Less than a dream job
Bears OC position not attracting top names, so look for Martz to step in
I'm not going to say coaching the Chicago Bears' offense is the worst job in sports. It's not the Oakland Raiders or the Buffalo Bills. It's not managing the Pittsburgh Pirates or Milton Bradley. It's not selling season tickets to a Sun Belt hockey team.
But if you're not young, desperate, underpaid or stuck in an assistant's job, it's not exactly a plum gig.
That's why I have a feeling that the Bears are going to wind up with Mike Martz, the unemployed mad scientist with Mommy Dearest tendencies.
Martz's passing schemes will undoubtedly be light-years ahead of the John Shoop experience and probably more fitting to Jay Cutler's skill set than Ron Turner's meat-and-potatoes offense. But there is no doubt this marriage will end badly, as Cutler and Martz will be feuding by Columbus Day, if not earlier. Martz doesn't suffer fools lightly, no matter how tight their spirals.
I don't know if Jeremy Bates can coordinate a sweater set, much less an NFL offense, but I liked the idea of bringing in a new mind, and we know he can work with Cutler.
But Bates probably is following Pete Carroll from USC to Seattle, disproving the notion that Carroll disliked the emotional young coach, and the Packers have stiff-armed the Bears' pursuit of their quarterback coach Clements.
So that leaves Martz and who else?
Kevin Gilbride? No thanks. Jim Zorn? I'd rather see him as Cutler's position coach. Tennessee coordinator Jim Chaney? Why would the Bears hire him, aside from his Rams connections? Falcons quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave? Matt Ryan has done well under him, but he's had mixed-to-poor reviews calling plays in the NFL.
With few experienced offensive coaches available, it's becoming clearer that this is Martz's gig, and there's no way around it. No one else wants to hire Martz, despite his pedigree, and the Bears are running out of qualified candidates.
And of course, there's the Lovie Factor.
Lovie Smith, general manager Jerry Angelo and team president Ted Phillips all said they were confident that Smith's pseudo-lame-duck status (he has two years remaining on his very handsome deal) wouldn't be a stumbling block when hiring assistant coaches, but really, what guy would make a lateral move with no security?
Sure, all coaches are vagabonds, but unless a coach felt that they could instantly improve their own standing in the coaching community, this job isn't going to attract the top candidates, even with Cutler at the helm. Maybe when the Bears finally clean house, but if I were a coach interested in working with the quarterback, I'd wait it out.
Martz, the man who hired Smith to coach his defense in St. Louis, is an interesting case, and he'll surely be fodder for more actual debate than any Bears assistant in recent memory, if only because the back-and-forth on Turner and Bob Babich has been almost completely negative.
While Martz was fired from his last three jobs, teams have been worse off without him. He is nothing if not controversial.
The Rams are 18-50 in the four full seasons since his departure. The Lions went 0-16 the season after he was axed as coordinator. His one-year stay in San Francisco was too short to really judge accurately.
Martz's system works, if the goal is improving passing numbers. But he's been harangued for a perceived lack of balance in his play calling, and the Bears have made it clear they're not looking for a one-dimensional offense.
When I spoke with Mike Ditka last week, he said the Bears need to focus on a set offensive philosophy before they hire an assistant, rather than morph Smith's beliefs into a coach's system. And Ditka, ever the traditionalist, thinks the Bears need to establish a balanced offense, which isn't exactly Martz's forte.
"You can't ask the line to drop back and protect every down," Ditka said. "It's too hard."
This is really an existential dilemma for the Bears' brain trust. With Smith basically on the clock, he needs to win now while also setting a foundation for years to come. After years in Shanahan's system, Cutler didn't look comfortable working in the confines of Turner's offense. He was skittish and gambled too often, throwing passes that had no target. The receivers gave up on routes, with inexperience and confusion abound.
Martz would clean up some of the mess with his dictatorial approach. But at the same time, his Rams teams were known for committing turnovers, 239 in six seasons, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com. The Bears had 34 turnovers this season, one less than Martz's best season in St. Louis. In fact, the only season the Rams had a positive turnover differential was in 2003, Smith's final year coaching the defense.
Let's be honest: I have an infinitesimal amount of knowledge on how to put together a football staff (though I'm sure some aggrieved fans would argue that would entitle me to a front office position under the McCaskeys), but I can't see this Martz relationship working out for the future.
Maybe I'm too pessimistic, but I don't see how the Bears can flourish now with a coach in an implicit win-or-else role backed up by an idiosyncratic assistant like Martz.
But all this is immaterial right now. The Bears have to find someone who is willing and available, and Martz is the guy.
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.
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