Saturday, January 7, 2012

Why Mike Martz Should Not Be Considered for Offensive Coordinator

The Rams played their first full season in St. Louis in 1995 after moving from Los Angeles, which gave the city it's first taste of NFL football since 1987.

During that first year, the Rams finished with a 7-9 record. It was an improvement over their 4-12 finale in Los Angeles and at the time was the franchises' best record of the 90's, which perhaps gave the franchise a little bit of hope moving forward.

However, after that 1995 season, the Rams went 6-10 and 5-11 in following years, until they finally went 4-12 in 1998, which gave off the impression that the team was moving backwards, despite possessing some promising talent on defense in Kevin Carter, DeMarco Farr, Todd Lyght and Grant Wistrom.

After that four-win season, management forced head coach Dick Vermeil to take on offensive coordinator Mike Martz in response to the team performing poorly ever since Vermeil arrived in 1997.

The front office tried things Vermeil's way, resulting in only nine wins in two seasons, so they brought in the offensive guru Martz in an attempt to modernize an offense that modestly ranked just 23rd in scoring in 1997.

Along with Martz, the team traded their second and fifth round draft picks for Colts running back Marshall Faulk and made the miraculous preseason discovery of Kurt Warner.

And just like that, the Rams went from scoring 285 points in 1998 to scoring 526 points in 1999.

Not only did they patch together a record-setting season on offense, but they finished with a 13-3 record and went on to win Super Bowl XXXIV over the Tennessee Titans in a dramatic fashion.

The unexpected emergence of the Rams from their consistent futility in the 90's to their dominance from 1999 to 2001 was a phenomenon that was one of a kind and will likely never be matched ever again.

So with that, you can probably imagine where some fans are coming from when they fantasize of a scenario where Martz, who was recently fired from his coordinator position with the Bears, returns to St. Louis in a Rocky III type fashion and leads the Rams offense back to relevance.

In fact, the media has been backing up the rumors lately.

Day dreaming is nice, but now lets return from fantasy land...

Martz has not formulated a dominate offense even once since being fired as the Rams' head coach after the 2005 season.

The Detroit Lions

His first gig after leaving the Rams was a two-year stint with the Detroit Lions as their offensive coordinator in 2006 and 2007.

In 2006, the Lions ranked 22nd in yards per game (309.3) and 21st in total points (305).

In 2007, they improved to only 19th in yards per game (322.9), while they made a jump to 16th in total points (346).

The Lions had a 10-22 record during those two season and went on to have their infamous 0-16 season the year after they fired Martz.

While the talent Martz had to work with was not up to par, this experiment made it clear that he is not a miracle worker.

The San Francisco 49ers

In 2008, the 49ers hired Martz after he was let go by Detroit. They hoped he would be able to revive their quarterback, No. 1 overall draft pick Alex Smith, which should sound familiar since the Rams are looking for the same with Sam Bradford.

How did that train of thought work out for the 49ers?

In 2008, the 49ers ranked a pedestrian 23rd in yards per game (311.1) and averaged just 17.9 points per game, which was just a moderate improvement over the team's 13.7 points per game in 2007.

The 49ers did not feel a need to see any more and let Martz go after just one season.

The Chicago Bears

After a one-year hiatus from the NFL, Martz returned with the Chicago Bears to work under Lovie Smith, who used to work under Martz as defensive coordinator with the Rams.

The Bears offense struggled in 2010, ranking 30th in yards per game (289.4) and 21st in total points (334).

Quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked an NFL-high 52 times as a result of the unbalanced and pass-happy Martz offense. That should not sound appealing to Rams fans, who saw Bradford get sacked 36 times (ranked sixth in the NFL), despite missing six games.

The Bears were able to improve to 24th in yards per game (314.1) in 2011, while they also improved in to 353 total points (17th).

Regardless of the slight improvement, the increase in average points per game between 2010 (20.9) and 2011 (22.1) was not very impressive.

In 2011, Cutler was sacked 23 times but only played in 10 games. Bears quarterbacks were sacked a total of 49 times in 2011, which would have led the NFL had it been a single quarterback.

In Conclusion

Since leaving the Rams after 2005, Martz led offenses have peaked at just 19th in average yards per game and 16th in total points (both highs were with the 2007 Lions).

Granted, ranking 19th in yards per game and 16th in points sounds like a dream for Rams fans at the moment, but they should not sell themselves short and they should set their goals a little higher than that.

There is nothing wrong with dreaming about the "good old days" when the Rams were tearing up the NFL under the leadership of Martz, but it would be insane for the Rams to actually make a poor hiring based on warm feelings of the past.

In reality, it's clear that Martz' days in the NFL are actually numbered. The league has adapted to his system.

The Rams should not over think the decision—they need to hire a respectable coordinator who runs the West Coast offense, which is a system Bradford was embracing as a rookie.

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