Against the Chicago Bears in the 501st game of the Monday night series, he will show off his new model, Marc Bulger. While old model Kurt Warner has been injured, Bulger has so far won four straight.
NFL's reigning Most Valuable Player — a two-time MVP, in fact, in the last three years — he never had a day like Bulger's in Week 10. Four of Bulger's better passes were caught, but fumbled away, two of them returned for spectacular San Diego touchdowns. Then, throwing four touchdown passes to end pass-play drives of 85, 88, 94 and 54 yards, Bulger came back to win, 28-24.
Bulger Exhibition Season Product
THE CREATION of two superior pro quarterbacks — back to back — is so difficult and unusual that Martz has had few predecessors in the last century of football. One was Bill Walsh of San Francisco, who built the NFL's only five-time Super Bowl champion with a third-round draft pick, Joe Montana, and a castoff quarterback from Tampa of all places, Steve Young. In the NFL's only other comparable case, Bob Waterfield and Norm Van Brocklin led the old Los Angeles Rams to the championship a half century ago when Hamp Pool was the offensive coordinator under Coach Joe Stydahar. On that team, owner Dan Reeves drafted Van Brocklin after he already had Waterfield.
On this team, Martz has been working with Arena League graduate Warner and sixth-round draft pick Bulger, who had been cut by two other NFL clubs, New Orleans and Atlanta. And instructively, the Ram coach was ready this fall when his first two quarterbacks, Warner and Jamie Martin, both went down with injuries. All summer, Martz had used Bulger in every exhibition game, making the time after each game to go over the fine points of the incomparable Martz system with a third-stringer. The Rams went 0-4 in exhibition starts, but who cares about the exhibition season except the media? When it was over, Martz had another quarterback.
Ram Passers vs. Bear Runners
THE TWO LEADERS who will be seen under the lights Monday night, passing coach Martz and running coach Dick Jauron of Chicago, could hardly be more different. The Bears lost again last Sunday the way they usually lose, blowing a 33-30 game against New England by trying to save it with running plays after they had leads of 27-6 in the third quarter and 30-19 in the fourth.
Ten of the Bears' last 11 scrimmage plays on offense were unsuccessful runs as Jauron, facing a Super Bowl passer, Tom Brady, kept stubbornly at it with his big running back, Anthony Thomas.
Jauron's quarterback, Jim Miller, though burdened with tendinitis in his passing arm, can when throwing a football be nearly as effective as Brady, particularly on first-down pass plays when defensive teams must keep Thomas in mind. Moreover, Jauron's people executed one particularly smart pass play Sunday, a touchdown throw by one wide receiver to another.
The Bears, in other words, with their able pass-play players, might be challenging Green Bay this week for first in the NFC North — instead of resting miserably six games out — if Jauron would use them more often. The Bear problem is that Jauron, an old Yale running back, wants to run.
Martz wants to pass. And the pass plays he has called for Bulger in the Rams' last four starts, particularly the first-down pass plays, have brought them to 4-5 after they began the season 0-5 under Warner and Martin, good as those two are.
The Record Suggests Martz is Tops
THERE ARE TWO reasons to think of Martz as the nation's greatest football coach of at least the last 20 years, since Walsh. First, he has developed two successful, winning quarterbacks consecutively. On too many other teams, other coaches have been hard put to get one even once.
Second, Martz's teams have scored more than 500 points in one season not just once but three years in a row, doing it every time with a pass offense that has often seemed unstoppable.
Before Martz, only one NFL team had ever exceeded 500 in one schedule of games, and had done that but once. Thus if San Francisco's Steve Young is the NFL's all-time No. 1 passer because he has the highest pass rate ever, Martz is the league's all-time No. 1 offensive coach because the record is there to prove it.