Posted on: February 2, 2010 9:44 pm
Marshall Faulk knows a thing or two about Mike Martz and his offense. After all, he was easily the most productive running back in Martz's coaching history.
Currently an analyst for NFL Network, Faulk sees Martz as a boon for the Bears, who hired Martz this week to coordinate their offense. Following five seasons of mostly uncreative, vanilla play calling from coordinator Ron Turner, Martz is expected to turn up the juice and give Jay Cutler a shot at maximizing his potential.
If Cutler lets him, Faulk says.
"This will be the first time that Jay Cutler will not have control of the decisions that he wants to make," Faulk said Tuesday from Super Bowl XLIV Media Day. "It will be a challenge to Jay. ... Mike will test his football knowledge. He'll test his willingness to want to get better in the NFL. He'll ask him to do some things that Jay might not feel comfortable with."
Faulk recognizes that Cutler's gunslinger tendencies don't mesh with Martz's offense, which is based on anticipation and putting a ball where a receiver is going to be. But it's something that can be taught, Faulk says.
"He's a see-it throw-it guy, and when you have a talent that a guy like that has, you sometimes don't rely on your instinct to guide you," Faulk said of Cutler. "That's the part of the game that makes Brett Favre special -- Favre has that arm but he'll throw a ball into a window and wait for the guy to come there instead of throwing the ball after you see the guy because it's too late sometimes.
"Mike will ask him to be an anticipator. And Jay will struggle with it at the beginning but hopefully he'll look at Mike's resume, he'll watch film of Kurt and Marc and Trent Green and he'll [notice]. And it will even be harder with him because he kind of started to do that at the beginning of the year and he threw some picks. Hopefully Mike can get him to move forward beyond that and just accept what it is and to get him to be more responsible with the football."
As you might expect, Faulk's focus is at running back where Matt Forte inherits Martz. While Faulk is a staunch supporter of Martz -- "I'm biased," he said -- he's clearly the only NFL rusher that Martz has had incredible success with. With Martz in Detroit, Kevin Jones posted career-best totals but still never rushed for even 700 yards in a season. And in a 2008 campaign with the 49ers, Frank Gore had his worst season as a starter under Martz's tutelage. There were times in each of Martz's last two stops where he'd call games and seemingly forget the running back.
Forte was a major disappointment in 2009 in spite of totaling 1,400 yards -- a big part of his failure was not getting in the end zone much -- but Faulk thinks Forte will "love" Martz.
"[He needs to] understand and come to grips with the fact that a screen pass or a check-down is just like getting a handoff and breaking the line of scrimmage," Faulk said of Forte. "If you can fix that in your head and not expect to get 30 carries a game, then you can play and play well in Mike's offense."
But the real wild card in the offensive mix in Chicago is at tight end, according to Faulk. Greg Olsen, who had career-best stats in his first season with Cutler, might be the biggest benefactor of all from Martz's playbook. Faulk says Olsen "will be the best tight end that he's ever had."
"Getting a tight end involved, what you're able to do with a running back that can catch the ball and a tight end in that offense, it will be tremendous. It will be hard to stop. ... That combination inside will be tough to defend and it will really open up things on the outside. The Bears might not need a receiver [in the draft]."
But in outlining Martz's offense, Faulk says it all comes back to the quarterback, which is probably a big reason why Martz met with Cutler before the job was officially his. Martz claims he and Cutler had an "instant connection" upon meeting, and Faulk says that it will have to last if this football tandem will work properly.
"If the quarterback can call it and learn it, everybody else can call it and learn it because he has more on his plate than anybody else," Faulk said of Martz's playbook. "Everything is based on the quarterback. They're going to run what Cutler can handle; the offensive line coach, it will be on him to make sure they get the protections, the running backs -- protections and run plays, and the receivers coach will be pressed to make sure his guys are, what Mike likes to call 'in the right place at the right time.' In that offense, the quarterback is rarely wrong. Don't fool the quarterback -- he's expecting you to be at a certain spot. That ball will be thrown there. You have to be there. So the learning curve is based on Cutler and what his abilities are. He's a Vanderbilt guy, he should be able to digest it in a week."
After a year of great expectations gone wrong in Chicago, Faulk predicts a big turnaround -- at least offensively -- because of Martz. And he can back it up.
"I think this is a great move for Mike, going to Chicago," Faulk said. "He understands this may be the last chance for him to prove to people that he can get it done, which doesn't make sense because everywhere that he's been the offense has done well."