Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010
Posted: 8:20 p.m.
By John Mullin
A number of NFL quarterbacks -- Kurt Warner, Jon Kitna, maybe Jay Cutler -- have had the best years of their career with Mike Martz as their offensive coordinator.
For Detroit Lions quarterback Drew Stanton, announced as the starter Sunday vs. the Bears, the year with Martz sounds like just about his worst.
Before suffering a knee injury and going on IR before the season, Stanton labored (probably the word Stanton would choose as well) under Martz as a rookie in 2007 when Martz was Detroit's offensive coordinator. That Stanton is still in the NFL might be in spite of Martz rather than because of him, to hear Stanton tell it Wednesday to Tom Kowalski on MLive.com.
Martz reportedly changed Stanton's mechanics completely, frustrating both quarterback and coordinator
"That's behind me and I want to leave it back there," Stanton said, effectively damning with faint praise. "That was something that I had to go through and I grew up in the process. I'm stronger now because of it.
"Obviously with some of the stuff he was doing with my mechanics and what-not just wasn't natural for me."
Stanton isn't playing against Martz or a Martz scheme, which he pointed out. But as far as the Martz modifications that Stanton might have retained, Stanton was blunt: "Not a single one."
Pregame group hug, anyone? Probably not.
Martz hasn't left satisfied quarterbacks everywhere he's been but you'd also think Stanton might feel some level of appreciation. After all, Martz had a big hand in drafting him, second round, for a team headed by Rod Marinelli, a defensive coach, so Martz helped him to something of a payday.
And Martz isn't as negative toward Stanton as the kid is about him.
"Great competitor, smart guy," Martz said. "I know that he's a strong guy that when things break down, he can make plays with his feet. He did so in college; competitive. You watched him come back.
"The thing that impressed us in college was his ability to come back and make big plays to win big games. That's the job of a quarterback is to get that team in the end zone to win. He's got that about him. He's got that quality."
Not sure Mike Martz meant it this way, but comments the OC made Wednesday could be construed as citing himself as a chief reason why it has took about a half-season for the Bears to have a consistent stretch of quality offensive performances with Jay Cutler.
Cutler just put up the best single-game passer rating of his career, threw 4 TD passes without an interception, and was rewarded with an NFC offensive player of the week award. Martz, more than supportive ever since his hiring, gave his quarterback another pat on the head but did it in a fashion that ... well, you decide.
"When he is allowed to function, and do the discipline of what he does at that position, he has no idea how good he can really be," Martz said. "He's headed in that direction."
"When he is allowed to function." First blush sounds like a dig at the offensive line (coach Mike Tice?). But the offensive line has not been Cutler's biggest problem. Just musing here, but I'd put the offensive line at No. 3 behind Martz and Cutler himself as the ranking of things that have not allowed Cutler "to function."
As I noted in a previous entry here, at this point of 2009, Cutler had just thrown his third interception to a defensive lineman. Those were not the fault of Ron Turner or anyone else. If Cutler throws balls to giant men who are looking at him, no scheme or coordinator or offensive line is going to allow him to function. Period.
Or look at it this way:
Forget yardage totals for a moment. The 4-0 run in November is the first time the Bears have scored more than 21 points in three of four games with Cutler as their quarterback. Notably, the yardage totals bordered on the pedestrian: twice under 285 yards, and 360 and 349 in the other two.
The offense has had four straight games of 100-plus yards. That hadn't happened in the almost season-and-a-half behind Cutler.
The reality is that Martz stopped (since the off week when a change was made in game-planning input) asking a still-molten offensive line to do as many protections it can't execute. The group got Roberto Garza back at right guard, the line was allowed to smack defensive lines in the chops, and ...
Cutler was allowed to function. Indirectly, or directly for that matter, it is Martz who has truly allowed Cutler to function -- as a quarterback, not just as a passer.
Ironically in the last four games the sack totals have gone up from 1-2-3-4 beginning with Buffalo. But the caliber of defenses also has increased, and Philadelphia's four sacks were all in the first half.
One more thing ...
While it is easy to blame Martz for retarding the growth of Cutler the Quarterback in some respects, it should also be noted to Martz's supreme credit that he has adjusted and may quietly be doing one of the better coaching jobs of his career.
He doesn't have Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and the Turf Show in their primes, with an Orlando Pace in his prime and Adam Timmerman blocking for them. He's doing this with an offensive line that in fact has struggled through injuries and Nos. 1-2-3 wide receivers who began this season with on average 1.3 years of real experience, plus a tight end who wasn't sure if he fit with the new coordinator, and vice versa.
Martz arguably had to learn to accept what his players couldn't do rather than what they players could do. That's allowed them all, and him to function.
John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.