A case for Mike Martz

Posted on December 27, 2009 by Patrick Moran

With the loss at Atlanta Sunday to drop the Buffalo Bills to 5-10 in yet another wretched season, it’s a near-lock the search for a new head coach, among other appointments will commence in roughly seven days.  Interim head coach Perry Fewell, 2-4 since taking over for Dick Jauron, will not be brought back in a permanent capacity.  Ralph Wilson may appear a tad senile on occasion but is sharp enough to know his fan base will never buy into a continuance of Fewell and this era of football.

It’s not like Fewell didn’t have opportunities to change the thinking. For all his fire, passion and straight-forwardness with the media, ultimately Fewell has proven to coach very much in the manner of his abortive predecessor.  How many times did Fewell play it safe late in  first half or second half decisions?  Was the decision yesterday to punt on fourth-and-three from the Atlanta 37 rather than go for it or kick a field goal something you haven’t been accustomed to in recent years?

When Fewell let New England run down the first half clock without using a time out before the Patriots scored, or when he admittedly played for a field goal in the waning moments of the first half against Tennessee, was it not the Bills culture you’ve witnessed countless times?

The Bills over the last six weeks have looked a lot like the version led by Jauron the previous three-plus years.  Aside from beating Miami at home, they beat a lousy team they’re supposed to beat (Kansas City) and lost three games by seven points or less (New England, New York Jets, Jacksonville).  Yesterday was the semi-frequent “no show” game against Atlanta.

Of course it’s hardly just Fewell’s fault.  He’s been forced to bring a knife to a gunfight since taking over.  Very few if any coaches in this league could win with an offensive line that features starters like Kirk Chambers, Jonathan Scott and Kendall Simmons.  The team continues to be decimated by injuries on a weekly basis.  Buffalo played Atlanta minus three defensive starters that were in the lineup the week before, not to mention a quarterback who’d never taken a NFL snap.

But notwithstanding and despite the fact Fewell has tried hard and is a helluva a polished guy, he’s simply not the answer.

So where do the Bills go from here?  Mike Shanahan is out and is reportedly about to become the Redskins next head coach.  Jon Gruden said he’s not interested in the Bills or any other job in 2010.  Tony Dungy has no interest in returning. Mike Holmgren wouldn’t even discuss a position with Buffalo.  So who’s out there?

When it’s all said and done the next head coach of the Bills could be Mike Martz.

He fits a lot of things the Bills are presumably looking for.  He’s coached a team to the Super Bowl. He’s won and he’s offensive minded. Perhaps most importantly he’s a “name” that could help restore faith in fan base understandably harder to please than a two dollar steak at present time.

Martz was the head coach in St. Louis for five seasons (2000-01) and only had one losing season. He coached the Rams to a NFC championship in 2001 before losing to New England in the Super Bowl.  Even before becoming head coach in St. Louis, he was the offensive coordinator of what became the “greatest show on turf.”

Things got ugly with Martz and the Rams in 2005.  After a 2-3 start to the season Martz took a medical leave to care for a bacterial infection in his heart.  During that time he developed a lot of conflict with the front office.  It ultimately led to his firing at the end of the season.

In 2006 he interviewed for head coaching jobs in Oakland and New Orleans.  Reportedly the money wasn’t right in Oakland and Martz ended up signing on with Detroit as their offensive coordinator.  During his first season there he helped Detroit rise to seventh best offense in the NFL and journeyman quarterback Jon Kitna threw for over 4,000 yards at age 34.

The following year the Lions started off 6-2 before collapsing in the second half and missing the playoffs. In large part because of complaints from the players about passing the ball too much, Martz was unceremoniously dumped. In the year following Martz’s departure the Lions became the first team to ever finish a regular season 0-16.

Martz signed with San Francisco for the same position in 2008, but when the team named Mike Singletary its head coach it became obvious their offensive philosophies would clash and Martz wouldn’t be back.

For his career Martz is 53-32 as a head coach; a far better winning percentage than the Bills have seen since Marv Levy retired.  Martz-coached offenses have only finished outside the top ten in the league once.

It’s no secret while the Bills defense isn’t spectacular, it’s their offense that has put a huge black eye over the franchise.  Martz could be the guy to change that.  Sure there are no Kurt Warner’s on the Bills roster, but he did wonders for Marc Bulger and Kitna.

Perhaps the addition of Martz could even resurrect Trent Edwards or Ryan Fitzpatrick, or help blossom Brian Brohm into the star many expected him to be when he came out of Louisville.

While Martz would cost more than another up-and-coming coordinator looking to make his mark as a head coach, he’d come significantly cheaper than the rest of the big names the Bills have at one time or another been linked to.

Of course if Martz is hired will depend on who becomes the GM.  Unlike Shanahan or Cowher, a Martz hire wouldn’t include him having control of the football operations.  A general manager that shared in Martz’s football philosophy would be a necessity.

Wide spread rumors have circulated that Wilson wants to make a splash.  While the hiring of Martz wouldn’t equate to the belly flop style of waves Shanahan or Cowher would make, at least Wilson might stop pulling fans under water.

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