"All tight ends, their first responsibility, they have to put their hand down on the line of scrimmage and be a successful blocker, and then they move to receiving. To just skip by that and say, 'OK, he's a terrific receiver,' well, then you may as well just put another wide receiver in there." -Mike Martz
"With the 31st pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears select Greg Olsen, Tight End, from the University of Miami." -Roger Goodell.
The collision course that pitted offensive genius Mike Martz against potential star tight end Greg Olsen was preordained from draft day. With Lovie Smith's unwillingness to give Ron Turner a second chance to keep the "Bear offense," Martz wearing out his welcome in Detroit and San Francisco, and Olsen's inability to join the Antonio Gates/Tony Gonzalez pantheon (or even the Alge Crumpler/Kevin Boss tier), this was bound to happen.
Olsen had to know this was coming. With every drop, every interception on a pass from Jay Cutler intended for him, he had to see Martz getting closer and closer—like Jason Voorhies—to stop him from continuing his inefficiency. Martz examines the situation with his critical eye, and makes an immediate decision: You can't play tight end in my offense.
Shockingly, I predicted this would happen in an earlier article. I cited Martz' dislike for the receiving tight end, and the fact that a tight end who can't block to him is like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on rye bread: disgusting, inedible, and repulsive.
Martz, however, isn't a completely bad guy here—not like you would think. Martz, in the same interview, compared Devin Hester to Az-Zahir Hakim, and distinctly used the words "slot receiver" in reference to Hester. This warmed my heart, but chilled those of Bear execs, who made the decision to pay the diminutive receiver like he's Vincent Jackson.
The plainspoken Martz made it clear he has no intention of designing plays that have failure written all over them as the previous OC did. He also badgered the Bears to pick up Chester Taylor and Brandon Manumalena. Taylor is pretty much guaranteed to start over Matt "half-a-yard-and-a-cloud of dust" Forte, and Maunumalena is going to replace Olsen.
Olsen came in with such high hopes. A tight end picked in the first round is ALWAYS one with high potential. Sometimes you get Kellen Winslow and Jeremy Shockey, other times you get Marcedes Lewis and Jerramy Stevens. Olsen was chosen in 2007 with the expectation that he would make Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton better. This did not happen, but they're game manager QB's. I say it all the time: Game manager QB's are absolutely awful; they don't win you a damn thing.
But bringing in Jay Cutler was supposed to change things for Olsen. They didn't, and that wasn't completely Olsen's fault. Somehow Olsen actually got more of the blame from fans, especially me, than Hester did, even though Hester didn't use his blazing speed as much as you might have liked.
Which brings us to today's stalemate: Olsen wanting to be traded and Martz adamant that Olsen either has to learn how to block or not play. I've tried to look at this situation without taking sides, and sometimes I succeed, but other times I mentally yell at Olsen "LEARN TO BLOCK!"
Martz has a proven track record: The tight end position produces more when Martz departs than when he is in town. Vernon Davis began to produce after Martz left SF, culminating in last year's Pro Bowl selection. Detroit eventually began to realize that Casey FitzSimons, Marcus Pollard, and whatever other corpse they dug up wouldn't get it done, and soon drafted Brandon Pettigrew, who had an alright rookie year.
But while Martz is there, the TE position is an afterthought. YOU HAVE TO BLOCK before you even think of having a play designed for you. Also, I've started to come around on Martz. My position hasn't really changed—I still believe, from years and years of playing Madden Franchise, watching football, and analyzing NFL rosters, that the tight end is the third most integral position on the field, after quarterback and left tackle.
But I'm curious to see if Martz can pull a rabbit out of his hat with the Vikings still powerful, the Packers still just as dangerous, and the Lions eventually getting the talent together to defeat the curse of Detroit.
Olsen was a first-round pick. That seems to be something that sticks in our throats like a bone. And while we're pounding the table and the edges of our collective visions are fading slowly to black, he continues to receive the benefit of the doubt from Bear fans because of that.
Is he soft? Of course, but he can develop. Can he eventually start getting yards after the catch? Plausible. But he needs time to develop these things, which under Mike Martz, he won't get. And more and more, I'm starting to understand why Mike Martz is the way he is.
The Bears were offered a fifth-round pick for Olsen. Is it bad that I've become so fatalistic about this situation ever being resolved satisfactorily that I've started urging Jerry Angelo to take it?
Also, to Lovie Smith, I have a two word response to that drivel he attempted to spout about Martz "being excited" about Hester and saying that he didn't know whose idea it was that Hester wasn't going to take less snaps: