Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Singletary wants to go in 'different direction'
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Mike Martz, the headstrong coach who took St. Louis to the 2002 Super Bowl, was fired Tuesday after one season as the San Francisco 49ers' offensive coordinator.
San Francisco coach Mike Singletary announced Martz's third firing in less than three calendar years following an afternoon meeting with the veteran offensive mastermind.
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This parting had long been expected, and it wasn't nearly as acrimonious as Martz's last two dismissals in St. Louis and Detroit. Singletary and Martz worked together fairly well for nine games after Singletary's midseason promotion, but the two men clearly have different philosophies of offense.
"I wish him nothing but the best," Martz said of Singletary, adding that the Hall of Fame linebacker will be "an outstanding head coach."
"I am not what he is looking for offensively," Martz said. "I understand that. This is just a part of professional sports."
Martz's dismissal means the 49ers are looking for their seventh offensive coordinator in seven years -- but at least Martz left something on which the new coach can build.
San Francisco's offense was the NFL's lowest-ranked in two of the previous three seasons, but Martz raised the group to competence -- although Singletary's decision to promote quarterback Shaun Hill past J.T. O'Sullivan was a major factor as well.
Singletary, who famously played for the Chicago Bears under Mike Ditka, wants the 49ers to run more of a ground-based, smash-mouth offense instead of Martz's sophisticated passing schemes. San Francisco general manager Scot McCloughan shares Singletary's beliefs, and Martz apparently never developed a relationship with McCloughan during his year in town.
"After an evaluation period, I felt it was best to go in a different direction," Singletary said. "This was not an easy decision because I appreciate Mike Martz, and I enjoyed working with him. He is a true professional, and I wish him the best in the future. I do recognize the need for a long-term solution on the offensive side of the ball."
The 49ers scored 339 points this season after managing just 219 last year, also racking up nearly 74 more offensive yards per game. San Francisco's 35 turnovers were nearly the same number as last season, and Martz's quarterbacks were sacked 55 times, a frequent flaw in his offenses.
Martz chose O'Sullivan, a veteran backup on his eighth NFL team, as his starting quarterback under head coach Mike Nolan at the start of the season. Singletary benched the turnover-prone O'Sullivan midway through his first game as head coach, and Hill led the 49ers to five wins in their final seven games for a 7-9 finish -- matching their best record since they last made the playoffs after the 2002 season.
Although Martz has a reputation as a pass-happy play-caller, he also got a third consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season out of running back Frank Gore, who praised Martz on Sunday. Isaac Bruce, the longtime Rams receiver who signed with the 49ers in part because of his old coach's presence, had 835 yards receiving, the most by any 49ers receiver since Terrell Owens in 2003.
The 57-year-old Martz coached the Rams from 2000-2005, taking a medical leave after five games in his final season because of heart problems.
He led the Rams to the 2002 Super Bowl after being the offensive coordinator of the St. Louis team that won the 2000 title with the "Greatest Show on Turf."
It featured Kurt Warner at quarterback, Marshall Faulk at running back, and Bruce and Torry Holt in a high-scoring offense that averaged almost 33 points a game in 1999 and 31 points two years later.
Martz was the offensive coordinator of the Lions in 2006-2007, but was fired as the scapegoat for Detroit's late-season collapse last year.