|Has Mike Martz finally learned his lesson? (Getty Images)|
Posted by Ryan Wilson
It is with an acute sense of "Hey, haven't we heard this before?" that we read the Dan Pompei column in the Chicago Tribune suggesting that Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz has learned a very valuable lesson from last Sunday's 30-13 loss to the Saints. A loss that included six Jay Cutler sacks, multiple Jay Cutler hits, and a post-game Jay Cutler admission that he's pretty sure he won't survive the 2011 season.
Martz called pass plays on 52 of Chicago's 63 offensive snaps (that works out to a whopping 83 percent), presumably paying no attention to beating Cutler was taking. It was so bad that Martz earned a name-check in our weekly Coach Killers column, and Bears coach Lovie Smith said that "I know the balance as far as running/pass wasn't there. All I can say is we'll get it better. You can't win football games with that type of balance."
No. No, you can't.
But Pompei thinks the Saints game will be a turning point in the Bears' season, the moment when Martz finally realizes that he needs to run the ball, too. Partly, for health reasons as they relate to Cutler but also because Matt Forte is a pretty good running back. (In related news: Forte is under the impression the Bears don't consider him an elite back. Weird.)
"The Bears probably would have lost that game no matter what plays Mike Martz called," Pompei wrote Saturday. "But because he tossed aside the run game as if it were a bill he didn't have sufficient funds to pay, he's going to have to pay interest now.
"Martz designs plays better than the large majority of coaches in his position. He has a great feel for how to attack defenses. He is one of the premier offensive minds in the modern era of football. But he needs a figurative slap in the face now and then. Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams gave him one."
That's putting it lightly.
Here's the thing: we've seen this movie before. Martz falls in love with the passing game, bad stuff happens, and he briefly pays lip service to the running game until the cycle repeats itself.
For fun, we consulted the Football Outsiders offensive efficiency rankings for the last three Martz-coached teams (all as offensive coordinators):
2010 Bears: 19th rushing, 28th passing, 28th overall;
2008 49ers: 24th rushing, 26th passing, 27th overall;
2007 Lions: 25th rushing, 19th passing, 24th overall;
2006 Lions: 32nd rushing, 20th passing, 28th overall.
Granted, some of the ineptitude listed above had to do with the personnel on those teams. But Martz has to shoulder some of the blame. More than that, if it's clear that dialing up one passing play after the next will get your quarterback killed, it doesn't require much in the way of football smarts to call running plays.
According to Football Outsiders' adjusted sack rate statistic (defined as "sacks per pass attempt adjusted for down, distance, and opponent"), the Bears ranked 32nd in 2010, the 49ers were 31st in 2008, and the Lions were 26th in 2007 and 30th in 2006.
So, sure, Martz might be the biggest brain in the room. But he's dreadful when it comes to making in-game adjustments. But who knows. Maybe this is the moment he fully commits to the running game. That said, Sunday seems like a bad time to turn over a new leaf -- the Bears are hosting the Packers.
After their second straight victory last week, the Green Bay Packers will travel to Soldier Field to take on the Chicago Bears on Sunday. NFL.com's Pat Kirwan and Jason Horowitz preview this upcoming game.
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