The man seen as one of Sean McVay’s earliest and harshest detractors is now fully in McVay’s court as the young coach has led the Rams to a 7-2 record, good for first place in the NFC West, in his first year at the helm. Former Rams coach Mike Martz, who was quoted as dismissing McVay’s quarterback coaching credentials in an April interview with author and NFL reporter Thomas George, now says McVay deserves the NFL’s highest individual honor for a coach.
“McVay should be coach of the year,” Martz, 66, told The MMQB by text message last week. “Balanced team, offense, defense, special teams, all playing well. His attention to detail and leadership is remarkable!”
Eyebrows were raised when Martz, who spent seven seasons coaching the Rams after winning a Super Bowl as Dick Vermeil’s offensive coordinator in the 1999 season, was quoted as questioning the McVay hire in an August excerpt of George’s book, Blitzed: Why NFL Teams Gamble on Starting Rookie Quarterbacks.
“What is he, a couple of months older than Jared? They hired a buddy for Jared,” George quoted Martz as saying. “The NFL has nothing to do with being the friend or the buddy of the quarterback. You’ve got to coach them and work them hard with respect. But buddy? And this guy is a quarterback expert? An offensive expert? Wait a minute while I puke. Right, he’s going to be able to teach and handle and guide Jared through tough times because of all of his expertise and knowledge? Right. I’m not going to drink that Kool-Aid.”
McVay took the high road at the time, professing his respect for Martz and declining to address the comments. Martz denied making those comments to George, describing his criticism of the hire as “kind of embellished.”
“I would never say something like that,” Martz told ESPN 710 in Los Angeles in August. “It was a very short interview, and I think what I told [author Thomas George] was there’s only a couple years’ difference between them, and they probably brought him in because of his ability to communicate. With [Goff], you want somebody more his age, I guess. But all of that other garbage, I would never say something like that.”
He reiterated that assertion last week, telling The MMQB that he consulted a lawyer at the time but later decided to “let it go” because it would be difficult to prove malicious intent in court.
George, who has written for the Detroit Free Press, The New York Times, The Denver Post and NFL.com, says cynicism toward McVay’s hiring was common at the time among veteran coaches, who saw McVay become a head coach 12 days shy of his 31st birthday, the youngest coach in NFL history. “At the time, among coaches who felt they didn’t get that kind of opportunity in their careers, that type of jealousy, envy and resentment surfaced,” George says. “Mike has a lot of strong opinions about a lot of things, and that’s always been Mike Martz. I think it was a situation where he said something in April that he really felt, and when he read it in August, he regretted it.”
(“Simply didn’t happen,” said Martz.)
Whatever the case, Martz was effusive in his praise for McVay and the Rams when contacted by The MMQB: “They have done an excellent job with personnel,” Martz said. “[McVay] hired the best defensive coordinator in the game. No matter what happens from here on out, he has changed the culture there. Hats off to him.”
Nine games into the 2017 season, McVay’s Rams have improved from pro football’s 32nd-ranked offense in points scored and yards gained a year ago to second and third, respectively, in those categories. Goff is completing 61.2 percent of his passes, with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions; as a rookie under former coach Jeff Fisher a year ago last year, he had a 54.6 percent completion rate, with five touchdowns and seven picks in seven starts.
“Amazing what he has done,” Martz says of McVay and his work with the QB. “Remember, a year ago everybody thought Goff was a bust. [He] just needed to be coached.” McVay, Martz adds, “is on his way to being very special.”
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