Chicago Bears' Mike Martz is the Perfect Teacher for JaMarcus Russell
Since the Chicago Bears have hired Mike Martz to bring his high powered offense to Jay Cutler and company, it will be fascinating to see how it works out. Martz orchestrated "The Greatest Show on Turf" while he was with the St.Louis Rams, and developed Kurt Warner into a potential Hall of Fame quarterback.
Martz was a former head coach at St. Louis who was fired while on medical leave for a reported heart ailment. He then went to Detroit as the offensive coordinator, where he coaxed a 4,000 yard passing season out of Jon Kitna before he was let go.
Martz spent two years with the San Francisco 49ers as the offensive coordinator. He was employed by the NFL Network before Lovie Smith hired him.
Martz is known as a stickler for the tiniest of details in practice. He will have players run and rerun the same play multiple times until they achieve what he considers success.
The offense that Martz employs is built on timing and uses seven step drops, which is very different from the West Coast the Bears employed last year. There are multiple shifts and motion calls that the offensive players must become familiar with quickly.
Quarterback Jay Cutler and Martz have met several times during the offseason and seem to have bonded. Martz' offense traditionally produces higher passer ratings, and Cutler is excited about the opportunity to work in an offense that will feature his arm.
The question is: Who will back up Jay Cutler? The current backups are Caleb Hanie, Brett Basanez, and rookie Dan Lefevour. Hanie is a three year veteran, and Basanez is a two-year veteran. Neither is a highly touted young quarterback with overwhelming physical skills.
Martz is on record as saying he is impressed with Hanie so he will probably be the backup. So the Bears have an established starter, a confirmed backup, and a rookie for the practice squad. That leaves them Brett Basanez as the number three.
So why not take a flyer on JaMarcus Russell? Mike Martz took an arena football quarterback, Kurt Warner, and turned him into a potential Hall of Famer. Why not let him work some of his mystical quarterback magic on Russell and see what happens?
I know the Bears have an established quarterback and I am certainly not suggesting Russell could ever challenge Cutler, but he could become his backup.
Russell, 24, has a cannon for an arm, is an excellent athlete and from all accounts is a good person who desperately needs motivation more than anything.
His Wonderlic score of 24 puts him in the middle of the pack, but is better than Jason Campbell's.
Martz will absolutely not allow JaMarcus to loaf, lose focus, or joke around. He is all business, all the time.
He also won't baby him, which I don't think Russell needs. He needs a taskmaster, someone to be accountable to.
If the Bears were willing to carry him as the third quarterback, then he could work weekly with the other quarterbacks and Martz. If he is successful, then the Bears have a viable backup or a trade piece.
The Martz offense calls for a prototypical pocket passer which would be a great learning experience for JaMarcus because he wouldn't be able to lean on his athleticism to bail him out. He would have to move and make decisions from within the pocket.
If Russell becomes a successful NFL quarterback then not only does he become a feel-good story, but he becomes a stronger person for facing adversity and overcoming it with the assistance of others.
If not, then all that is lost is the veteran's minimum salary and Martz' time.
Somehow, I believe that Martz would relish the challenge of turning the immensely gifted Russell into a quality NFL quarterback.
A lot of teams have inquired about Russell's interest at playing another position, probably tight end, but it wouldn't hurt for the young man to give it one more shot at quarterback with an excellent tutor, away from the bright lights of California.
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