After an impressive season opener against the Atlanta Falcons, the Bears fell on hard times and limped into their bye week just over .500 at 4-3. The target of the most scorn surrounding the underperforming Bears was aimed at offensive coordinator Mike Martz (I was among them).
When the Bears returned from their bye, they rattled off five straight wins with improved quarterback protection, increased touchdown production and fewer interceptions. The only team, who scored averaged more points per game during that stretch, was the Green Bay Packers.
All of a sudden, it seemed like the Bears were starting to understand Mike Martz and vice versa. He had gone from someone who was trying to force his system onto the offensive personnel to someone who was adjusting his offensive system to the personnel.
Previous two games aside, progress has been shown, and the benefits of that progress have been evident.
So why hasn’t Martz’s tenure been extended with a new contract?
The lack of a clear answer to this question has speculation swirling about Mike Martz’s future with the Bears organization. There are rumors about his return to the college ranks with Arizona State being the most attractive option and not having a new deal this late in season does very little to quell such conjecture. It's worth pointing out that he was offered an extension for the same pay, but he turned it down.
Nevertheless, a decision of some kind will have to be made.
So, what should the Bears do?
I never thought I’d say this, but I think they should keep Mike Martz.
Firstly, the win streak made me a believer. A lot of the criticism aimed at Martz during the Bears’ slump centered around what seemed to be his refusal to adjust his scheme. The offensive line was being overrun as Martz continued to demand five to seven step drops, branching receiving routes, four seconds of protection and sparse rushing attempts.
When talking to the press, the confidence he exuded in his decision making came off more as hubris. Combine that with Cutler’s occasional outspoken disapproval, and it’s not hard to see why some people were (and still are) numbering Mart’s remaining days.
Then, the streak happened.
All of a sudden, the offense recaptured that Week 1 glory. It seemed like everyone was starting to get it. Pundits were talking about a practically guaranteed wild-card spot and the dangers of facing this new Bears team.
Martz never said it openly, but the play on the field showed that he was molding his scheme to fit the players. Until the crucial injuries to Cutler and Forte, the potential was really starting to look up for Chicago. But the play is only part of the overall reason for keeping Martz.
When Martz arrived at Halas Hall, it was Cutler’s third offensive coordinator in as many years. Martz also brought with him one of the most complex schemes to ever fill a playbook. We all saw the result of the first year. That 11-5 record and NFC championship game berth came at the expense of more than 50 sacks. People were quick to trash Cutler as being a quitter for not returning in the second half of that game but failed to consider that the first half may have been that proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
The Bears were winners last season and have been winners this season until those fateful mishaps against San Diego and Kansas City. With that being said, I think, for Cutler’s sake, that Martz should stick around to build on what was being established during that winning streak.
To bring in a fourth coordinator and have Jay Cutler and the Bears offense start all over again would be unfair to him and the fans who believe that Chicago still has a championship-caliber football team.
There’s a lot to be said for consistency, routine, and their links to success. Aaron Rogers and Tom Brady have been steeped in their systems, know them well, and execute them to near perfection. Both have rings to prove it.
Cutler has been said to have that same potential, but if he can never get off the coordinator merry-go-round, that potential will never become kinetic.
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