Like Most People, Mike Martz Is Getting More Flexible with Age

I’ve watched it over time in my parents.  I’ve seen it in my older friends.  Most people get better with age.

Once you’ve seen much of what life has to challenge you with on a day-to-day level over a number of years, you realize that most of it just isn’t a big deal.  You stop getting excited about things that you either can’t control or which really aren’t significant in the long run.  Age brings perspective.

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune wrote a really nice article about Mike Martz, revealing this commonly over looked side of human nature:

“Mike Martz, who sometimes speaks in hyperbole, has changed his colors in his fourth stop as a play-caller. The numbers say so, anyway. Since the cosmic intervention during the off week, the play calls have been balanced. Out of the 415 plays in the last seven games, 212 have been runs. Mike Who?

“‘We all mature,’ said Martz, who’s known for his passing game. ‘I probably matured later in life than a lot of guys, maybe not there yet. … As you get older, there are things that don’t upset you or you react to as quickly as maybe you did early in your career.’

“Would he say he is more flexible?

“‘Flexible has probably never been a word that has been associated with my name,’ he said. ‘I think so though, I like to think so.'”

I know so.  In watching the Bears evolve over the course of the year, Martz has abandoned his pride and his dogmatic pass first high octane offensive philosophy and adjusted his coaching style to his personnel more than anyone would have imagined even the most flexible of coordinators doing.  Martz has come to the realization that there’s more than one way for him to skin a cat and, as long as the job gets done, it doesn’t really matter how you do it.

The shift toward the ground game after the bye week has been well documented.  Its been suggested that offensive line coach Mike Tice and Martz sat down for some very straight talk about what the unit could and couldn’t do.  As in they couldn’t protect Jay Cutler during deep, seven step drops but they could run block because that’s easier for a young unit lacking cohesiveness to learn.  I have absolutely no trouble believing this because it sounds like exactly the kind of thing that Tice would do.  I also have little doubt that everyone else from head coach Lovie Smith to team president Ted Philips reinforced the idea.

But what Mart doesn’t get enough credit for is the way that he handled Cutler.

The Martz system is one where the quarterback drops back and throws on time to a spot.  Its up to the receiver to get there and the quarterback has to trust him to get there.  And Jay Cutler wasn’t doing it.  I don’t know if its because he wasn’t capable of learning to do it or if he flat out refused.  Either way, it just wasn’t coming together.

So Martz adjusted instead.  He’s called more roll outs and allowed Cutler to scan the field looking for the open man rather than continuing to try to force him to do something that just wasn’t working.  How big this adjustment was can’t be underestimated.  It required a complete re-wiring of the way that Martz called the game and I have little doubt that it was probably the toughest thing he’s had to do since he’s been coaching.

Give Martz his due.  The 48 year old coach who refused to adjust his game plan at halftime during a loss to the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl is long gone.  At the age of 59, Martz is better than he’s ever been.  And he’s gotten the Bears offense ready to win.

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