Bears hire Martz as offensive coordinator
CHICAGO – Mike Martz, the headstrong coach who orchestrated the “Greatest Show on Turf” while molding Kurt Warner into a Pro Bowl quarterback with the St. Louis Rams, is the Chicago Bears’ new offensive coordinator.
Martz’s hiring on Monday ended a nearly monthlong search to replace the fired Ron Turner. His job is to turn around a struggling offense and get the most out of Jay Cutler after the quarterback and team failed to meet high expectations this season.
Cutler threw a league-leading 26 interceptions after a blockbuster trade with Denver. The Bears went 7-9 and missed the playoffs for the third straight year since the 2006 team’s Super Bowl run, leading to a major coaching shake-up in which Turner and five other assistants were let go.
The Bears are still looking for a defensive coordinator, but they finally settled a big issue on the offensive side.
Martz seemed like a logical choice, considering he hired Smith as the Rams’ defensive coordinator in 2001 when he was the head coach and he was burnishing his reputation for developing quarterbacks. His history with Warner, who went from stocking grocery store shelves to thriving in one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history, is well-documented.
With Martz in his first year as offensive coordinator under Dick Vermeil, the 1999 Rams won the Super Bowl and produced the first of a record three straight 500-point seasons. Warner, meanwhile, threw for 4,353 yards and 41 touchdowns while starring alongside Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt in “The Greatest Show on Turf.”
Martz replaced Vermeil as head coach in 2000 and went on to produce a 56-36 record in five and a half seasons, leading the 2001 team back to the Super Bowl. But while making a name for himself with the Rams, Martz became known for a confidence that bordered on arrogance. He allegedly clashed with the front office there, and while on leave for a heart ailment in 2005, he announced he would miss the rest of the season before getting fired that January.
He spent the next two years as the Detroit Lions’ offensive coordinator, coaxing the first 4,000-yard season out of Jon Kitna, and held the same job with the San Francisco 49ers in 2008. In both cases, he got sent packing for his pass-happy ways.
Now, after spending last season as an NFL Network analyst, Martz is reuniting with Smith, who has often said he likes “to get off the bus running.”
He’ll also be on the same staff as former Lions coach Rod Marinelli, who’s now working with the Bears’ defensive line. And he’ll be working with a quarterback in Cutler whose demeanor he criticized this season.
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