News & Info/Headlines
Martz’s hiring on Feb. 1 ended a nearly month-long search to replace the fired Ron Turner.
According to Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio, head coach Lovie Smith wanted Martz from the outset of the search process with general manager Jerry Angelo resisting the idea. But when multiple candidates declined the job and/or a chance to interview for it, Martz eventually became the only real option.
So. ... Smith now has three former head coaches on his staff -- Martz, newly-hired offensive line coach Mike Tice (Vikings 2001-05), and newly-promoted defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli (Lions 2006-08). ...
For Martz, the task at hand it turning around a struggling offense and getting the most out of Jay Cutler after the quarterback and team failed to meet high expectations this season.
Cutler threw a league-leading 26 interceptions after a being acquired in a trade with Denver.
The Bears went 7-9 and missed the playoffs for the third straight year since the 2006 team’s Super Bowl run, leading to a coaching shake-up in which Turner and five other assistants were let go and Smith relinquished defensive play-calling duties.
Martz got the nod after meeting with Cutler in Nashville the Saturday before being hired.
According to the team's official web site, Cutler and Martz talked football in a Vanderbilt classroom and went out for dinner together.
“I felt very comfortable with him,” Cutler said. “The results of his offense speak for themselves. He had a lot of success in St. Louis and his offenses made improvements each year in Detroit and San Francisco. I haven’t run his system, but I am familiar with it. I’m anxious to start digesting the playbook and getting back on the field.”
As ChicagoBears.com staffer Larry Mayer noted, Martz always has had high expectations for the quarterbacks he’s worked with and doesn’t think that Cutler will have a problem with the demands placed on him.
“The connection that we had on really I guess more less an intellectual level was so much fun for me,” Martz told Mayer. “His expectations for himself are extremely high, and that was one of the great things about meeting with him. This guy’s all about winning now. He’s frustrated he’s not at an elite level and he can’t contribute to helping that football team win.
“There are so many things that came out of [the meeting] about Jay that were exciting for me just on who he is, and to kind of discuss what he’s about was very encouraging.”
Martz spoke to Cutler about comments the coach had made on NFL Network about the quarterback following the Bears’ Week 1 loss to the Packers.
At the time, Martz criticized Cutler’s demeanor in his post-game press conference after he had thrown a career-high four interceptions in a 21-15 loss.
“He just doesn’t get it,” Martz said at the time. "He doesn’t understand that he represents a great head coach and the rest of those players on that team.”
“I addressed that immediately with Jay,” Martz said. “The thing I told Jay — and I said this a few days after that show — the thing I felt bad when I watched that was I felt like I knew who Jay was. I met with him when he was coming out in the draft [in the 2006] for quite some time up in Detroit.
“I felt like I had a pretty good understanding of who he was and the integrity and the dignity that he has and how classy a guy he is, and how he kind of misrepresented himself with that and really that was totally out of frustration from that game."
Meanwhile, in a subsequent interview on WSCR Radio in Chicago, Martz compared Cutler to Warner, suggesting that both share a perfectionist trait and that in some ways Cutler even compares favorably to Warner.
"He's got Kurt's accuracy with a stronger arm," Martz said of Cutler, whom he also described as "a terrific talent" and "well-schooled in the game and beyond his years."
Also in the WSCR interview, Martz told listeners that the rest of the team's offensive players will have a big challenge ahead of them learning his playbook and that they'll need to put in the necessary study time.
"If they're willing to learn it, they'll learn it," Martz said. "If they're open to it and they don't fight it they'll learn it. But we'll put more on them intellectually than has ever been put on them before."
Receiver Earl Bennett was quick to express confidence in his own ability to pick up the scheme.
"I'm not concerned at all," Bennett told Mayer. "I'm pretty sure that all of us will be able to get it. I'll be dialed into my position. We've just got to come in and understand our playbook, and I'm sure all of us will get it."
But not all of them seem likely to get as much -- in terms of on-field production -- as they have in the past.
Although Devin Hester was the Bears' No. 1 receiver in 2009, Martz suggested Hester could see a reduced role in the passing game in 2010. Martz said he could see using Hester as the slot receiver, the way the Rams used Az Hakim, and Martz also hinted that Hester could see an increased role in the return game.
"Devin Hester in that role could just be stupid good, if that makes sense to you," Martz said. "It would be very difficult for him to play every snap on offense and still play effectively on special teams."
Tight end Greg Olsen led the Bears with 60 catches and eight receiving touchdowns in 2009, but Martz suggested that Olsen will need to focus primarily on blocking in 2010.
"All tight ends, their first responsibility, they have to put their hand down on the line of scrimmage and be a successful blocker, and then they move to receiving," Martz said. "To just skip by that and say, 'He's a terrific receiver,' well, then you might as well just put another wide receiver in there."
Those interested in how a tight end with Olsen's receiving skills might fare under Martz could look at Vernon Davis' 2008 totals in San Francisco with Martz serving as primary play caller for most of the season.
Davis finished with 31 catches for 358 yards and two touchdowns.
He pulled in 52 passes (with four touchdowns) the year before. Last season, of course, Davis exploded with a 78-catch, 965-yard, 13-touchdown season.
The biggest difference between Davis and Olsen, of course, is that Davis is a willing and effective blocker. Olsen isn't.
Indeed, Chicago Sun-Times staffer Brad Biggs advised readers it's the opinion of multiple scouts that Olsen struggled to block when asked last year. Fantasy owners are going to want to watch Olsen's progress closely this off-season. ...
Another issue will be the use of Matt Forte.
According to Biggs, the popular phrase -- "or punch line" -- that the Bears get off the bus running has been tweaked.
"When I say get off the bus running the football, I mean that is a mindset," Smith said after Martz's arrival was announced. "The run will always be a part of what we're going to do. I mean Chicago, we play in the elements. That won't change.
"But there's nothing wrong with being able to run the football well and having balance to be able to pass the football. That's what I'm excited about. ... It's not just Mike that's coming in, it's Mike Tice and what he will bring to the table.
"We're looking for balance to be able to run and pass the ball."
Translated, Forte will not have 316 carries like he did as a rookie in 2008. And as Biggs suggested, Forte might not reach the 258 he had last season, especially if his performance (and the performance of the run-blocking) doesn't improve.
The misconception is that Martz doesn't run the football. His teams have run very well at times, and he has found dynamic ways to use running backs.
Marshall Faulk was a dual-purpose threat with the St. Louis Rams.
So what kind of player can Forte become in Martz's scheme?
As Biggs pointed out, Faulk caught more than 80 passes a season in Martz's system and had nine receiving touchdowns in 2001. While Forte isn't the same dynamic open-field runner that Faulk was, he is a polished pass-catcher and Cutler showed more confidence in him as the season went along.
Still, Forte, who had arthroscopic knee surgery last month, will have plenty to prove heading into the 2010 season.
Although he ran better toward the end of the season, Forte averaged just 3.6 yards per carry, down from his 3.9-yard average as a rookie. He finished with 929 rushing yards on 258 carries as the Bears ranked 29th in the league.
Forte ran for 1,238 yards on 316 carries as a rookie the year before. As a receiver, he had 57 catches for 471 yards in 2009 against 63 for 477 in his first season. ...
A few other related items of interest. ... The Bears hired Shane Day as their new quarterbacks coach. According to the Sun-Times, Day was handpicked by Martz.
Day was a quality control coach with the San Francisco 49ers the past three seasons, working with Martz in 2008. Day also worked with new Bears tight ends coach Mike DeBord at Michigan in 2005-06, serving as assistant quarterbacks and quality control coach.
In addition to Martz, Day and DeBord and Tice, the team's 2010 offensive staff will include holdovers Darryl Drake (wide receivers) and Tim Spencer (running backs). ...
The Bears decided not to seriously pursue Torry Holt last offseason. But Sun-Times staffer Neil Hayes believes that may change now that Martz is on board.
Holt and Martz enjoyed much success together in St. Louis and the veteran receiver might be able to help the Bears' young receiving corps learn the nuances of Martz's system.
According to the Florida Times-Union, the Jaguars are expected to release Holt in coming days.
As Hayes suggested, Holt, 33, may not be the player he was at the height of "The Greatest Show on Turf," but he caught 51 passes for 722 yards for the Jaguars last season, and could give a young group some veteran leadership. ...
And one last note. ... Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune pointed out last week if they really want to recreate "The Greatest Show on Turf" era, the Bears will need turf — specifically an infill playing surface at Soldier Field.
Pompei went on to note the Bears and the Chicago Park District have been open to the idea of replacing Soldier Field’s grass playing surface, and this could be the ideal time to make the change.
It would cost about $1.5 million to make the switch to an infill surface, better known by the brand name FieldTurf, and in the long run it would be considerably cheaper than regular re-soddings.