Chicago Bears: Mike Martz
Balls thudded to the grass. Quarterbacks and receivers seemed out of synch sometimes. The defense feasted on interceptions.
Chicago Bears at organized team activities and minicamp. Fortunately for the team, the offseason is the time for such miscues. However, once the team hits the field for training camp in Bourbonnais, the margin for error starts to shrink significantly.
So as the team prepares for its 12th training camp trek to Olivet Nazarene University, one burning question seems to be whether the Bears can absorb the new system of Marc Trestman and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer sufficiently enough to operate productively once the Sept. 8 opener rolls around against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Recent history indicates the Bears will be up to the challenge.
Last season, when the Bears switched from the offense of Mike Martz to the system of Mike Tice, quarterback Jay Cutler completed only 1 of his first 10 passes in the season opener before catching fire and hitting 11 of his next 12 throws. The Bears stomped the Colts 41-21 in last year's opener with Cutler completing 21 of 35 for 333 yards and two touchdowns. The Bears started the fourth quarter with a 34-14 lead.
When the Bears transitioned into Martz's system from the offense utilized by former coordinator Ron Turner in 2010, Cutler threw for 372 yards and two TDs -- including a 28-yard pass to Matt Forte with 1:32 left to play -- as the club defeated the Detroit Lions 19-14.
So the move to Trestman's precision and timing-based West Coast scheme should come with relatively few hiccups. In fact, it wouldn't be much of a stretch to expect the Bears to put forth one of their best performances offensively in a season opener in recent history in 2013, given Trestman's reputation for attacking defenses, his ability to groom quarterbacks, and the fact the team is stocked with successful veteran players at most of the key positions.
Feelings about Cutler: My feelings about Jay certainly have not changed. Obviously like I said, before he got injured, he was really playing at a high level. I was very pleased with him. I think he'll pick up where he left off. I think he'll have a terrific year.
Working now as an analyst for Fox, Martz -- who worked with Webb over the last two seasons -- was asked Friday to evaluate the third-year left tackle.
"It just remains to be seen," Martz told "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "I think at times, he was outstanding. He's just on that rollercoaster as young players over there can be. As soon as you line up a young tackle over there, they're gonna test him out, and he'll have his successes. Then, he'll have some times where he struggles a little bit."
That certainly seemed to be the case for Webb last season, as he led the NFL with 15 offensive penalties, resulting in eight drives stalling.
The struggles continued into the 2012 preseason opener against the Denver Broncos. After Webb's performance in that outing, new offensive coordinator Mike Tice referred to the tackle as "the other player" and revealed plans to give Chris Williams -- who is also competing for the starting job at left tackle -- more repetitions Saturday against the Washington Redskins.
Tice mentioned that Webb's performance in the exhibition opener wasn't "up to par as far as the standards we're trying to set to protect our quarterbacks."
That is concerning, considering the team's increased focus on protecting Jay Cutler, who has been sacked 75 times over the past two seasons.
"I think confidence at the outside position is paramount to everything," Martz said. "(Webb) certainly has ability. But the confidence is such a big issue. As he gets more confident, he'll get a lot better."
“Oh no, I wouldn’t have come back (if the offense remained the same as 2011),” Davis said. “That’s without question. I couldn’t go through another season with like 20 catches. That’s not doable. This is home for me. I love my teammates, the team and the coaches. But still it comes down to me and my career and what I want to do with that. So (by the Bears) changing the OC (offensive coordinator), I thought I had a good opportunity here.”
Twenty grabs actually would signify an improvement for Davis, who has 28 career receptions for 300 yards and nine touchdowns, including a career-high 18 catches in 2011 for 206 yards. In two seasons working with Martz, Davis amassed just 19 catches in an offense that treated the tight end position as somewhat of an afterthought.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Chicago Bears wide receivers coach Darryl Drake thinks the club's last offensive scheme ignored Devin Hester, which resulted in the wideout posting his lowest receiving numbers since 2007.
Drake said he expects Hester to surpass the 26 catches for 369 yards he totaled in 2011 this upcoming season.
"If he stays healthy, I hope so," Drake said. "If he doesn't have more then we failed him. But I'm sure he'll have more than 26 [receptions]. Only time he had 26 was when? Last year. We didn't throw it to him. Who's fault was that? Wasn't his. Wasn't mine."
Hester's productivity at wide receiver took a sharp hit after Mike Martz was hired as Chicago's offensive coordinator prior to the 2010 season. Hester went from hauling in at least 50 passes in 2008 (51) and 2009 (57), to catching just 40 balls in Martz's first year on the job followed by the meager 26 receptions last season, after which Martz was dimissed.
"When you've got a great player, you've got to feed him," Drake said. "If Michael Jordan didn't touch the ball he'd have problems, you know because he would demand it. You've got to get him the ball, and you've got to feed him. And he's getting the ball, and he's feeling good about things right now."
The Bears began the offseason by promising to create a special package of plays for Hester in an effort to maximize the speedsters strengths and get him more involved in the offense. According to Drake, Hester responded to the increased role and in the estimation of the receivers coach, has been the most improved receiver since the end of last season.
"In every way possible...route running, everything, you just see it in everything he does right now," Drake said. "He understands it. I mean, it's bam, that's what you're seeing. If you watched practice today, how many times did he get covered? That's the difference. I think he's probably the most improved, in my opinion, but when it comes to Devin, I'm kind of prejudice, you guys know that. But I just see a lot of improvement in a lot of areas. He's no longer worrying about being the guy, you know, he's just playing."
Hester and Brandon Marshall lined up as the top two receivers during the Bears first training camp practice on Thursday.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- By simply stating his main goal for the 2012 NFL season on Wednesday at training camp, Chicago Bears receiver Devin Hester might have revealed a little more about the team’s upcoming plans for him in the new offense under Mike Tice.
“My biggest thing is when I catch the ball, (I want to) accelerate and make guys miss,” Hester said. “That’s my biggest goal this year: when I get my hands on the ball I want to just explode out and I want to make two or three guys miss before I go down. If it’s only two out there, then I want to score.”
Although the remarks come off as somewhat standard football speak, from this vantage point, it seems a major component of the Hester package the staff continuously lauds will involve him catching the ball on short routes in space where he can use his blinding speed and athleticism to make defenders miss for large chunks of yardage.
That’s not to say the Bears don’t plan on throwing deep to Hester.
After all, Tice said in June “we can’t be afraid to throw the ball down the field against single coverage.”
Which brings up an interesting dichotomy. Smith, of course, is the coach who for years described his team as one that "gets off the bus running." He appeared to change course in 2010 by hiring pass-happy offensive coordinator Mike Martz, but for two years he and Martz played tug-of-war over the Bears' schematic focus. Martz is now retired, replaced by former offensive line coach Mike Tice -- who once famously referred to Chicago as a "tough guy town" that required a power running game to succeed -- and the Bears appear headed for another offensive re-set.
So here's the question: How much will the Bears pull back on their passing attack to satisfy Smith's philosophical requirements in the running game? The Bears' offseason moves to this point don't give us a clear idea, so the owners meetings seemed like a good time to ask Smith directly.
Yes, the Bears acquired Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall, giving quarterback Jay Cutler the first true downfield threat of his Bears tenure. But they also guaranteed $7 million to their new backup tailback. New general manager Phil Emery would not have allocated the resources it took to sign Michael Bush if he weren't confident that Smith needed two high-quality running backs (along with starter Matt Forte) for his offense.
He didn't say it in so many words last week, but it seems clear that Smith wants to open the 2012 season with the compromise he eventually worked out with Martz in each of the past two seasons. In 2011, in fact, it led to almost a 50-50 pass-run ratio that corresponded with a five-game winning streak.
"During the course of the season," Smith said, "our offense had a different look from time to time. When we leaned on the run, we could move the ball as well as anyone. … As far as how much different it will look, I think we'll just see consistently what we want to be, a little more than occasionally. More that as much as anything."
You might remember that the Bears threw on a higher percentage of their plays last September than any team in the NFL. Smith and Tice eventually persuaded Martz to balance his play-calling, and as the chart shows, the Bears didn't throw more than 32 passes in any game during that winning streak. But they also didn't tilt too far toward the run, with the exception of a windy Week 10 blowout of the Detroit Lions.
If I had to guess what the Bears will try to accomplish this season, that five-game window is the snapshot. If anything, Smith wants to maintain the course correction that Martz accepted only in fits and starts over the past two years. Tice has a professed love for the power running game, and Smith said simply: "Our philosophies mesh."
That's about as close as you're going to get to hearing Smith say he plans to do something differently. I don't mind saying I was in favor of Smith's initial decision to hire Martz, mostly because the Bears weren't in a position to make a gradual shift to an untested offensive coordinator or scheme. I just thought Smith would achieve better and more consistent oversight than he did.
That shouldn't be a problem with Tice, who is as strong-willed as Martz but more likely to push in Smith's direction.
The Bears are competing in a division that features two of the most explosive passing offenses in the NFL, the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions. I'm not sure whether the Bears will be able to compete throw for throw with either team, but I'm positive they don't want to. What the Bears hope to achieve is the NFC North's most balanced offense. They are well on their way.
But will the 60-year-old coach really retire? Our Four Downs panel weighs in on that and more:
Fact or Fiction: Mike Martz will never coach again in the NFL.
Jeff Dickerson: Fact. This is not a voluntary retirement. Martz certainly did not sound like a coach who wanted to call it a career after the 2011 season. In fact, his name continued to pop up in connection with college and NFL jobs up until last week. But let's face it, Martz's best days are behind him. Nobody can take away the success he had in St. Louis as offensive coordinator and head coach, but the Mike Martz system did not work in Chicago, and he proved incapable of adapting. His total disregard of the tight end position in the passing game seems out of touch with the current landscape in the league. Still, Martz will be remembered as a brilliant offensive mind who helped guide the Rams to two Super Bowl appearances and one championship during his time there. It's just too bad we never saw that Martz in Chicago.
Michael C. Wright: Fact. Interestingly, Bears coach Lovie Smith receives tons of criticism for his defense being supposedly outdated (although there are still successful teams running very similar schemes). But it’s Martz’s system that seems to be outdated. The Greatest-Show-on-Turf days passed Martz by a long time ago, and he never exercised the flexibility to make that pass-happy scheme jibe with the talent on the roster. In my mind, Martz has committed one of the cardinal sins of today’s NFL, and that’s placing importance on the scheme over the players executing it. That approach just doesn’t work in today’s NFL, and is part of the reason Martz’s name hadn’t come up for any potential openings prior to him announcing his retirement. Had Martz demonstrated a desire to be more flexible with his scheme when he met with Smith, I’m almost certain he’d still be with the Bears today.
Melissa Isaacson: Fact. Otherwise, we’re calling him a liar, right? I suppose if the right offer from the right team comes along, Martz, like anyone, could be convinced to go back on his word that the Bears offensive coordinator position is his last job. Football coaches don’t tend to retire easily. But making it easier for Martz is that he isn’t likely to be offered a head-coaching position again, and even he seems to realize that his best coordinating days may have passed him by.
Jon Greenberg: Fact. I just don’t see who would hire him. He has very few allies and no coaching tree fraternity. He’s not that old either. But he refused to change. Good coaches grow and evolve with the time, but Martz was adamant that his system was the best, and the only way he would work. His offense does work, but his rigidity just doesn’t fly in the NFL. We groused a lot about Martz, but before his injury, you could see Cutler was pretty comfortable in the offense, sideline expletives notwithstanding.
Fact or Fiction: There is a large gap between the Bears and the eight NFL teams in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.
Jeff Dickerson: Fact. Sorry, but it all comes down to offense, or a lack thereof right now with the Bears. Even defensive- and special teams-minded San Francisco was able to outscore the high-powered Saints offense because of dynamic tight end Vernon Davis. The Bears had Kellen Davis, not Vernon, on the roster this season. Sure, the Giants can run the ball with Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, but New York also has serious threats in the passing game with Hakeen Nicks and Victor Cruz. In fact, Mario Manningham would look pretty good in a Bears uniform next season, and he's the Giants' third option at receiver. The Bears already lost in the regular season to Green Bay (twice), New Orleans and Denver, albeit an argument could be made the Bears might be better than the Broncos. The Texans also appear to be a more complete team than the Bears, and New England is head and shoulders better than Lovie Smith's crew. But the good news is the Bears have an opportunity to make the necessary upgrades in the offseason, but much work needs to be done to bridge the gap.
Michael C. Wright: Fiction. Absolutely not. The Bears defeated Atlanta and Detroit in the regular season and took the Broncos to the wire on the road with a backup quarterback and a running back that somehow lost all common sense in the clutch. I’ll buy that a talent gap exists between the Bears and most of those teams, but I’m not quite ready to call it a large one. Because of the team’s disappointing finish, it’s easy to lose sight of its 7-3 start. What this season has taught everyone more than anything is that the Bears need depth and youth in a few spots, a weapon or two for quarterback Jay Cutler, and a legitimate backup for him. But this team isn’t far off from being where it needs to be, and I sense ownership is committed to doing what’s necessary to make that happen.
Melissa Isaacson Fiction. Obviously it depends on which playoff team we’re talking about and which Bears team we’re talking about. But if we’re referring to the worst of the playoff bunch -- Denver -- and the Bears as they looked before Jay Cutler’s injury, then no, they’re not far off at all. This should not, however, be interpreted as a vote of confidence for a Bears team as currently constructed. Gaping holes, which still includes the front office, will need to be filled before even a smaller gap can be closed at all.
Jon Greenberg: Fiction. The Bears were right there after week 11. But great organizations can overcome injuries, and the Bears couldn’t do that. Still, how many teams can survive six games without their starting quarterback? Quick, name New Orleans’ backup? I had to look it up. It’s Chase Daniel. The Bears have their fair share of depth issues, but if Cutler had played the last six games, the Bears would have made the playoffs.
Fact or Fiction: Ex-Bucs OC Greg Olson would be a good choice for Bears quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator.
Jeff Dickerson: Fact. The Bears would be wise to continue interviewing candidates once the coaching staff returns from vacation, but Olson represents a solid upgrade over what the Bears had at that position the past few years. Olson, the former offensive coordinator for Detroit, St. Louis and Tampa, brings an impressive amount of experience to the table, plus a track record of installing easy-to-understand and easy-to-install passing game concepts. The shakeup Tuesday in Indianapolis might give the Bears an expanded pool of candidates to choose from, but Olson is without doubt a qualified contender to fill the vacancy.
Michael C. Wright: Fact. But is a “good choice” the best choice? That’s the question the Bears need to answer in making a decision on that position should recently-promoted offensive coordinator Mike Tice remain with the team after his interview with the Oakland Raiders. Olson definitely built a track record of success on the collegiate level, where he worked with Saints quarterback Drew Brees at Purdue, and in the NFL, with multiple teams. Olson directed an offense the last three years for a Tampa Bay team which fielded one of the youngest rosters in the league, and was led by standouts such as quarterback Josh Freeman, receivers Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn and running back LaGarrette Blount. So undoubtedly, Olson would be a good choice for this team. Bears receiver Roy Williams worked with Olson in Detroit and called him a “great teacher.”
Melissa Isaacson: Fact. OK, sure. Olson has some decent credentials, having developed Brees at Purdue and Freeman in Tampa Bay, and he would be helpful in working with the Bears backup, whomever ends up in that role. But frankly, based on the track record of Bears quarterback coaches, it doesn’t seem to matter who they hire as long as he can get play calls in on time and generally stay out of the way of Cutler.
Jon Greenberg: Fact. Cutler and Olsen got along well early in their shared Bears career … Oh wait, this is the other guy. Yeah sure. He sounds great. The Buccaneers had a pretty efficient offense in 2010, judging by Football Outsiders’ numbers, but were subpar in 2009 and 2011, which spans his three-year reign as offensive coordinator there. Really, it doesn’t matter about the numbers or what scouts say about him. It’s all about his relationship with Cutler. Is he a guy who speaks Jay’s language? Do the Bears know how to work for their quarterback? These are big questions.
Fact or Fiction: The Bears were wrong to prevent Jon Hoke from interviewing for the Minnesota Vikings' defensive coordinator position.
Jeff Dickerson: Fact. Hoke will probably get over it. He seems to enjoy coaching in Chicago, has a family that has begun to put down roots in the area, and will more than likely get a nice pay bump out of the whole deal. But the concept of preventing a coach from potentially advancing up the ranks is unsettling. I realize Minnesota is a division rival, but to deny somebody the chance to interview for a better job seems unfair. The NFL needs to look into changing that rule in the future.
Michael C. Wright: Fact. And I’m only saying this is fact because the team’s decision to prevent Hoke from interviewing totally defies what Smith said in his season-ending press conference. Smith said that “every coach on our staff … you would like to see them take another step. Hopefully we’ll have guys on our staff get an opportunity to move up, whether that’s assistant coaches moving into coordinator roles.” Well, that’s exactly what Hoke was attempting to do by interviewing with the Vikings. Now on the flip side of that, it’s certainly understandable for the organization to prevent a coach from joining a divisional rival. There are just too many trade secrets Hoke could give up to the Vikings that would put the Bears at a competitive disadvantage. I’m a little on the fence about this one. But ultimately, a man’s word is his word. Smith said he wanted to see his assistant coaches move up the coaching ladder, and that’s not what the team is doing by stopping Hoke from interviewing elsewhere, division rival or not.
Melissa Isaacson: Fiction. Morally wrong or ethically wrong? Obviously you don’t want to help a division rival in any way, but Smith has always preached that he wants the best for his staff and whoever made the decision not to let Hoke interview for a better job in Minnesota was not exactly making Halas Hall look like a swell place to work. This is particularly the case now that they have denied staff members a chance at career advancement for the second year in a row after telling the Titans they could not interview Tice. Bottom line, however, is that Hoke is still under contract and the Bears have every right to hold him to it.
Jon Greenberg: Fiction. Let’s not pretend the NFL is the real world. It’s a secretive and gossipy, congenial and cutthroat. As a scout told me the other day, to succeed in the NFL, you have to be a different breed. And most front offices are so wary about their secrets spilling out, they don’t let coaches go to rivals when they can help it. And since Hoke is under contract, it’s no surprise the Bears blocked him from a promotion in Minnesota. It’s sad, sure, but it’s not unfair given the law of the jungle.
Former Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz resigned his post with the team on Jan. 3, and is now retiring from the coaching profession, according to a report by the NFL Network.
A 20-year NFL coaching veteran, Martz -- who also served as head coach of the St. Louis Rams -- directed Chicago’s offense to a pair of mediocre seasons in which it ranked 24th in total offense in 2011 and 30th in 2010, culminating in the coach leaving the Bears over what team president Ted Phillips called “philosophical differences.”Read the full story.
There was once a time when the Bears' tight end position averaged roughly 87 catches and 883 receiving yards over a span of three years.
It was 2007-2009.
Olsen, Chicago's 2007 first-round draft choice, saw his receptions steadily rise under former offensive coordinator Ron Turner, going from 39 as a rookie to 54 in 2008 then a team-high 60 in 2009. Clark, the ninth all-team leading receiver in team history, suffered through an injured-plagued 2009 campaign, but was still considered an effective option for the Bears in the passing game -- the veteran averaged 43 catches and 513 yards the prior three seasons (2006-2008).
So with Olsen and Clark firmly in the mix, the Bears could finally consider tight end a strength of the offense moving forward.
Then Mike Martz was hired as the team's offensive coordinator on Feb. 1, 2010.
It was like the day the music died.
Here is a quick run-down of what happened at tight end the next two years:
Martz pushed for the Bears to sign Brandon Manumaleuna, who caught five passes for 43 yards and a touchdown in 2010. He was cut after failing his physical in July 2011.
Clark had his role reduced to the point that he dressed for a mere five regular-season games in 2010. He was brought back as a free agent the following year then suffered a minor injury and was released prior to the beginning of the regular season. The team instead opted to keep undrafted rookie free agent Kyle Adams, who eventually landed on injured reserve.
Olsen's production declined dramatically in 2010 – his receptions dipped from 60 the year prior to Martz's arrival to 41 in the new offense. Olsen was then traded to Carolina for a third-round pick prior to the 2011 season.
The Bears signed another blocking tight end in Matt Spaeth to replace Manumaleuna. Spaeth had seven catches in 2011.
The end result of Martz's vision: a combined 25 catches for 256 yards from Kellen Davis and Spaeth in 2011.
While Martz and the Bears succeeded in turning the tight end spot into a complete nonfactor on offense, others around the NFL took a much different approach to the position. Coincidently, or maybe not, several of those teams qualified for the divisional round of the postseason, where they continued to feature their tight ends and use them as vertical threats down the field.
It should be noted Martz, oddly enough a former tight end himself at Fresno State, worked with Davis in 2008 while offensive coordinator of the 49ers. Predictably, Davis languished in Martz’s system, catching a mere 31 balls for 358 yards a pair of touchdowns.
However, once San Francisco fired Martz, Davis exploded the following year and posted a career-best 78 receptions for 965 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Coincidence? Hardly. Just another example of how Martz selfishly and stubbornly chooses his "system" instead of properly evaluating the talent on his roster and coaching to their strengths, not his own.
Now comes the question of how the Bears are going to salvage the neglected tight end position. Obviously, getting rid of Martz and elevating Mike Tice was the first step, but are the Bears in need of a serious personnel upgrade?
Maybe not, according to Bears head coach Lovie Smith.
"We have an excellent tight end," Smith said at his end of the year press conference. "We brought Matt Spaeth here to primarily be a blocker for us and he filled that role well. Kellen Davis can do anything the good tight ends in this league can do. As a catcher if we focus in on him, we can make him more of a guy that people are talking about just based on throwing him the ball more. So I think we have an excellent tight end with good speed, size. I think we had a combination of as good a tight end, the makings of, as anyone around in Kellen."
Sounds as if Smith expects a Vernon Davis-type leap from Kellen Davis, an unrestricted free agent, in 2012.
While it's an interesting premise laid out by Smith, just remember, Vernon Davis is a former first-round pick (No. 6 overall in 2006) with first-round talent.
Kellen Davis went in the fifth round. Some would argue for good reason.
Read the entire story.
Read the entire story.