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Bernie: In sizing up Rams, buck must stop at Martz's desk

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  • Bernie: In sizing up Rams, buck must stop at Martz's desk

    In sizing up Rams, buck must stop at Martz's desk
    By Bernie Miklasz
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Sunday, Nov. 28 2004

    In recent troubling weeks, head coach Mike Martz has offered acidic critiques
    of the Rams' special teams, soft physical play, and the lax attitude of his
    young players.

    It's been interesting to see Martz try to transform his team's personality by
    recasting his own image as a tough-guy coach. I'm not sure the players will buy
    into Martz as Bill Parcells Lite, but we'll find out.

    Martz has declined to single players out by name - save for roughing up punter
    Sean Landeta, of course. That's OK; anyone who pays attention to the mediocre
    5-5 Rams can easily fill in the blanks. The offensive line and defense
    routinely get pounded, so no elaboration by Martz is necessary. We don't
    require binoculars to see the weak areas.

    I'm no serial Martz basher. He has pluses as a coach, and I refuse to join his
    irrational mob of hateful, petty critics who won't give him even a small nod of
    appreciation for his successes.

    That said, I have to call him out.

    The Rams are in a state of decline, or chaos, or both. And Martz without
    question is the person most responsible for the distressing reality at Rams
    Park. Martz is more than a coach; he's a virtual football CEO. Martz was given
    considerable authority by Rams management. Martz is also the de facto general
    manager; he only answers to team president John Shaw.

    When Martz analyzes game video, he's seeing his own creation.

    Let's go down the list:

    SPECIAL TEAMS: Martz never prioritized special teams, and they've been inferior
    since he took over as head coach in 2000. This is no coincidence. Martz doesn't
    draft enough players based on what they might add to the special teams. He
    doesn't have the special teams in mind when he makes cuts and shapes his
    roster. He apparently doesn't worry about the special teams when writing the
    inactive list before games. (The Rams' two leading special-teams tacklers
    didn't suit up last Sunday in Buffalo). And Martz has allowed other assistants
    to undermine his special teams coaches.

    DEFENSE: Martz gave former defensive coordinator Lovie Smith a substantial
    voice in drafting players to stock the defense. Because of personnel
    miscalculations the Rams are left with an undersized, passive defense that's
    mauled at the point of attack. When Smith left to become the Chicago Bears'
    head coach, Martz hired an old friend, Larry Marmie. In fairness to Marmie, he
    inherited this collection of smallish underachievers from Smith, and that isn't
    his fault. Perhaps in time we will recognize that Marmie was the right hire.
    But through Marmie's first 10 games, Lovie's leftover defense has gotten worse.

    OFFENSIVE LINE: Of the 47 players drafted since Martz became head coach in
    2000, only six were O-linemen. And only one was drafted in the first three
    rounds. The Rams haven't invested in the offensive line, but they have used
    eight picks on receivers and running backs.

    The Rams' slide is no accident; too many draft picks have been wasted. Charley
    Armey has the GM title and does the extensive bird-dog scouting. But Martz gets
    the final word on the Rams' choices.

    Here are some unfortunate facts: No player drafted by the Rams and Martz since
    2000 has been voted to a Pro Bowl. Of the 15 players recruited in the 2000 and
    2002 drafts, only three are still with the team. Only 21 of Martz's 47 choices
    remain. Of the 24 players chosen in the first four rounds, nine are gone. It's
    difficult to overcome the burdens caused by the salary cap and injuries when
    you're missing on premium draft picks.

    So the next time Martz complains about his players, here's a reminder: He
    drafted the players, and he coaches them. When the Rams consistently won, they
    were a direct reflection of their head coach. It works the same during hard
    times. The Rams are a mirror image of Mike Martz, and we can't ignore the
    cracks.

  • #2
    Re: Bernie: In sizing up Rams, buck must stop at Martz's desk

    Oh no! Bernie is calling Martz out! Whatever will Martz do now?


    I suspect... ignore him as usual.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Bernie: In sizing up Rams, buck must stop at Martz's desk

      While I applaud Martz for his efforts, in all honesty, this is an attitude change that should have been fostered from the start of training camp, not in the middle of a season that started slipping away a few weeks ago.

      Granted the season is far from lost, but it's hard to right a ship when it's already half sunk.
      Clannie Nominee for ClanRam's Thickest Poster

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Bernie: In sizing up Rams, buck must stop at Martz's desk

        I think Sherlock would e a good name for Barney er Bernie.

        Comment

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        • Nick
          Bernie on Martz
          by Nick
          BernieM wrote:

          I haven't come around to anyone's way of thinking.

          I've always taken Martz to task when warranted.

          But unlike some of you, I also try to be fair about the guy.

          Last year was a strong coaching performance by Martz, and anyone who didn't recognize this doesn't know football or else has a really bad jones for Martz.

          As I have said before, I don't play to mobs. I think for myself.

          This year, he's been erratic and uneven and distracted. I figured trouble
          was setting in when he started doing bizarre paranoid stuff with the media, in October. Martz became convinced that someone with the media was watching plays in practice and telling other teams, just because the reporter kept walking out of practice, talking into a cell phone. Nothing could be further from the truth; Martz was cracking. Martz also banned a Rams intern from practice because the Rams were getting ready for Tampa Bay and the young man had briefly interned for Tampa Bay. Nuts. Sad.

          And it doesn't impact me whatsoever, so please refrain from your theories about this is why I've been harder on Martz. It simply does not matter to me, because I have no interest in watching practice or wasting afternoons at Rams Park. But I know Martz enough to be able to have a good instinct for when he's going into the real Mad Mike mode -- mad as in a little crazy. And his media stuff is usually the first warning sign, and indicates a larger problem.

          When Martz is freaking out and heading into the meltdown mode, it always surfaces first with his media relations. He gets really strange; starts to do control-freak stuff that's transparent and comical. I last saw it in 2002 but he pulled his head together over the offseason and was ready to coach again in 2003.

          Anyway....

          Shaw is on the case.

          Martz is already talking about giving Fairchild more responsibility in 2005.

          Cheers,
          Bernie
          -12-22-2004, 08:28 AM
        • RamDez
          Martz has made repairs, so go easy on the criticism
          by RamDez
          Martz has made repairs, so go easy on the criticism
          By Bernie Miklasz
          Of the Post-Dispatch
          Sunday, Aug. 28 2005

          Ayear ago in this space, when assigned to assess the Rams' prospects for 2004,
          I fretted over the Rams' erosion of talent. I expressed anxiety over the state
          of the team's dazed and confused defense, which was symbolized by lightweight
          linebackers.

          It was concluded that a 9-7 record was about the best the 2004 Rams could
          accomplish. And we weren't far off, as the Rams finished with an 8-8 record
          that was their ticket to the postseason in a down year for the NFC.

          I am no Nostradamus, or even Chris Mortensen.

          But my optimism over the 2005 Rams exceeds the confidence I had in the 2004
          Rams late last summer.

          Why? There's a historical parallel.

          In 2000, the Rams were doomed by a pathetic, porous defense that was gashed for
          more points than 30 NFL teams and more yards than 23 teams.

          Coach Mike Martz responded aggressively and made the reconstruction of that
          defense his top offseason priority. An influx of talent produced a No. 7
          defensive ranking for points allowed and a No. 3 ranking for yards against, and
          the Rams' offense had the support it needed to go 14-2 and return to the Super
          Bowl.

          After last season's lurching performance, Martz arrived at a similar
          intersection before 2005. The Rams' defense was terrible last season, ranking
          25th in points allowed and 17th in yards against. The futile attempt to cover
          up this defense was ripped open and exposed by Michael Vick, Warrick Dunn and
          the Atlanta Falcons in the humiliating defeat that ran the Rams out of the
          Georgia Dome and the 2004 postseason.

          On a lesser scale, when compared to the makeover in 2001, Martz tried to fix
          his defense and special teams by hiring free-agent linebackers Chris Claiborne
          and Dexter Coakley and adding fresh legs to the secondary. He also addressed
          the philosophical and personnel problems on special teams. Martz was determined
          to fill in the holes.

          Because of salary-cap issues, Martz and the Rams weren't able to overhaul the
          defense as dramatically as they did before 2001, but the new pieces should fit
          nicely to solidify weak spots. The Rams should go 11-5 and prevail in the
          mediocre NFC West, and if the offense takes off and soars the way Martz expects
          it to, this group has a shot to play for the NFC championship.

          OK . . .

          Is this the point in the column where I'm supposed to psychoanalyze Martz?

          Well, I'm handing in my pop psychology license.

          Martz will be evaluated here based on how he coaches and how his team performs
          under his leadership. It's what I've tried to do, pro and...
          -08-28-2005, 07:14 AM
        • Nick
          Bernie: Mad Mike doesn't get all the credit that he is due
          by Nick
          Mad Mike doesn't get all the credit that he is due
          By Bernie Miklasz
          Of the Post-Dispatch
          08/14/2004

          Earlier this summer, the New York Daily News conducted a poll of 12 NFL general managers and team executives and asked this question: Who is the best head coach in the NFL?

          Each panelist was requested to list 10 coaches, ranking them from 1 to 10. In all, 19 coaches were named on ballots. The top three vote-getters were, in order, Bill Belichick (New England), Bill Parcells (Dallas) and Dick Vermeil (Kansas City).

          Rams coach Mike Martz didn't receive a single vote.

          Martz was shut out for the first time in his coaching career.

          Even Miami's Dave Wannstedt got a check mark on one ballot.

          Dave Wannstedt!

          Martz? All zeroes. And this isn't just a national hit on Martz; locally, he's often sacked by critics and talk-show callers.

          Where is the love? I'm not trying to suggest that Martz is Vince Lombardi, but when did he become, say, Bob Hollway? (That Hollway reference was for old-school St. Louis football Cardinals fans.)

          Fact is, the Martz resume as the Rams head coach is impressive. His regular-season winning percentage of .672 is the best by a head coach in St. Louis NFL history. Since the AFL-NFL merger, he has the fourth-highest winning percentage for any NFL head coach with at least 50 games. In his four seasons, he has taken the Rams to the playoffs three times, including a trip to the Super Bowl.

          Reasonable minds recognize Martz's important contribution to the 1999 Super Bowl champion. After going 9-23 in his first two seasons, Dick Vermeil hired Martz to run the Rams offense. Martz installed an offense for the ages, and the Rams sprinted to a championship.

          In Martz's five seasons in charge of the Rams offense, the attack has averaged 29.5 points per game. That's a remarkable scoring rate over a five-year period.

          Before Martz showed up in 1999, St. Louis NFL football teams won 43.6 percent of their games and made the playoffs three times in 32 seasons. After Martz came onto the scene in a position of authority - offensive coordinator, then head coach - the Rams have won 70 percent of their games, made the playoffs four times and captured a Super Bowl title.

          Martz bashers like to say that he's lucky to have inherited Vermeil's team. Not really, because the Rams were a disaster under Vermeil in 1997 and '98, and Martz played a substantial role in shaping the 1999 squad. Besides, only seven players remain from the 1999 team. Only 15 players remain from the 2001 Super Bowl Rams.

          Martz has continued winning even as he has rebuilt the defense and retooled much of the offense. In the salary-cap area, a coach must adjust quickly to inevitable personnel changes, and Martz has adapted on the fly.

          So...
          -08-14-2004, 11:00 PM
        • RamWraith
          Think what you will about Martz; he made football fun in this town
          by RamWraith
          By Bernie Miklasz
          ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
          01/04/2006

          Mike Martz will resurface. He will return to dial up 50 passes a game in another town, for another team, driving his new team's fans crazy. They may be laughing or frowning, cheering or booing, but Martz will move them. This is a coach who gets a reaction. He is many things, but the word "dull" never will be applied in any description of Martz.

          "The Greatest Show" goes away, but never completely leaves the imagination. After all, the circus always comes back, and so it will be for Martz, the ringleader of one of the most dazzling offensive productions in NFL history.

          Mad Mike still has a few scores to settle, a few more defensive coordinators to torment, and may the football gods have mercy on defenses when this coach clears his head and reloads his offense during a second-chance head-coaching opportunity.

          Martz may have to sit out for a while. He may have to go into exile for the 2006 season, to rehabilitate his image and find inner peace, but that may be the best thing for him.

          Martz needs time to truly disengage from the grueling experience in St. Louis. Martz's bacterial infection of the heart valve has cleared, and medically he's 100 percent ready to work, but he's still battered emotionally after predictably losing a power struggle with Rams executives John Shaw and Jay Zygmunt.

          If Martz doesn't hook up immediately as a head coach, he should view the sabbatical as a precious opportunity to exhale and enjoy life. Martz could take his wonderful wife Julie on a trip around the world, or go on the kind of relaxing, leisurely adventures that are impossible to arrange for a full-time, football-consumed coach.

          And a year from now, a completely rested, recharged and refocused Martz would be a hot candidate. His agent, Bob Lamonte, would have no problem marketing the Martz II Project to NFL owners. If you're an NFL owner with a dormant offense that needs to be zapped back to life, how could you resist the reformed Mike Martz? How could you turn away from 30 points a game? Americans love a second act.

          Martz is feeling low these days, but he's been through rougher days than this. His alcoholic father bailed on his mom and four brothers when Mike was a kid. Mike survived, maturing sooner than any child should just to help keep the family strong.

          After Martz got fired from a coaching gig at Arizona State, he couldn't find another job, so he became an unpaid volunteer assistant to Los Angeles Rams coach Chuck Knox. By then, Mike and Julie had four children, and it wasn't easy. But again, he overcame the hard times.

          And Martz will rally again.

          During his time as the Rams head coach, I frequently sparred with the media-sensitive Martz. This is a guy who did not hesitate to pick up the phone, dial my number,...
          -01-05-2006, 04:52 AM
        • RamWraith
          Some Bernie--a lot about Martz
          by RamWraith
          Some Bernie--

          On Martz
          A few responses:

          * I haven't hesitated to criticize Martz when warranted. That's what some of you apparently forget. I wrote two columns disagreeing with his strategy in the days after the Carolina loss. The difference is, I took a reasoned approach. I wasn't demanding that he be castrated, or anything like that. Some of the reaction by fans to that game bordered on bloodlust.

          * I did review the list of "leftover" players submitted here. Sorry that you missed it.

          * Martz's gameday management should be better. How many times have I written that? Many. But I also think this "he isn't a head coach" stuff is ludicrous. Anyone who wins at a rate of .672 as a head coach through an ongoing roster transition is doing a lot of things right. But the hatred of Martz has become so insane -- and it truly is insane -- that now I get e-mails from fans telling me that Martz doesn't deserve credit for the offense. That's right; now some folks don't even want to acknowledge that he put together this offense. It's been one big accident. Luck. That is lunacy.

          * As for Vermeil and Tony Banks and history. and me not knowing what went on....I I don't mean to be disrespectful, but it's humorous when other people tell me what really went on in those days, and how I'm wrong....and yet I was there, and the people who are telling me I'm wrong were not.

          Shaw encouraged Vermeil to make a change at QB in the meeting after the 1998 season. Vermeil was hedging. He had Martz review tapes of Banks, and wanted an honest, no-holds assessment. After they signed Trent Green, I visited Martz in his office. I wanted to get a handle on Green, and Martz was kind enough to show me some video of Green in Washington. Vermeil walks into the office and makes some comments about Green, and with me right there, he thanks Martz for being the one to lead the charge on signing Trent. Later, Martz then had told me the story about how Dick asked him to review Tony Banks, because Dick was strongly inclined to stick with Banks...but after reviewing Banks, Martz told Vermeil, "if we play Banks this season, we'll all be fired, Dick." Vermeil, laughing, confirmed that story to me at a much later date.

          Along these lines...when Green went down, I called Shaw up late that night and asked what they planned to do...he was crushed. He said there was debate inside the organization; Vermeil wanted to sign Jeff Hostetler, and Martz was trying to nudge him into going with Warner. (I don't think Martz was a Hostetler fan). Vermeil made the right decision. And the bottom line is, he made the decision so he gets credit. Perhaps Shaw was overstating DV's interest in Hoss; I tend to doubt that. But it would also be ignorant to pretend that Martz had no influence.

          So please....I've told these stories many times. I know exactly what was...
          -08-16-2004, 05:11 AM
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