By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) I’ve had enough of this whole Mike Martz thing.
We get it — he’s a brilliant offensive mind. We know how successful he was in St. Louis with the “Greatest Show on Turf,” and we know the Bears were down to a last-resort hire after other candidates declined. The hire was a bold crossing of fingers that magic could be recaptured.
Let me tell you, though, it’s just not working.
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“It’s been a brutal night for this Chicago offense,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said late in the fourth quarter. And he’s right.
There’s no way Jay Cutler should have four bad interceptions in the glare of the national spotlight and look completely lost, making pressured, desperate throws to confused receivers. After another embarrassing loss at Green Bay — 23-10, this time — it’s clear that Martz’s arcane, outdated system is handcuffing everything.
The Martz playbook has around 430 plays, all of which he expects to be ready to run at any time in any game. That only creates needless confusion, and poor communication at the line that’s responsible for those inexcusable delay-of-game penalties, maddening false-starts, and ill-timed throws to bad places.
A different philosophy would allow the Bears to make use of the tight end like all the other, more potent attacks do, exploiting matchups in the middle of the field with route combinations that stress safeties and linebackers. But as long as Martz is here, that can’t happen. He sees tight ends as glorified tackles.
I think Martz is considered a genius because he had Hall-of-Fame players making a name for him. Those guys aren’t here.
If only this offense could join the rest of the league in the postmodern era of wide-open offense, with checks and audibles at the line and letting a talented passer see what he throws and throw what he sees. Give this guy some ownership — a chance to maximize his unquestioned talent and silence doubts about his demeanor.
Instead of being another Martz puppet, Cutler could be free to spread his wings and become the kind of gunslinger who combines a cannon arm and fearless play to carry a team to great things. But Martz’s bullheadedness and antiquated ideas are still creating headwinds, so it may never happen.
If only Cutler could be reunited with his old quarterbacks coach from Denver, with whom he shared an understanding of how to attack increasingly complex defensive schemes. That got him to the Pro Bowl, and it’s too bad it can’t be done in Chicago.
If only we could see the kind of throws he used to make to, say, Brandon Marshall – a genuine No. 1 receiver, a thoroughbred athlete the likes of which this city has never enjoyed. Back-shoulder stuff, go-up-and-get-it plays, 50/50 balls that take advantage of a big-time catching radius. That would be sweet.
The Bears could even draft a big, strong fast receiver to be part of something different and better. Not that they ever would.
If only pressure could be relieved by three-step and five-step drops, instead of the constant 7-step variety that asks that the offensive line do too much. These seven sacks are on Martz. If not for him, the porous Packers defense of last week would have been shredded.
If only plays could be called by someone with a more flexible approach, who appreciated the value of balancing run and pass, while respecting both his quarterback’s abilities and new rules that facilitate scoring. As long as Martz is here with this personnel, we’ll keep wondering what could have been in this wasted time.
We can dream, can’t we?