Moon: Is Bill Belichick in the head of Mike Martz?

Moon: Is Bill Belichick in the head of Mike Martz?

Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010
Posted: 9:46 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Players can and do get in each others' heads. That's how, for a play, a game, a year, a career, one owns the other.
Brett Favre once owned the Bears. He was in their heads every bit as much as their end zones.

Now an ominous question facing the Bears:

Is Bill Belichick in the head of Mike Martz?

The New England Patriots coach and Bears offensive coordinator have met before this weekend, with generally catastrophic results for Martz: one initial win for Martz, then four losses for Martz with three different teams.

Martz dismisses the Bill-in-his-head thought. Over and over, as a matter of fact.

Dismisses it once: "Oh, God, no," Martz said. "You've got to be kidding me. C'mon, serious?"

Well, he's beaten you four.

"I've beaten him, too. I went up there in 2001 regular season and beat him, too. Same year, remember? In fact, after that game, I said this is a Super Bowl team, and I think they were 6-5 or something. I don't remember what it was."

Martz continues, dismissing it twice: "But oh God, no. They're just a good team. No. I don't think like that or live like that, I'm sorry, I hate to disappoint you, but those things just don't happen to me. I guess I'm screwed up. That stuff doesn't happen to me."

Make it three times in one moment: "I appreciate your question, but no."

Methinks the O.C. doth protest too much?

Ok, but ...
consider:

The St. Louis Rams of then-coach Martz defeated New England and scored 24 points in that game Martz alluded to, during Belichick's first year, 2001. The Patriots were paying attention and then shut Martz down in Super Bowl XXXVI to finish that season. The Rams were favored by 14; they scored 17 to New England's 20.

Since Belichick bested Martz in their Super Bowl, Martz has been part of exactly one winning season (before this current one). His Rams went 12-4 in 2003, one of the years since the Super Bowl in which his teams did not happen across Belichick on its schedule.

Martz is on his third job since then, with stops in Detroit and San Francisco before Chicago.

But "we always have trouble against Mike," Belichick claimed. "He does a great job with the formations, the personnel groupings. His passing concepts are very difficult to defend."
Au contraire

Maybe. But his teams in fact haven't to have much trouble with Martz at all, and Belichick is generally credited with devising creative defensive schemes that have been the virtual undoing of Martz.

The Pats put a 40-22 blowout on Martz's Rams in 2004 and held the Rams to one score over the final 35 minutes despite an injury ravaged secondary.

Martz's Detroit offense scored 21 against Belichick in 2006 but the Lions might have escaped with a win but for turnovers on their final three possessions.

Martz's San Francisco offense got out to a 14-7 lead in a 2008 Belichick game, then managed just one more score over the final 50 minutes.

(Actually, Belichick isn't just a Martz problem. His defense threw in a win over the Super Bowl-bound 2006 Bears when the Patriots held the Chicago offense to 13 points, less than half its per-game average.)

"He'll study everything that you've done, take it apart, piece-by-piece," Martz said. "He'll identify what your strengths are, and he'll try to eliminate your strengths. And he won't do anything to radically change his defense, but he will make you adjust.

"There's no question, he will make you adjust."

Martz hasn't always adjusted. Failed adjustments played factors in those four Belichick defeats. But if there is an intriguing aspect going into Sunday's game, it is that the Bears' 5-0 turnaround from their 4-3 funk is due in no small measure to Martz adjusting.

Classics meeting

Late last month the Bears prevailed in a showdown between two schemes properly considered NFL "classics:" the West Coast offense, as practiced by Philadelphia's Andy Reid vs. the Cover-2 defense, the Lovie Smith-Rod Marinelli version.

The Bears were hit with 26 points, albeit a number of them after they had built up an 18-point lead in the second half.

Now comes a rematch. Not between West Coast and Cover-2, but between the defensive mind of Belichick and the offensive scheming Martz.

And maybe both have adjusted.

Here it is 2010 and Belichick, the conservative game manager with the defensive answers, is winning with an offense that is first in the NFL in scoring at 31.6 per game. And Martz's team has won five in a row playing superior defense and with Martz's quarterback handing the ball off an average of more than two-dozen times a game.

"I'm OK with winning a game however we win it in this league -- absolutely," Belichick said. "It's a tough league to win in so we'll take them any way we can get them."

Even if it means getting in somebody's head.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Mark Sanchez officially signs with Bears

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Mark Sanchez officially signs with Bears

On the latest edition of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, Chris Emma, Seth Gruen and Danny Ecker join David Kaplan to discuss the Mark Sanchez signing. Does this mean the Bears won't draft a quarterback in the 2017 NFL Draft? 

Later, the White Sox named Jose Quintana their Opening Day starter, but lose Carlos Rodon and Todd Frazier to injuries. 

Finally, Robin Lopez is back after serving a one-game suspension. The panel looks at the Bulls matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers. 

Listen to the SportsTalk Live Podcast below. 

Noise around QB Mark Sanchez misses bigger, far more important goal for Bears ’17 offseason

Noise around QB Mark Sanchez misses bigger, far more important goal for Bears ’17 offseason

The tumult around the Bears quarterback position this offseason – signing Mike Glennon, cutting Jay Cutler, not signing Brian Hoyer, now signing Mark Sanchez – was to be expected. (Well, not all the brouhaha around Sanchez; if there has ever been more hyperventilating around the arriving backup quarterback, it’s escaping my recollections of a quarter-century on the beat.)

All of that, and a lot of the noise around Mike Glennon is really missing a larger point. A couple, really.

GM Ryan Pace established fixing the quarterback situation as a top priority, something it has been just about since Jim McMahon left, with the exception of a few Jay Cutler years. Doing that to any meaningful degree with the castoff options available in free agency or via trades wasn’t ever going to happen. What Pace has done with the quarterback situation, however, is more than a little intriguing.

The quarterback additions and subtractions, coupled with also suggest a draft plan far from locked in on a quarterback. The signings of Glennon and Sanchez don’t mean the Bears have solved their quarterback position, but it does mean the Bears have positioned themselves with the distinct option of NOT taking a quarterback – this year.

But here’s the bigger point.

Even with the optimum quarterback solution unavailable – Pace arguably did go best-available in his and the coaches’ minds with Glennon and Sanchez, all derision aside – Pace’s goal needs to be building a team that can reach a high playoff level regardless of quarterback.

Meaning: defense. And while the 2017 free agent and draft classes did not offer must-have quarterbacks in most evaluations, there are those elite-level defensive talents, and every indication is that the Bears will look there, in the draft, and should be. It had that feeling when the Bears, with ample, money to spend, backed away from day one free-agency runs at a couple of pricey defensive backs. The Bears simply think they can do better for less in the draft.

A perspective: With a defense at its levels during the Brian Urlacher era, the Bears could reach the NFC championship game with what they have at quarterback now. They did, twice, with Rex Grossman and with Cutler. Sanchez got to AFC championship games in each of his first two seasons. The Bears reached a Super Bowl with Rex Grossman as their quarterback. They went 13-3 in 2001 with a solid-but-unspectacular Jim Miller as their quarterback. They reached the 2005 playoffs with Kyle Orton as their starter most of that year, and should have been in the 2008 playoffs with him as well. The Bears reached the NFC championship game in 2010 with Cutler.

There is a common denominator in all of these situations, and it is within Pace’s grasp, and that was an elite defense. Rex Ryan had one with the Jets and Sanchez, Grossman and Orton and Cutler had theirs with Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Mike Brown, Tommie Harris, Charles Tillman, etc.

Forget the quarterback situation for now. Nothing anyone, including Pace, can really do anything about it (other than land possibly Deshaun Watson, based on their turnout at his Pro Day).

But if Pace and his personnel staff do this right, they can lay in the foundation for something elite on defense that will transcend the quarterback, or at least allow the Bears to play more than 16 games in a season even if they do not have a great quarterback. With the Urlacher core defense, the Bears went to postseasons with four different quarterbacks.

The prime directive now for Ryan Pace is to create precisely that model again.