is the million-dollar question.

    After he talked so tough with that "fast and furious" stuff, I wonder if that was all a clever ruse. Sort of like telling us, "watch the right, watch the right, watch the right," just before clobbering us with a wicked left hook.

    So what's he really going to do tonight?

    Is he going to zig just when we think he's going to zag?

    Is he really going to do exactly what he said with his "fast and furious" proclamation? Will he really try to revive the old Greatest Show on Turf days?

    It is an intriguing question, particularly when you realize that this is the first time in ages where he has all his offensive toys at his disposal. He has Marc Bulger throwing brilliantly. He has Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce catching everything. Now that Steven Jackson is comfortable with the offense, Martz shouldn't have any fear of putting his No. 1 draft pick in the same backfield with Marshall Faulk anymore.

    And let's not forget one not-so-minor detail about this offense that generated 403 yards and 25 points last week: For the first time since Az Hakim left the building, Martz finally has a blazing sprinter (a healthy Kevin Curtis) as his critical third (slot) receiver.

    So will he go for broke and throw the ball all over the field just because he wants to, or because he has to?

    Remember now, because his defense has been playing a matador style that lets even no-names like Aaron freakin' Stecker rush for more than 100 yards on it, Martz probably thinks the only way to compensate for that is by scoring as many points as he can as quickly as he can.

    So what's he going to do?

    Martz has stalked the sidelines in plenty of big games before. Super Bowls, playoff games, late-season, gut-tightening thrillers. But it's no exaggeration to emphasize just how big this early October contest is, because at least on paper, the schedule really favors a quick turnaround.

    With three of their next four games against decidedly inferior teams (0-3 San Francisco, 3-0 Seattle, 0-3 Tampa and 0-3 Miami) this could be the start of a winning surge.

    But if they come out West and lose - particularly if they come out here and lose badly (they were blown out in their last two trips to San Francisco) - this could be the beginning of a nasty downward spiral.

    So if you put all of those fascinating ingredients into the mix, it's no wonder that Martz has us all salivating about what method he will use for his football salvation. We are spellbound, Mike, and curious as can be.

    We are about as anxious and edgy as Indiana Jones making a break out of the Temple of Doom. Is that an escape route ahead of us in San Francisco, or is that a big, nasty boulder about to come crashing down on our heads?

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  • eldfan
    Let's hope Martz proves us wrong with his madness
    by eldfan
    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...
    -09-28-2004, 05:41 AM
  • 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, 01:17 PM
  • 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, 05:16 AM
  • RamWraith
    Martz has fans waiting to see if Rams respond
    by RamWraith
    By Bryan Burwell
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Sunday, Nov. 14 2004

    It sure has been some wild and wacky week right here in the River City, hasn't
    it? First our favorite gray-haired football eccentric goes all Norman Vincent
    Peale on us - not once, but TWICE this week - in a very public
    effort to make friends and influence football players.

    "We don't hold hands and get in a seance and sing Kumbaya. I'm not into
    that. ... You're on the train or you're not. Get out, period. I know where I'm
    going, you're either with me or you're not."

    -Mike Martz

    So now that Mike Martz has thrown down another verbal gauntlet to a world full
    of doubters - and in the process minimizing the importance of really good, old
    fashioned campfire songs - here we are again in a very familiar place. The Rams
    are in another do-or-die situation as the Seattle Seahawks come to the Edward
    Jones Dome with supremacy of the NFC West at stake. And once again Martz has us
    all on the edge of our seats, intrigued with how his football team will respond
    to his urgent words.

    Will they take to heart his warnings that this 4-4 season is at a crossroads
    and treat this game as though it is a desperate playoff game? Will they be
    inspired by his angry words and use them as emotional fuel to turn what has
    been a half-season of mediocrity into a strong second-half run to the

    "This is a game of attitude, pure and simple. This is not about ability,
    it never has been, never will be. Everybody in this league has got ability to
    play. Everybody's talented. Everybody's fast, everybody's big, everybody's
    strong. If you think that's the difference, you're sorely mistaken. This is
    purely a game of attitude."

    Martz was a man on fire this week, from his Monday afternoon rant when he said
    he was tired of "taking bullets" for underachieving players, to his
    inspirational, but exceedingly short Wednesday press briefing when he continued
    to challenge the players, then made them go through a full-contact scrimmage.
    He was so fired up as he stormed out of the news conference that by the time he
    marched onto the practice field, he was stalking around the field from one
    group of players to another. Martz looked like an emotional volcano. He looked
    like a man itching for a fight. He looked like a guy who was almost begging to
    find just one half-stepping player.

    "I am not happy with how we are playing period, regardless of a division
    race or anything else. I think the way we have played in the last two games is
    embarrassing. Not so much, whether you win or lose the game, just the way we
    play the game,...
    -11-13-2004, 07:04 PM
  • txramsfan
    Chris Mortensen gets it....from
    by txramsfan
    Tuesday, October 12, 2004
    Criticizing is easy; winning isn't

    By Chris Mortensen
    ESPN Insider

    Before I wax a lot about Mike Martz and a little about Marty Schottenheimer, let me concede something.

    One of the flaws in my game, so to speak, is that I give head coaches a lot of rope in analyzing their performance on the sidelines. There are reasons for that. My career goal was to be a coach my high school coaches were great influences on me. I ended up in journalism, and at one stretch I spent 10 years covering major league baseball only to switch to the NFL on a full-time basis 20 years ago. I immersed myself in the offices and film rooms of coaches who were willing to re-teach me the game of football. Even then, the constant evolution of the sport leaves me as a remedial observer.

    I have a great appreciation and respect for the amount of time coaches pour into their jobs. I understood perfectly what former Saints coach Jim Mora meant when he told the New Orleans media, "You think you know, but you don't know." It was blunt but true. The game is never as simple as we think. The quarterback isn't at fault for half his interceptions. The offensive line isn't guilty of about half the sacks you see. That cornerback you think blew coverage may have been doing exactly what he had been taught.

    So only reluctantly will you see me criticize coaches, and seldom will you see me attack a coach, although as Giants owner Wellington Mara reminds me, "The great thing about our profession is that every (coach) ultimately grades his own performance by his record." Yes, the bottom line is winning.

    That brings me to Martz and Schottenheimer, two coaches who have been slapped around in recent years. If I I trusted everything I heard on TV, heard on the radio and read in print, you would think Martz and Schottenheimer are two of the biggest buffoons in the history of football. This follows the same line more than a month ago when our media world was demonizing Giants coach Tom Coughlin.

    Martz and Schottenheimer are different in many respects. Schottenheimer is a great fundamentalist coach, and Martz is, well, he's just out there, on the edge so much so that former ***** coach Bill Walsh has said, "You can't emulate what Martz does."

    I know they should never be characterized as buffoons. These guys have won a lot of football games.

    * * *

    Has anyone noticed what Martz has done for the St. Louis Rams? True, his team is only 3-2, which makes him 46-22 during the regular season since he became the Rams' head coach in 2000. And, I'm sorry, but I have a difficult time not crediting him with 13 more wins and a Super Bowl championship in 1999, when the Rams won it all with Kurt...
    -10-12-2004, 01:33 PM