In the wake of Mike Martz's arrival in the Bay Area—where he’ll try to revive the San Francisco 49ers' offense—the biggest question is the obvious one:
Who will be his quarterback?
Okay, I guess we’ll have to wait on that decision until Alex Smith is healthy and Martz can see Smith and Shaun Hill throw the ball in person.
Meanwhile, the second most important question is this:
What will Martz do with the highly skilled but enigmatic Vernon Davis?
Martz is notorious for omitting tight ends from his game plans, so his hire naturally raised concerns about Davis, whom the 49ers were giddy to acquire with the sixth overall selection in the 2006 draft. But before we get too worried, there is this to consider: Martz has never worked with so talented a tight end as Davis, a 6’3”, 253-pound player with 4.4-second speed.
Martz has said the 49ers are more talented than the Detroit Lions were when he arrived there in 2006, and Davis certainly is one of the Niners' top offensive weapons.
In last season’s discombobulated offense, Davis caught 52 passes for 509 yards and four touchdowns. He should be good for twice that; it all depends on how Martz plans to use him and whether or not Davis can pick up the coach's complicated game plan.
Martz knows one of his biggest challenges will be creating specific packages for Davis so he can get the ball to the tight end.
"In this system, you have so much flexibility within the numbers that you can be creative with a guy like him," Martz told the Sacramento Bee late last month, indicating that the coach does indeed have a plan—at least the beginnings of one—for Davis.
Martz has said he could envision lining up the tight end in the slot and in the backfield. Still it's clear that the coach understands Davis will need time to learn the offense.
Davis had enough trouble finding his way in offenses directed by Norv Turner and Jim Hostler, so it could take even longer to become comfortable with Martz's complex scheme.
This tight end is a fantastic athlete, but he has been criticized for dropping passes, running bad routes, and earning frequent calls for illegal procedure.
It's obvious that he will need to be more disciplined if he wants to earn Martz’s trust. And Davis will also have to lose the attitude—by paying more attention to the details and less to what others are saying about him.
But if he can grasp the offense, Martz seems interested in utilizing Davis' immense raw talent.
"You've got to be careful not to put too much on him," Martz said, "but it's a great opportunity to use him in different venues, so to speak. The system allows that kind of flexibility."
So what does the future hold for Vernon Davis under Martz?
It looks like the powerful player will be incorporated into a dynamic system, giving the 49ers a real chance at a promising season.