Mike Martz is talking the talk again, but has to get Bears in playoff hunt
Quietly, near the end of a conversation about his Chicago Bears offense Saturday afternoon,
He was alluding to 11 years ago, when he took the offensive coordinator job in St. Louis and went to work under
Now the cast of characters is mostly nondescript in Chicago. There's
"I never let hearsay and gossip determine what I think of a player, and I haven't with Jay,'' he said after the Bears' Saturday practice. "What I've seen in him so far is he has no flaws. None. He's got no ego. I'm sure I've not met anyone as intelligent as him at quarterback. He's been a great leader. He can make all the throws. His recognition of the defense at the snap of the ball is freaky, incredible. He sees things the way Kurt used to see them. He came to me with a completely open mind about this offense, and every day when I come to work, he's ready to learn. It tickles me. He's bought in so completely.''
The no-ego part ... that's interesting. Completely open mind ... interesting too, for a guy on his third distinct offense in three years. The honeymoon is on in Chicago.
The problem with making offseason judgments, obviously, is no one's had pads on, and Cutler hasn't been rushed and hasn't thrown interceptions. Who knows what'll happen if he has a five-pick game (as he did last year against San Francisco) or a four-pick job ('09 against Green Bay). And if the Chicago offensive line struggles as it did last year, all the fine patterns drawn up by this offensive guru won't matter much because Cutler will be running for his life.
That aside, I wanted to know Martz's thoughts about his allocation of wideout resources. I actually think the Bears should consider moving Hester back to where he was dominant his first two years in the league -- in the return game. First two seasons: 152 punt and kickoff returns, 11 touchdowns. Last two seasons: 94 returns, zero touchdowns.
Martz's love for Hester is just barely south of his love for Cutler in the early weeks of getting to know his talent. "I think he can be one of the great wide receivers in the game,'' he said. "Nothing we do in our offense should deter him from being a great return man. If he needs to take a few snaps off after a return, that's fine. He can do that. But I think he can be a fabulous receiver.''
No question the receiver group is better than the outside world thinks. Martz raised eyebrows recently when he said the receiver group is the best single unit on the Bears. "I wouldn't back off that one bit," he says. "It boggles my mind people don't see we have some top guys.''
In Martz's previous two coordinator gigs -- Detroit (2006, '07) and San Francisco (2008) -- the teams finished 19th, 22nd and 23rd, respectively, in total offense. Those numbers are partially the reason Martz was a short-timer in both spots. Unless Cutler throws a bunch of interceptions, the Bears shouldn't finish that poorly. This could be the old Chargers. But the one problem that's not going away is the raggedy offensive line. Thirty-five sacks wasn't the total story last year for the Bears' line. There was also the constant drumbeat of pressure from everywhere, which forced Cutler to face more pressure than he'd ever seen in Denver.
It'll be a fun summer anticipating the Greatest Show on the Lakefront, but Martz won't have much of a honeymoon. Everyone in Chicago knows this could be a walk-the-plank year if the Bears don't at least contend strongly for the playoffs. He'll have to scheme a way to protect Cutler, then make sure, as he did with Warner, Cutler has enough time to let his targets get open. The downfield throw is what made Warner great, and Cutler will be challenged to be just as accurate. No question he has a superior arm to Warner. Now he has to prove he can make all the throws in the Chicago offense. All that's riding on the Cutler/Martz tandem is a whole lot of jobs.
Now for some other stories of the week:
I'm told if the vote doesn't happen, it'll be more because
What I hear is that if a vote is called, the measure could get the necessary 24 votes for passage. It should, really, because non-passage could make for some awkward moments in the playoffs if teams hadn't seen how it actually worked in the league during the regular season. And given that less than one game per week goes to OT on average, the modified system isn't going to revolutionize the game.
But if Goodell gets a vibe (and he may have already) that the players association would seethe over having more snaps forced on players, that could hamper talks for a new CBA. And regular season overtime reform may not be that important if it's going to tick off
Favre wasn't loved by his mates with the Jets, who felt he set himself apart from them. Favre was loved by his mates in Minnesota, and he loved them back; all you had to do was see him and wideout
If he completes another season as a starter, he'll push his record of consecutive regular season starts to 300. And if Favre then retires,
Now that that's out of the way, NFL owners will vote on the site of the '14 Super Bowl Tuesday afternoon. Three locations are in play -- Tampa, south Florida and New Jersey. I'm like everyone else: I think the Meadowlands will win. I think there's little doubt of it. Then, despite what the league says now about "this is a special, one-time thing,'' I doubt
"All these reports about older players with dementia and Alzheimer's came out. The concussions affect your thinking, your energy, everything. It's not like a knee and limping. It controls my whole body. I didn't want to know that stuff about dementia, especially not when I was playing. You can't play with that kind of fear. You can't be timid. Timid runs you out of the league. `No fear' lets you throw your head in there. I had to get those big guys off of me. I had to lead with my head and head butt them. I didn't want to play any other way.''
"Actually, I need just two words. Subject-verb. Jets suck.''
"Night and day. Everything here is a little more relaxed, I guess you can say. There is a whole different vibe in the building. The practices, walkthroughs and meetings are a little more positive and calm.''
Three numerical points regarding the overtime debate:
1. The league averages 13 overtime games a year. That's 5.1 percent of the games in a season. That's three overtime games a month. To me, it's not revolutionizing the game, or adding much to the time of a game, or to the burden on the networks, to make overtime reform part of the regular season.
2. Eleven teams did not play an overtime game in 2009. Only four teams played more than one.
3. Detroit has not played an overtime game in its last 46 games. Seattle (30), San Francisco (30) and Houston (29) have gone nearly two years without playing extra time.
On a visit to Washington to tend to some USO matters last Wednesday, my wife and I visited Arlington National Cemetery for the first time. In the midst of watching the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, we heard distant rumbles, like thunderclaps. Those were no thunderclaps. They were rifle volleys, fired at the interment of a former service member. I didn't realize how active a cemetery Arlington still is. There are 318,000 people buried there, and an average of 28 burials per weekday -- some recent servicemen and some from past wars.
Four Washington-related travel notes:
1. I left my Blackberry in a taxi after being dropped at Walter Reed Army Medical Center early Wednesday afternoon. If the cabbie (a nice Ethiopian fellow who coaches youth soccer in Takoma Park, Md.) who finds my phone would be so kind as to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, there'll be a reward in it for him. By the way, I stupidly never downloaded the contact list from the phone onto my computer, so I've got to regenerate my phone list. So those of you who have given me your cell and home and office numbers over the years would be so kind as to e-mail them to me at that address, I'll be indebted. Thanks. And don't worry, I have the phone password-protected. There are some pretty good numbers there, but they won't be falling into the wrong hands.
2. Washington has to be the best walking city in America.
3. Nationals Park is a pleasant venue, with lots of creature comforts. The best: Peroni on tap, all over the ballpark.
4. If you have three hours in D.C. and you want to do something peaceful and memorable, just walk through our National Cemetery. Verdant hillsides with row after row of distinguished simple headstones, pristinely kept. A superb place to honor those who gave their lives for the country.
"@SI_PeterKing you should have run with us pal! Dolphins will win the division!''
Back story: I am covering the World Cup Group Stage in South Africa for Sports Illustrated and SI.com, and I drove down to Princeton University on Saturday to meet a few players and coach
Altidore's wider than the soccer player I envisioned. Turns out he played defensive back as a middle-schooler, broke his arm, and his mom didn't want him to play football anymore. So he continued his soccer career, and here he is, preparing to try to get America an upset win over England in the June 12 World Cup opener. The running part of his Tweet concerns my comment about how much the 30 candidates for the Cup team ran after practice -- about 45 minutes, all with heart monitors on, with trainers monitoring every players' heart rates at midfield on a laptop.
Interesting NFL thing about Altidore. He wants to buy season tickets -- a box, really -- to the Dolphins games. Big Miami fan. But he says he's not there enough to make it worthwhile.
By the way, I've asked my Twitter followers to vote by noon today whether they want me to Tweet on soccer from South Africa between June 10-26 (I'm back home after the Group Stage), or stay idle. I've been overwhelmed with responses since last night, and I'd love to hear from you about whether you want to hear from me on life, coffee and futbol from South Africa, or whether you want me to shut up. Your call. Majority will rule.
1. I think it would really surprise me if the Broncos were shopping
2. I think I've heard reliably the Saints will lock up running back
3. I think this
4. I think
5. I think there's little doubt
6. I think the controversy over
7. I think
8. I think this is just a hunch, but I wouldn't be surprised if
9. I think it makes no sense for the Cardinals to sign
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. So sue me. Never watched
b. Many questions recently about
c. It was fun being with Vermeil last week at the Coughlin tournament. Such a sunny person. So happy to talk about anything -- football, life, wine, the human race, whatever. Glad to see him doing well in the early stages of his wine business, and his wine is so good.
d. My favorite wine these days come from Rubicon, in the Napa Valley. That's the premium
e. I wish there were 28 hours in a day. I'd use the other four to make progress in
f. Speaking of amazing,
g. And Rondo. The fabulous
h. I see
i. And I traded
j. Enough of the whining,
k. Should have used this as a travel note, but consider it, at least, a travel lesson: Never, ever, ever (when possible) travel the Cross Bronx Expressway through New York City. Stupidly, I'd forgotten that lesson that had been pounded into me over 24 years in New Jersey on Saturday morning around 8, when, on the way from Boston to Princeton, N.J., I figured, "Why not? Why not use the GPS in the car and drive the way it tells me and go down I-95 through the city?'' What I'd learned two decades ago, through bitter experience, is to go 10 miles out of the way and use the Tappan Zee Bridge to the Garden State Parkway. But I got greedy, and a 45-minute jam (for no apparent reason) made me cut it close getting to Princeton. Consider yourself forewarned.
l. I really miss New Jersey. Not enough to move back, but I have so many good memories of the place. The softball. The pizza. The family life. The