Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler led the NFL in interceptions in 2009 with 26. New Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz might be the most aggressive play-caller in the league. How those two balance that risk-reward will be the key to the success of their relationship, said Martz's former star pupil, Kurt Warner.
The newly retired Arizona Cardinals quarterback, who won the NFL MVP and a Super Bowl in his first season running Martz's offense with the St. Louis Rams in 1999, wonders if the Bears have the talent to run the system dubbed "The Greatest Show On Turf."
"It's a high-risk, high-reward offense," Warner said Wednesday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "We had one year when we went to the Super Bowl when we led the league in turnovers. That's what comes with that offense, that high risk that can be a part of it. That's where you wonder. Do they have the pieces in place? Does it mesh early enough and quick enough where that risk doesn't outweigh the reward? I think that's going to be the real question."
The Bears are counting on Martz to develop Cutler into the franchise quarterback they thought they were getting when they traded for him in April. Count former Rams general manager Charlie Armey among those who believe a Martz-Cutler pairing is a mistake.
"I don't think Martz would work well with Jay Cutler at all," Armey told ESPN Chicago's Melissa Isaacson on Jan. 5. "He's a terrible ... coach, and he would ruin that kid like he ruined Kurt Warner and drove him out of St. Louis. He's the worst thing that could happen to any young quarterback."
Asked for his reaction to Armey's comments, Warner pointed to the results of his relationship with Martz, which included three straight seasons of scoring 500-plus points, an NFL record.
"I think you have to look at the big picture and how we played the game," Warner said. "The way Mike coached the game and the offense that we played was what I liked to do. Yeah, it subjects you sometimes to hits, but that's where I thrive is in doing those things.
"The other part of it is I think Mike was great at designing offenses with the people he had and the players. But what made us so great was we had great players as well. Mike had confidence in us, he put us in position to win but we had the players who could win. It was that combination that made us the Greatest Show On Turf."
After getting fired by the Rams during the 2005 season, Martz had moderate success as offensive coordinator with the Detroit Lions [2006-07] and struggled with the San Francisco 49ers in 2008. Warner believes his relationship with Bears coach Lovie Smith, who was Martz's defensive coordinator in St. Louis, will help make his run in Chicago more successful than his previous stops.
"He takes ownership of what he's doing. He's got a way that he likes to do it," Warner said of Martz. "I think most coaches have that but it gets hard when you've got somebody above them and want to do it their way. Head coaches always have to be responsible for everything. They've got to be the ones, if the risks are outweighing the rewards, to have to say we have to pull back. Those are the hard things, because I know Mike has a plan, and he's hard-headed and confident in what he brings to the table, and rightfully so.
"But that's where the questions always come in, are those personalities going to mesh? Lovie has a great personality, he's a strong coach, he believes in what he believes in, and they have a relationship from the past. That's where I think that relationship can work better than some other ones he's had up to this point."
Martz, who was an analyst on NFL Network this season, criticized Cutler early in the season for the Bears quarterback's body language, saying Cutler "doesn't get it." Does Warner agree with the assessment?
"Different guys play the game different ways," Warner said. "What I love about Jay is he's confident in his ability. He gets frustrated at times whether it be with his play or guys around him because he has a certain expectation. I think that's what it takes to be a great quarterback. I'm sure he's going to continue to learn how to play the position, how to take on the role of quarterback as he gets more mature in this league, but I like what he brings to the table."