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The Ballad Of Ricky-Bobby (And Z.W.): The Bears And Mike Martz

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In this week's edition of  RBZ, the gang discusses the imminent split between the Chicago Bears and offensive coordinator Mike Martz. 

Come talk football with us, won't you?

Bobby Loesch (@bobbystompy):

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Sure, Cutler is hurt. Sure, Forte is hurt. Sure, the Bears are the 5-seed and everyone is on suicide watch, but...am I the only one depressed about Mike Martz's likely departure? I don't think he's super amazing or anything, don't get me wrong, but it kills me that Jay can't ever get offensive continuity. Seems like he's changing coordinators every year or every other year.

Z.W. Martin (@ZWMartin):

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Honestly, I don't feel strongly about Martz one way or another. I truly believe that the system doesn't matter if talent exists. Talent will always prevail. Just look at LSU or Alabama. Their offenses are downright lame. Run right. Run left. Screen. Run right. Blah. But it works because they have more talent than a team like Arkansas who can't matchup skill-wise defensively, therefore, can't keep pace even with an offense proven to be far superior.


Now, in the NFL, the general talent gap exemplified in college football reduces itself to the quarterback position. Before Tom Brady, Bill Bellichick was 41-55. Without John Elway, Mike Shanahan is 18-29. After Peyton Manning, the Colts have gone 0-12. Jay Cutler-less, the Bears are 0-2. The QB is equivalent to LSU's defense. When the Bears lost Cutler, they lost their biggest asset. The system/Martz isn't at play here, but...

...back to your original point. I was very shocked to see how people were pleading for Martz to take a college job. I didn't get that. The Bears -- especially their offense -- looked fantastic with Cutler behind center.

During their five game winning streak, the Bears were able to pretty much do whatever they wanted -- even in 3rd and long situations, something that has always seemed to be the biggest issue with past Bears' offenses. They never had the talent to continue drives after minor hiccups on 1st and 2nd down. This has changed with Cutler and, if we are being fair, Martz.

Before Cutler's thumb destroyed our NFL season, it seemed whenever the Bears needed a big 3rd down completion, the line held and Earl Bennett found a way to get open. Martz's system was working. Cutler appeared to have finally grasped it. It looked like there was a compromise reached between the pass-hungry Martz, the run-pleading "Bears traditionalists" and Cutler's success outside the pocket. Cutler was finally comfortable. Un-frowning.

I don't know why people are shouting for Martz's exit. It seems short-sided, rash and reactionary to a very shitty situation involving an undrafted free agent QB. I guess they have already forgotten the five weeks prior to the last two and, more importantly, Cutler's first year in two different systems and the 42 picks that accompanied them.

Ricky O'Donnell (@TUP_Ricky):

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The Bears have had such a long and atrocious lineage of offensive coordinators that it certainly does feel weird to cheer the exit of the one that led the best offensive unit the franchise has boasted in any of our lifetimes. For as perennially maligned as the quarterback is in this town, the OC's aren't much better. Gary Crowton, John Shoop, Terry Shea -- there was actually a time when I legitimately felt Ron Turner wasn't too bad. Could be worse! With the Bears, it usually is.

For all of the offense's (relatively short-lived) success this year, so much of it felt in spite of Martz, not because of him. Don't discount that the offense didn't really get going until after the Week 5 Monday night loss to the Lions -- aka, the game Cutler told Martz to "fuck off". After that night, the Bears' scheme changed radically. Cutler lobbied for shorter drops and keeping in backs and tight ends to block more often. Both of those things happened, and the Bears rolled until the injury vs. the Chargers.

It's why I'm still curious about this breakup: is Martz essentially getting fired, or is it mutual? Martz really hasn't been running his standard offense ever since Cutler finally got his say after the Detroit loss. Maybe he feels like a muzzled dog. With a couple of cool looking Pac-12 head coaching jobs apparently targeting him, perhaps he saw this as a good bailout. Don't forget that Martz turned down a 1-year, $1 million extension before the season started. I don't think we can say how happy *he* is, forget the team or the fans.

Bobby Loesch

Ricky, I'm not going to ask you to speculate a new name for who might replace Martz, but do you think it's safe to say the Bears might actually be a coveted job for an offensive coordinator? I really don't think you could say that was the case just a few years ago.

Ricky O'Donnell

Sure, why not? First and foremost, all of these jobs are at a premium. There are only 32 teams. And if you can help the Bears -- the Bears! -- make significant offensive strides, I can only assume a head coaching job is a very real possibility. There's certainly the talent here to make it happen. Cutler is a top ten quarterback. Forte is at least a top ten running back, possibly top five. The offensive line is young and improving, if still not fully formed. And the receivers really just lacked a No. 1: have Earl Bennett and Johnny Knox not proved to be legitamate NFL wideouts this year? Throw a stud next to them and watch that passing game soar even higher.

So far as the next OC, I wouldn't be surprised if it was Mike Tice. I think I'd like that. It would be a stopgap more than anything, but it would also help keep some of the continuity the offense has going. Tice would also seemingly give Cutler more input. Forget the empty-backfield Martz bullshit: with Tice, I believe the Bears would continue to go with shorter drops and keeping more blockers in.