And so the dust slowly starts to settle on the hiring of Mike Martz as offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers. Opinions certainly vary across the blogosphere. Here at Niners Nation, 62% generally approve of the hiring of Martz. When I was putting together that poll I added "In general" because of the way the whole process went down. I know I was hoping they would interview Cam Cameron, as most of you were also hoping. Matt Maiocco (henceforth MM) indicates Nolan more than likely spoke with Cam Cameron on the phone. Speaking of Maiocco, he has a nice little rundown of Nolan and Martz's conference calls. Also, if you go to sf49ers.com, you can listen to the conference calls from start to finish. The goal of this post is to give my own take on what Martz and Nolan had to say, especially since there were several questions that needed to be answered.
1. The Frank Gore question - There has been talk of how Martz was quick in Detroit in abandoning the running game when it struggled. Martz repeatedly emphasized in the conference call that they would build the offense around Frank Gore, just as the Rams built their offense around Marshall Faulk. Now obviously he could just be telling people what they want to hear, but I don't buy that. Frank Gore is not some no-name running back that will get pushed to the side. Mike Martz knows how good Frank Gore is and would be an absolutely moron to not utilize him prominently in the offensive attack. We are all smart enough to recognize the importance of Marshall Faulk to the success of the Rams. Of course, one drawback was that there were some games Marshall Faulk (I believe the 2001 Super Bowl against New England, 17 carries for 76 yards and 4 receptions) where Faulk was under-utilized. There are times where it can take Gore some time to get going in a game. He is a guy who wears down defenses and big runs can come a little later in the game. Hopefully Martz realizes this and is relatively patient with the running game.
2. Wide receivers/lack thereof - Another issue raised is the lack of wide receivers in San Francisco. The Rams had Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, while the Lions have had guys like Roy Williams, something the 49ers don't necessarily have. Of course, it is entirely possible Mike Martz can get The Disease producing like we all know he can. Vernon Davis has the talent to be an All-Pro, so maybe Martz can help the production catch up. Additionally, Martz turned guys like Mike Furrey and Shaun McDonald into pretty damn good wide receivers. In 2 seasons under Martz, Mike Furrey has 159 receptions and 1,750 yards. In 2006 in St. Louis Shaun McDonald had 13 receptions for 136 yards and 1 TD. In 2007 in Detroit, McDonald put up 79 receptions for 943 yards and 6 TDs. Of course, Jon Kitna had as much to do with that as anybody else on the field. Which leads us too....
3. Alex Smith and Shaun Hill - The question on everybody's mind is how this will affect Alex Smith and Shaun Hill. Since the QB1 position is officially on the market, I'll be referring to both when dealing with quarterback questions. Martz said:
He said the best way to have Alex Smith start working with his fourth offensive coordinator in four years is to "wipe the board clean," He said he'll start with the basic of the offense, down to getting the snap from center...
Smith and Hill are completely different styles of QBs. When asked what style of QB he prefers, Martz said, "Whoever completes the ball more. Accuracy is the biggest issue." He noted a preference for seeing the ball come out quickly and accurately, and he said both Smith and Hill are capable of doing that, from what he has seen.
One of the more interesting comments by Martz was the one about wiping the board clean. On the one hand, it feels like Smith is just starting all over yet again. However, if he puts in the work, maybe this is something Smith needs. Either way, Martz seemed to be perfectly willing to keep quiet on who he might prefer as QB. I would certainly like to be a fly on the wall when he sits down with Hill and Smith.
Well the honeymoon has begun and the question left unanswered is how long it will last. If the offense shows some life and rises from the ashes he'll be loved and likely get most of the credit. Of course, all the improvement from Alex Smith and/or continued accurate throwing from Shaun Hill will not do much good if receivers are dropping passes or the offensive line struggles like it did much of this season. Martz thinks the offensive line has solid potential, so we'll see how that plays out.
No matter what, I think this qualifies as a good day for 49ers fans. As much as many people dislike Martz the man, I do not doubt his ability as an offensive coordinator. Cam Cameron or Chan Gailey would have been the safer pick in terms of fan approval and apparent likelihood of success. Mike Martz is a gamble with a serious amount of upside and an equally treacherous downside. Considering Mike Nolan is on the hot seat, I like the idea of him rolling the dice on Martz. Let's just hope the 49ers don't crap out next season.