Martz's risky scheme just airheaded
Martz's risky scheme just airheaded
by mike mulligan
The Bears don't have a quarterback controversy, not with Jay Cutler back under center. But they might have an honest-to-God coordinator controversy after Cutler was knocked flat on his back six times in his first game back after missing a game and a half with a concussion.
It didn't help that the Bears lost 23-20 on Sunday to the Seattle Seahawks, but that fact is nearly irrelevant to the real story here: Offensive coordinator Mike Martz is so obstinate and defiant, he's putting Cutler -- and the Bears' season -- at too much risk and must be stopped.
Cutler has been sacked 15 times in six quarters, and Martz's response is to throw the ball more.
Martz went from throwing the ball 74 percent of the time (seven runs, 20 pass plays) against the New York Giants -- before Cutler was knocked out with a concussion after a league-record nine sacks in a half -- to throwing it 76.3 percent (14 runs, 45 pass plays) against the Seahawks. And don't forget that two of those runs were scrambles by Cutler after pass plays broke down.
That means the Bears attempted to pass 79.7 percent of the time despite playing behind a makeshift offensive line with only Olin Kreutz in the same position he was in on opening day. Pure madness.
But that's Mad Martz, who may have looked like a guy deserving of a head- coaching job earlier in the season, but with the Bears at 4-2 and sinking fast, he now looks like the same pig-headed rogue he was in NFL exile before being hired by the Bears. Could it be time to let Mike Tice take a shot at play-calling for a game?
Tice, like Martz, a former head coach, effectively serves as the running-game coordinator. His offensive line consists of a collection of large and inexperienced men who might be better moving forward in a power running game than they are trying to hold up against a blitzing defense. Tice said this week that big guys like to move forward. Coach Lovie Smith cut off a reporter in his postgame news conference when asked if Tice's teaching and Martz's scheme might be in conflict.
''I'll stop you right there. No, there's not conflict,'' Smith said. ''Mike also said when you're pass-blocking, it's good to have guys light on their feet who can get back and pass-block. There's a combination of both.
''We're not going to run the ball every time; we're not going to pass it every time.''
Nonetheless, what the Bears are doing on offense just doesn't make sense. A week ago, they enjoyed their best running day in a couple of decades because they were forced to commit to the run without Cutler and without a passing option in four-pick reserve Todd Collins. With Cutler back, Martz went back to the air, to put it mildly.
The Bears' offensive scheme can lead to big plays such as completions for 67, 36 and 34 yards as well as a 58-yard pass- interference call that led to a touchdown on the opening drive of the game.
''That's been the theme,'' Cutler said. ''We hit some big chunks, then the third-and-twos and third-and-sixes, the ones that are manageable, we struggle with them.''
Six more sacks add to numbers that are mind-numbing. Bears quarterbacks have been sacked 27 times, including 23 on Cutler. They're on pace for 72, which would break the team record of 66.
According to research by Stats LLC, the Bears came into the game leading the NFL with 42 negative plays, defined as sacks and runs and passes for loss.
The Bears had seven more than any other team. On Sunday, they gave up six sacks and had two runs for losses -- eight negative plays for a team averaging 8.5 per game.
Everybody wants to run the big-boy passing game, but running it without the resources needed to get the job done -- things such as protection -- seems less foolhardy than utterly reckless.
It's hurting a defense that forced seven three-and-outs but couldn't make a signature play -- no takeaways or sacks. The defense was on the field a long time, as it is most weeks, a fact that may lead to trouble later in the year.
In the new era of accountability, maybe benching the offensive coordinator for a week might help.