Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Thursday, November 09, 2006

It's the Mike Martz show!

With our very special guest, Rod Marinelli! YAY! [cue music]

Is it better to have hired, giving your team a great offense for only one season, than to not have hired at all and still struggle to score points?

That could be the question facing the Detroit Lions after this season (and maybe through the rest of their remaining schedule) with rumor smoke signals floating near offensive coordinator Mike Martz. On NFL Network (which I now have, thank you very much - my skin is glowing as I've joined the 21st century), Adam Schefter reported that Arizona will very likely pursue Martz to replace Dennis Green as its new head coach.

And with the Cardinals' stockpile of offensive talent, they'd seem to be an excellent fit for Martz. Unless he either isn't interested in taking another head-coaching job right now or just doesn't want to work for Bill Bidwell.

But MLive.com's Tom Kowalski thinks the Lions shouldn't even take that chance. Pay the man now, says the Killer. Hold onto the Wizard of Woodward by any means necessary. (Okay, Ford Field is technically on Brush St. But it's near Woodward. And I couldn't think of any "wizard" or "genius" synonyms that began with the letter "b.") This team's development is at too fragile a stage to risk losing the man who's finally been able to make use of the offensive players Matt Millen has acquired. Replacing him with a protege such as Wilbur Montgomery (who'd likely follow Martz out of town, anyway) wouldn't be a viable option.

But how far do you go to keep the man? Kowalski advocates paying Martz a higher salary than the head coach, if that's what it takes. And even if Marinelli says that would be okay with him (what else is he supposed to say?), there can't possibly be another NFL team that has such a dynamic within its coaching staff. The closest I can think of, off the top of my head, is Washington, where Gregg Williams and Al Saunders make head coach money. But I don't think either of them are paid more than Joe Gibbs.

Big Al already said it: No way that would work. And it's pretty much ludicrous to even suggest that it could. But he also raises another interesting question: Who's had more of an impact on the Lions' fortunes this season? Even with only two victories, Detroit has been competitive in almost of its games, and that's due to Martz's offense.

But now we're getting into territory where answers are difficult to grasp. Not to underestimate the job Martz has done, but is it easier to turn around an offense? Sure, it all has to work in sync, but if you have the right trigger man - and Jon Kitna sure looks like that guy - can things click pretty fast? (You could also argue that Martz's offense just makes quarterbacks look good. Both Jamie Martin and Ryan Fitzpatrick put up good numbers under center in St. Louis last season.)

Compare that to a defense, where you're not just instituting a system, but a mindset. One of the problems that Marinelli and the defensive coaches have harped on is the players' reluctance to trust the scheme. It's been difficult to fight tendencies and break old habits, but if everyone does what he's supposed to do and maintains an assignment, the system works. You saw that against Atlanta. But it's also a question of making the defense tougher - putting them in attack mode, rather than reacting to the opposing offense. I know virtually nothing about coaching football, but that has to be a more difficult task.

Project that out further to overseeing an entire football team and coaching staff. Big Al also asked why Martz wasn't just hired as the head coach, if the Lions think so highly of him. But maybe he's a guy who's simply better at focusing on one side of the ball and teaching his players how to score touchdowns (or in Roy Williams' case, how to beat double-team coverage). Ultimately, maybe he's not suited for looking at the entire picture, as a head coach has to.

Of course, we don't know if Sgt. Marinelli is that kind of guy either. But we've already seen Martz essentially burn out in St. Louis, while building a one-dimensional team. I'd hate to see Martz leave after just one season; he was their biggest off-season move and has done exactly what everyone hoped he would. But taking another job was an understood risk the minute he was hired.

It's still too soon to say for certain, but I'll take my chances with Marinelli. Look around the NFL at the teams that are winning right now, and look at their head coaches. Doesn't Marinelli look more like one of those guys than Martz does?

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  • At November 09, 2006 4:05 PM, Blogger Big Al said…

    To steal a line from Rosanne Rosannadanna, it's always something with the Leos. If it's not the Big Mike Williams drama in the news, it's Shawn Rogers getting suspended, or Mike Martz's future, or cutting/signing another wide receiver, or another player getting injured. Our Lions talk is about anything other than their actually winning games.

    It sure would be nice to write about how well the Lions are playing rather than all of their extra curriculars.

  • At November 09, 2006 4:33 PM, Blogger SkoneyHillProductions said…

    While I agree with Big Al, what we all have to realize is the Lions and success happen as frequently as Halle's Comet. So hunker down for another thirty years or so and when Super Bowl LXXI is played, look for the Honolulu and Blue to be there!

  • At November 09, 2006 4:51 PM, Anonymous Evan said…

    The Lions' success does not RELY on Mike Martz, but it seems to rely on the Sarge. Martz brings knowledge, play calling, and a freakish ability to teach any quarterback on earth how to be better than average.

    But Marinelli brings the discipline, the consistency, the win-or-die-trying attitude, and the demeanor that prompted Cory Redding to say that he wanted to be like Marinelli "when he grows up." Players just don't say that kind of thing about anyone.

    I hope Martz sticks around because I think the young guys are still fragile enough where his leaving could cause problems on offense. But on the whole, I agree with you, Ian: If I had to pick one at this point, I'd pick the Sarge.

  • At November 20, 2006 3:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    A great place to find out everything about MICHIGAN AND DETROIT


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