Chicago Bears

Mullin: Lions' QB Stanton not fond of Martz

Mullin: Lions' QB Stanton not fond of Martz

Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010
Posted: 8:20 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

A number of NFL quarterbacks -- Kurt Warner, Jon Kitna, maybe Jay Cutler -- have had the best years of their career with Mike Martz as their offensive coordinator.

For Detroit Lions quarterback Drew Stanton, announced as the starter Sunday vs. the Bears, the year with Martz sounds like just about his worst.

Before suffering a knee injury and going on IR before the season, Stanton labored (probably the word Stanton would choose as well) under Martz as a rookie in 2007 when Martz was Detroit's offensive coordinator. That Stanton is still in the NFL might be in spite of Martz rather than because of him, to hear Stanton tell it Wednesday to Tom Kowalski on MLive.com.

Martz reportedly changed Stanton's mechanics completely, frustrating both quarterback and coordinator

"That's behind me and I want to leave it back there," Stanton said, effectively damning with faint praise. "That was something that I had to go through and I grew up in the process. I'm stronger now because of it.

"Obviously with some of the stuff he was doing with my mechanics and what-not just wasn't natural for me."

Stanton isn't playing against Martz or a Martz scheme, which he pointed out. But as far as the Martz modifications that Stanton might have retained, Stanton was blunt: "Not a single one."

Pregame group hug, anyone? Probably not.

Martz hasn't left satisfied quarterbacks everywhere he's been but you'd also think Stanton might feel some level of appreciation. After all, Martz had a big hand in drafting him, second round, for a team headed by Rod Marinelli, a defensive coach, so Martz helped him to something of a payday.

And Martz isn't as negative toward Stanton as the kid is about him.

"Great competitor, smart guy," Martz said. "I know that he's a strong guy that when things break down, he can make plays with his feet. He did so in college; competitive. You watched him come back.

"The thing that impressed us in college was his ability to come back and make big plays to win big games. That's the job of a quarterback is to get that team in the end zone to win. He's got that about him. He's got that quality."

Strange comment

Not sure Mike Martz meant it this way, but comments the OC made Wednesday could be construed as citing himself as a chief reason why it has took about a half-season for the Bears to have a consistent stretch of quality offensive performances with Jay Cutler.

Cutler just put up the best single-game passer rating of his career, threw 4 TD passes without an interception, and was rewarded with an NFC offensive player of the week award. Martz, more than supportive ever since his hiring, gave his quarterback another pat on the head but did it in a fashion that ... well, you decide.

"When he is allowed to function, and do the discipline of what he does at that position, he has no idea how good he can really be," Martz said. "He's headed in that direction."

"When he is allowed to function." First blush sounds like a dig at the offensive line (coach Mike Tice?). But the offensive line has not been Cutler's biggest problem. Just musing here, but I'd put the offensive line at No. 3 behind Martz and Cutler himself as the ranking of things that have not allowed Cutler "to function."

As I noted in a previous entry here, at this point of 2009, Cutler had just thrown his third interception to a defensive lineman. Those were not the fault of Ron Turner or anyone else. If Cutler throws balls to giant men who are looking at him, no scheme or coordinator or offensive line is going to allow him to function. Period.

Or look at it this way:

Forget yardage totals for a moment. The 4-0 run in November is the first time the Bears have scored more than 21 points in three of four games with Cutler as their quarterback. Notably, the yardage totals bordered on the pedestrian: twice under 285 yards, and 360 and 349 in the other two.

The offense has had four straight games of 100-plus yards. That hadn't happened in the almost season-and-a-half behind Cutler.

The reality is that Martz stopped (since the off week when a change was made in game-planning input) asking a still-molten offensive line to do as many protections it can't execute. The group got Roberto Garza back at right guard, the line was allowed to smack defensive lines in the chops, and ...

Voila!

Cutler was allowed to function. Indirectly, or directly for that matter, it is Martz who has truly allowed Cutler to function -- as a quarterback, not just as a passer.

Ironically in the last four games the sack totals have gone up from 1-2-3-4 beginning with Buffalo. But the caliber of defenses also has increased, and Philadelphia's four sacks were all in the first half.

One more thing ...

While it is easy to blame Martz for retarding the growth of Cutler the Quarterback in some respects, it should also be noted to Martz's supreme credit that he has adjusted and may quietly be doing one of the better coaching jobs of his career.

That's right.

He doesn't have Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and the Turf Show in their primes, with an Orlando Pace in his prime and Adam Timmerman blocking for them. He's doing this with an offensive line that in fact has struggled through injuries and Nos. 1-2-3 wide receivers who began this season with on average 1.3 years of real experience, plus a tight end who wasn't sure if he fit with the new coordinator, and vice versa.

Martz arguably had to learn to accept what his players couldn't do rather than what they players could do. That's allowed them all, and him to function.

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.

The Bears and Steelers teamed up for one of the rarest sequences in recent NFL history

The Bears and Steelers teamed up for one of the rarest sequences in recent NFL history

In addition to being one of the most ridiculous plays in NFL history, the end of the first half of Bears-Steelers Sunday afternoon was also a sequence rarely seen in the league.

The Steelers lined up for a field goal attempt, but Bears special teams ace Sherrick McManus blocked it. Bears corner Marcus Cooper returned the blocked kick, but fumbled right before reaching the endzone, setting the Bears up on the 1-yard line with an untimed down. They lined up for a touchdown attempt, but a false start penalty brought them back five yards and left John Fox to call for a field goal instead of a potential seven points.

That meant back-to-back official plays in the game were field goal attempts, something that has only happened six times since 1982, according to QuirkyResearch.com.

The first such incident came in the NFL on Nov. 25, 1993 when the Miami Dolphins took on the Dallas Cowboys. If that date seems familiar, it's because it was the day Leon Lett became infamous for his second boneheaded mistake. Earlier in his career (in Super Bowl XXVII), Lett showboated as he was nearing the goal line and the ball was smacked out of his hand, just like Cooper:

This particular incident in 1993 gave the Dolphins a second opportunity at a field goal, which Pete Stoyanovich converted.

The next back-to-back field goal occurrence came Sept. 10, 2001 when Denver Broncos kicker Jason Elam attempted a 65-yard field goal, but missed, setting up a 63-yard attempt by New York Giants kicker Owen Pochman with one second left.

Two NFL teams combined for back-to-back field goals again Sept. 29, 2002; Nov. 5, 2006 and Nov. 14, 2010. The last two were blocked field goals that were returned to set up a field goal for the opposite team. 

The 2002 incident was the result of the Steelers attempting a game-winning kick on second down in overtime, which was subsequently blocked. The Steelers recovered the ball and attempted another field goal for the win.

Bears still waiting for offensive line to come into focus

Bears still waiting for offensive line to come into focus

Kyle Long played all 62 offensive snaps the Bears took in his first game since Nov. 13, 2016, so he reported to Halas Hall on Monday feeling “about as sore today as I was prior to anything surgically," as he described it. 

“It’s a good thing," Long said. "It's something you miss when you're not in it. It's funny, I was talking to my dad and he's like ‘well are you sore?’ I was like yeah, and he's like well that's a good thing. It's one of the things I miss, being sore after a game feeling like you've done something. It feels good to be in here after a win."

Considering Long struggled to make it through practices last week as he worked to get back into football shape, that he played every single offensive snap was a little surprising to coach John Fox. 

“He played probably a lot longer than I thought was possible as far as I think he was probably pretty gassed afterwards,” Fox said. “I thought he played very well, like our whole offensive line. Was it perfect all the time? No. But whenever you can run the ball as many times and as effectively as we did, I think it starts up front. So I think he played well.”

Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen combined to average more than six yards per carry in Sunday’s 23-17 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Steelers behind an offensive line that got Long back, but still had to deal with more next men up. With Josh Sitton out with a rib injury and Tom Compton sidelined with a hip injury, and Hroniss Grasu injuring his hand in the first half, the Bears had to shuffle the interior of their offensive line for the second consecutive game. That meant Cody Whitehair moved back to center and Bradley Sowell replaced him at left guard. 

The interior of the Bears’ offensive line was circled as a strength prior to this season, but the Sitton-Whitehair-Long trio hasn’t played a game together yet. Sitton was listed as a “limited participant” on the Bears’ injury report for a theoretical practice on Monday (the NFL requires teams playing a Thursday night game to release participation, even if they don’t practice the day after a game). Compton was a full participant, so the Bears should at least have him back at Lambeau Field. Fox would only say Grasu, who was listed as a limited participant Monday, "has a hand" and wouldn't detail the extent of his injury. 

Until the Bears’ offense is able to at least threaten to stretch its passing game downfield, opposing defenses can continue to cheat up and scheme to stop the run. That makes the offensive line’s job harder, though getting back to full health could help lead to more games like the one the Bears had against Pittsburgh. 

"It’s extremely tough, but you gotta get it done," left tackle Charles Leno said of trying to run block when opposing teams know what's coming. "You gotta get your job done. You gotta find a way. You gotta dig down deep and get your job done and that’s what we did."