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
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.
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
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?