Mix Master Mike?
Matt Millen just loves the letter 'M.' He has hired coaches Marty Mornhinweg, Steve Mariucci, Rod Marinelli, and now Mike Martz. The Detroit Lions have signed Martz as their offensive coordinator, after lengthy discussions. Negotiations took over a week after his interview last Tuesday and the result was a 3 year deal. Financial terms of the deal were not released; last week the Lions reportedly offered a 3 year, $2.7 million backloaded contract, while Martz was requesting a 3 year deal worth closer to $5 million. Martz is already due an undisclosed amount from the St. Louis Rams after settling on a buyout for the final year of his contract in St. Louis.
Everyone agrees that Martz, the architect of "The Greatest Show on Turf" while with the Rams, is an offensive genius. The question is whether or not his offensive formula will work in Motown. I actually think his personality will mesh well with Marinelli and defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson; the Detroit News describes his personality as "intense, demanding, and a perfectionist who insists on high-tempo practices." That attitude should fit in with the other new coaches who are also known for being ball-breakers. Martz said "I took the job, first of all, because of Rod Marinelli. He's a great individual. It'll be kind of fun to see what he can do." Marinelli has now hired a coaching staff that is experienced and well respected around the league, and whose members seem to share similar crotchety dispositions.
Martz has a lot more work ahead of him than just establishing good chemistry with his new boss and co-workers. Since the Lions offense has more question marks than one of Matthew Lesko's suits, Noobsports.com offers him a welcoming present: advice on how to fix the Lions O.
1. Keep Joey Harrington. We know, we know: his career has been pretty awful (68.1 career QB rating, 54.7 career completion percentage). Joey's future in Detroit is certainly undecided at this point, but a vote of confidence from Martz would go a long way towards the team giving him another shot. The case for keeping Harrington is that he still has all the physical tools that he possessed when the Lions picked him third overall in 2002. He can still make all the throws but his problems have been largely mental. Let's just say he can be rattled by a stiff gust of wind. Because of poor decision making, Joey regressed in 2005 and couldn't hold the job throughout the entire season. Martz must rebuild Joey Heisman's confidence so that he will no longer panic (e.g. interceptions on balls he never should have thrown) or play too cautiously (e.g. incessant dumping off of the ball to the running backs). Mad Mike can accomplish this by playing to Joey's strengths which are play action passes and throwing the ball to the middle of the field.
2. Fix the line. The offensive line was sickening in 2005, literally. I've seen Kelly Butler's butt crack more times than I've seen my own. Can we get this guy a belt or something? I swear every time he goes down to a 3 point stance, we get about 3 inches of crack. Butler and his linemates also disgusted onlookers with their play. Butler needs a lot of polishing, free agent addition Rick Demulling was a major disappointment, and the rest of the line hardly played at an All Pro level. The "Fire Millen" movement can point to his moves along the offensive line as plenty enough reason for him to be dumped. The line just doesn't mesh well together and lacked an identity. It would be a good idea for the Lions to attempt to move up into the top 5 at the NFL draft in attempt to select Virginia LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson. Ferguson could be Detroit's version of Orlando Pace, without the douchey alma mater.
3. Feed Kevin Jones. Mike Martz is to running the football as Oprah Winfrey is to dieting; he just can't commit to it for long. While in St. Louis, Martz had Marshall Faulk at running back but often forgot to put the ball in his hands consistently. Jones can be dynamic as he showed during the second half of his rookie year and he is talented enough to be a Pro Bowler. One of the main complaints with Mooch in 2005 was that he only handed Kevin the ball 14.5 times per game. Martz must allow Jones enough carries to establish a good rhythm.
4. Get Roy Williams focused. Williams is so good that he could easily become a top 5 NFL wide receiver. When he is on, Roy is unstoppable yet smooth in a way that resembles TO. Roy's problems are durability and consistency. He has been nicked up throughout his young career and must prove that he can survive for 16 games. He also dropped way too many passes late last year, many while he was wide open. The Lions will not have a consistent attack without a determined Roy and it is Martz's job to reach him.
5. Convert Mike Williams to TE. The former USC stud thoroughly disappointed me as a rookie. This guy can't get any seperation from NFL cornerbacks so the team has no other option than to move him to TE. As mentioned before, Harrington is at his best throwing to the middle of the field and that is where Williams can create mismatches against linebackers. This move might leave the Lions too thin at WR, especially if Charles Rogers is cut, but hesitating to make such a move will only stunt Williams' growth further. To be honest, I'm not sure this guy will ever produce at this level. I'd love to be wrong about this; hopefully he was just rusty after a year off from competitive football.
6. Shut your damn mouth. Sorry Mr. Martz, no one has any respect for guys who manipulate the media to further their own agendas. During negotiations with the Lions, Mad Mike provided the media with information that was not accurate to paint himself in a better light. He must restrain himself from playing games with the media or he might clash with Marinelli. Along the same lines, he must also NEVER second guess Marinelli or openly campaign for a head coaching position. Mike, if you can fix this mess, you'll have your pick of head coaching jobs in a couple years, trust me...
Simple enough, right?