When he was the head man in St. Louis, Martz had a lot to do with the "Greatest Show on Turf" offenses, but the quarterbacks always seem to suffer. In 2003, Marc Bulger's(notes) first season as a full-time starter, he was sacked 37 times in 15 games. Then, 41 in 14 games in 2004 and 26 in only 10 games in 2005. Bulger kept getting pounded in the pocket even after Martz moved on to Detroit. Now, it was Jon Kitna's(notes) turn to get whacked. In 2005, three Lions quarterbacks combined to get sacked 31 times. That total skyrocketed to 63 in 2006, Martz's first year as the Lions' offensive coordinator.
Why? According to Football Outsiders, the Lions drastically altered their offense, and thus their protection schemes, when Martz took over. They lined up with four or more wide receivers 9 percent of the time in 2005, and 22 percent in 2006. They went from 18th in passes when ahead in the second half in 2005 to first in 2006. Basically, Martz was putting as close to a spread offense on the field as he possibly could. In 2007, the four-or-more sets increased even more -- up to 28 percent, and no other team went above 20. Why? Because with that many receivers, you're taking blocking backs and tight ends out of the equation. Add in Martz's propensity for seven-step-drop plays in which the quarterback has to wait that extra split second for routes to develop, and you'll understand why Kitna was sacked another 51 times in 2007. They ran 31 percent of the time, by far the lowest percentage in the league.
When Martz moved to San Francisco for the 2008 season, the trend continued. In 2007, the 49ers went four-wide eight percent of the time. Under Martz, that total increased to 24 percent. Total quarterback sacks stayed at 55 from one season to another, but dropped to 40 in 2009 under a more conservative game plan.
With Cutler under center in 2009, the Bears' offense was a misfit in many ways -- they wanted to go pass-heavy without the receivers to do it, and their offensive line had eroded from years of neglect. Cutler's efficiency basically fell off the planet, and he was sacked 35 times in 2009 after suffering a total of 38 takedowns in his prior two seasons with the Denver Broncos. The Bears went four-wide or more on a grand total of 50 of Cutler's 555 attempts, and he was noticeably worse in that situation -- his Yards per Attempt dropped from 6.61 overall to 4.28 with four or more receivers. Under Martz, whether it works or not, you can expect the multi-receiver sets to increase, for Cutler's protection to get even worse (if that's at all possible) and for the Bears' offense to struggle mightily.
There are teams set up for Mike Martz's particular brand of genius. Right now, the Chicago Bears are not one of them.
- Mike Martz