Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL [Print without images]

Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Lovie Smith frustrated by Mike Martz talk

By Michael C. Wright
ESPNChicago.com

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz continued to express a desire to return to the team in 2012, while coach Lovie Smith became perturbed with more inquiries about his assistant's future.

Asked whether he planned to bring back Martz next season, Smith frustratingly asked a few questions of his own.

"What kind of a question is that, anyway, at this time?" Smith asked. "What kind of a question is that? Why would you ask a question like that any way?"

Martz's future with the team became a hot topic once speculation linked him to various college coaching jobs. Smith called the reports at the time "made up," and Martz attempted to defuse rumors that he wouldn't be back with the Bears in 2012.

Martz's potential departure became a significant distraction, according to a source.

"I've addressed that already, and obviously, I'd sure like to be back," said Martz, who is in the final year of his contract. "This is going to be a great football team and I'd like to be part of it. I like it here. Hopefully it works out, and I think it will."

With Martz making the calls, Chicago's offense ranks 20th overall (8th rushing and 26th passing). But Martz appeared to have the unit operating at a high level prior to starting quarterback Jay Cutler suffering a fractured thumb that ended his season.

Prior to the injury, the Bears were on a five-game winning streak in which they averaged 32.2 points per game.

Asked specifically about Martz's future back in November, Smith seemed to indicate a desire to bring back the offensive coordinator.

"I love our staff is what I'm gonna say," Smith told ESPNChicago.com. "I love our staff. I would never talk on anything except to say that."

Bears general manager Jerry Angelo also chose to tread carefully when asked about Martz's future. Just before the team's Dec. 11 loss at Denver, Angelo said "all that will be addressed at the end of the season. The business will take care of itself."

As for Martz, Smith wouldn't get into the type of role the team's injuries could play in determining the offensive coordinator for 2012.

Martz said "we were getting better every week" prior to Cutler's injury, and added that his offense has been flexible despite criticism to the contrary over the past two seasons.

Cutler has said he doesn't want to have to learn yet another offensive system in 2012.

Interestingly, the Bears advanced to the NFC title game last season, despite finishing 30th in offense (289.4 yards per game). Even with Cutler out the past five games, Matt Forte sidelined the last three, and a problematic receiving corps, the Bears currently rank 10 spots better (20th) than they finished in 2010.

"The offense changes every year because your personnel changes every year," Martz said. "So you take it in a different just a little bit every year based on who you have. This offense will never be static. We'll always be flexible enough to move it towards what we need to do to win."

Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.