by Michael Lombardi
February 01, 02010
QUOTE: “Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism. For the record, it’s my least favorite quality. It doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen. I’m telling you, amazing things will happen.” – Conan O’Brien
MIAMI -- Welcome to South Florida. We’re just six days away from the big game, and it can’t get here soon enough. Yesterday was the first Sunday without meaningful football in the last five months and it was hard not having at least one game to watch. Yes, I know the Pro Bowl was on, but the Pro Bowl is not meaningful football. It’s fun football.
Can Mike Martz coach Jay Cutler?
Mike Martz can make most quarterbacks look good, and he would be a great asset to Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. Here are a few reasons why his hiring as offensive coordinator makes sense:
1. He would stimulate Cutler mentally with his passing game and his game plans, and this will remind Cutler of his days in Denver with Jeremy Bates, at least in terms of creativity -- providing Lovie Smith allows Martz to run his entire scheme. He would command Cutler’s respect, and they’d have a very productive working relationship.
2. There would be a rhythm to the passing game, forcing the ball to come out of Cutler’s hand with a sense of timing. He would not be allowed to predetermine the throw based on preference but on coverage.
3. The wide receivers would be in tune with the offense, and Martz would be demanding in terms of precision in the routes. There wouldn’t be any miscommunication between Cutler and his receivers as there was last year. Cutler was loose with the ball, especially in the red zone, but often he was screwed by the wideouts running the wrong routes.
4. There would be one voice in Cutler’s head — Martz’s. He would coach the quarterback and make sure there is no miscommunication. A play caller in the NFL must coach the quarterback -- he also must be in perfect harmony with the quarterback. This would happen under Martz’s leadership.
5. Martz would eliminate certain throws in the offense and tailor the offense around Cutler’s talent. Expect the Bears to have a very high yards-per-attempt average next year if Martz is the coordinator.
The biggest reason hiring Martz makes sense is that he can command attention and respect from Cutler. He would be able to stimulate Cutler mentally, so he would capture his attention and improve his performance. The most critical factor that the Bears’ next offensive coach must have is the ability to motivate Cutler through his intellect and knowledge of the passing game. Cutler is no different than most players in the league who respect knowledge. To improve as a player, a coach must first prove he knows more about the game than the player, and in this case, Martz will be able to prove it immediately.
Peppers and the Panthers
Julius Peppers is in the best possible place in terms of holding all the leverage in contract talks with the Panthers. If the Panthers want to retain him, they must franchise him, which would be for only one year. That number will now exceed $18 million next year but will not include his incentive money earned. That money will stay in his contract and carry forward to the next year. In order for the Panthers to get a new deal with Peppers, they will have to build one off the $18-million-per-year figure, which isn’t feasible. But they could also franchise him, allow him to make his own deal and at least gain more than a compensatory third-round pick.
One other thing for Peppers to consider is that when the league goes uncapped, which Commissioner Roger Goodell said Sunday looks virtually certain, the number of teams able to bid for Peppers would be just 24, none from the final eight. This might mean that Peppers would not be able to go to the team of his choice, but if the Panthers franchise him, a trade to any team is not regulated in the uncapped year and he can pick his team — which would be a better option.
South Beach Super Bowl thoughts…
1. Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney will almost certainly play in the game, but his ankle will hinder his get-off, and playing on a neutral field without the crowd noise will help the Saints. I would crack Freeney on the first play of the game if I were the Saints.
2. If I were Saints head coach Sean Payton, I might want to spend this week working on my red zone offense and defense. The more practice plays he can get under his belt, the more it will help his team. I would even make the offense practice against 12 men on the field in the RZ to simulate the Colts’ quickness on defense, showing the offense how tight the windows are to throw the ball through.
3. Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams better save something for the last quarter of the game. He can’t use his best stuff early.
4. Peyton Manning’s passer rating against the blitz this season is over 100.0.…I really don’t think the Saints will blitz as much as they did against the Vikings.
5. For the Saints to win, they must have more than 75 offensive plays in the game. The volume of plays will wear down the Colts.
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For a look at Super Bowls I-XLIII and where all 43 games rank, check out this article from Bleacher Report.