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Offensive Uprising
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Rossiter Drake*

Mike Martz is hoping to give offense-starved
49ers fans something to cheer about.


Even before you knew he was gone, the Mad Scientist is back.

Mike Martz, architect of the Greatest Show on Turf and the latest casualty of a Detroit assembly line that has produced just 31 wins during team president Matt Millen’s seven-year tenure, has been fired once again, this time for refusing to curb his pass-happy offense in favor of a more balanced attack. After watching his Lions score 346 points – the most they’ve scored in a decade – en route to a 7-9 finish, coach Rod Marinelli had seen enough.

Next up for Martz? Mike Nolan.

Yes, the 49ers are taking a chance on another former head coach with a reputation for offensive proficiency – Norv Turner, anyone? – and while you can criticize the man for stubbornly clinging to his game-plan even in the face of defeat, few can match Martz’s talent for putting points on the board. He’s in love with his system, maybe to a fault, but given the proper weapons, Martz will find his way to the end zone. Just ask Kurt Warner and Jon Kitna.

Does San Francisco possess those weapons? That’s the $64,000 question. Frank Gore, who suffered a broken right hand during the preseason and a twisted ankle against the Giants in Week 7, gained 1,538 all-purpose yards and scored six touchdowns this year, a far cry from the gaudy stats (2,180 yards, nine TDs) he posted in ’06. Even so, Martz will have little choice but to lean on his running back next season as he attempts to mold Alex Smith into the quarterback the Niners thought they were selecting with the first pick in the 2005 draft.

It won’t be easy. Smith, who regressed this season under then-offensive coordinator Jim Hostler, threw for 914 yards and two touchdowns before a season-ending shoulder injury strained his already tenuous relationship with Nolan. Martz will be charged with bringing Smith back into the fold and teaching him how to survive, and thrive, in the NFL. Whether it works is anyone’s guess – it has been 10 years since Martz mentored a young Trent Green as quarterbacks coach of the Washington Redskins. Since then, Martz has enjoyed success with veterans like Kitna and a heavily groomed upstart, Marc Bulger, who inherited an offense powered by Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce.

Smith will have no such luxuries. Unless the Niners improve his supporting cast during the offseason – not a bad idea, mind you – the former Utah Ute will again be passing to underperformers young (Vernon Davis) and not-so-young (Darrell Jackson), which can only mean a heavier workload for Gore. It also means that Martz will have his work cut out for him.

If history is any indication, the 49ers will enjoy some degree of offensive resurgence under Martz. He's more than willing to get creative in his dogged pursuit of red-zone glory, and as the cliche goes, desperate times call for desperate measures. Otherwise, why would Nolan have hired him in the first place?

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