Former Lions coordinator Martz hired to run 49ers offense
Despite some initial resistance from ownership, San Francisco 49ers coach Mike Nolan has hired Mike Martz as his offensive coordinator.
Martz, offensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions for the past two years, agreed to a two-year deal with the 49ers. The reason for a two-year contract is that it coincides with the remaining length of Nolan's deal in San Francisco. The two coaches worked together when they were with the Washington Redskins.
Nolan interviewed former Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey late last week and was planning on visits from former Dolphins head coach Cam Cameron and former Ravens coach Brian Billick.
Martz visited Monday and was offered a contract Tuesday morning.
Martz has been on a rocky coaching road for the past three years, but he tormented the 49ers for six years during his greatest successes with their NFC West rival St. Louis Rams. Martz built the so-called Greatest Show on Turf over seven seasons, honing a remarkable passing game while the Rams reached two Super Bowls.
After the Lions fired him last week following two seasons as their offensive coordinator, Martz -- who coached alongside Nolan in Washington a decade ago -- jumped at the chance to resurrect the franchise that redefined offensive football in the 1980s under Bill Walsh.
"There are a lot of really outstanding pieces there that we just need to tie together," Martz said. "If we can do that, they're so well-established in special teams and on defense, I think the potential and the opportunity there is pretty exciting. It's not a challenge, it's an opportunity, and that's the part I enjoy."
Of course, Martz also inherits an undistinguished offensive line, a weak receiving corps and a burgeoning quarterback controversy. He didn't even blanche at taking a job with Nolan, whose job could be in jeopardy if the 49ers post a sixth straight losing season in 2008.
"You've got to remember, I've been on the hot seat, too," said Martz, who has been fired twice in just over two years. "I believe that I have such a great feel for who Mike is. ... In this league, it's a year-by-year proposition anyway."
Nothing frightened Martz about replacing Jim Hostler, who also was fired last week after the 49ers finished last in the NFL in points (219), total yards (3,797), yards passing (2,320), offensive touchdowns (23), first downs (218), sacks allowed (55) and third-down conversions (31.4 percent).
Martz, who got a two-year contract, is San Francisco's sixth offensive coordinator in six years. The 49ers didn't disclose Martz's salary, but he would have made $2 million in Detroit next season -- and that's more than the 49ers pay Nolan, who has two years left on a five-year, $8 million deal.
While making his name in St. Louis, Martz became known for a confidence that often borders on arrogance -- a quality that's also been cited in Nolan.
"There's no one more creative, as far as using personnel that allows us to be productive on offense," Nolan said. "He's got one of the best minds in all of football. ... Mike was about as excited as I've seen him, and certainly excited about a lot of our players."
Nolan and Martz were together on the Redskins' coaching staff from 1997-98, with Martz coaching the quarterbacks while Nolan was the defensive coordinator.
It's difficult to tell how Martz's style will mesh with the 49ers, whose only reliable offensive skill has been Gore's rushing. The Lions finished 32nd and 31st in the NFL in yards rushing while Martz concentrated on his inventive passing attacks -- but Martz said he didn't have a player like Gore, who compares favorably to former MVP Faulk.
"I think you can put him as the centerpiece and build around that," Martz said. "Frank is a little bit bigger, more physical, but he has the receiving skills, he's an unselfish pass-blocker, and he's really a complete player that really shouldn't come out of the game. That's hard to find in this league anymore."
The 49ers have perhaps the NFL's least impressive collection of receivers, with starters Darrell Jackson and Arnaz Battle backed up by Ashley Lelie and rookie Jason Hill. Tight ends Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker often were underutilized.
And while Alex Smith heals his rift with Nolan over the treatment of the quarterback's shoulder injury, he'll also have to adjust to his fourth new offensive scheme in four NFL seasons -- if he even wins the starting job. The 49ers hope to re-sign former third-stringer Shaun Hill, who led the 49ers to victories in his first two NFL starts last month.
"There's great potential there," Martz said. "They're both accurate, and I think Alex, watching him through the year, is very impressive."
Nolan will fill the rest of his coaching staff with input from Martz, but the 49ers announced on Tuesday night that running backs coach Bishop Harris and offensive assistant/offensive line coach Mark Nori have been dismissed.
"These are very difficult decisions that impact the lives of coaches and their families. But after meeting with all our coaches, I determined that it was necessary to make these changes," Nolan said in a statement.
Martz seems inclined to keep receivers coach Jerry Sullivan and offensive line coach George Warhop, praising both veteran coaches Tuesday.
Ted Tollner, the veteran coach who came on late in the season to aid Hostler, also will return to the 49ers in some capacity.
Information from ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton and The Associated Press was used in this report.
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