JUDGE: Rams try to keep Martz happy with new deal

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Clark Judge

I like the way the St. Louis Rams play football, and I like the way they do business. Three weeks after the club lost Super Bowl XXXVI, the Rams are talking about a contract extension for coach Mike Martz, who has two years left on his current deal. Typically, NFL coaches aren't considered candidates for extension until a year remains on their contracts, but the Rams are breaking tradition for all the right reasons. First, they believe in Martz. Second, they believe he's underpaid. Martz will earn $1 million in each of the next two seasons, and that's far below the market value for today's head coaches. St. Louis understands that and approached Martz after the year to talk about a new deal. "I'm hopeful we can get one done before the season," said team president John Shaw. And if they can't ... "We'll talk about one after the year's over," he said. Simple as that. Martz deserves a new contract, and the Rams are right to initiate talks. In two years he's taken St. Louis to the playoffs twice and the Super Bowl once. I like any head coach who gets to the Super Bowl once every two years. But he should gain a new deal that is fair and equitable, which is something above the $3 million per year that seems to be the standard freight for head coaches today. How much above? That's where this will get interesting. There has been talk about Martz getting more, a lot more — something in the neighborhood of the $5 million that Washington pays Steve Spurrier. But Shaw isn't aware of either the talk or a demand. "There's nothing to that," he said. "I met with his agent once, and everything seemed amiable to me. We discussed a number of possibilities, and there were no outrageous demands." The implication is that $5 million a year is outrageous, which it is for someone who hasn't been an NFL head coach. But you must remember that that Redskins organization is the same one that paid Marty Schottenheimer $10 million for one year of 8-8 football, so draw your own conclusions. The question, then, is: What is fair and equitable for Martz? Shaw has left that up to Martz. The Rams will keep him at $1 million the next two seasons but want Martz to come up with what he considers "a fair-market value" for the succeeding years. St. Louis then blends the numbers together for the final package ... and, voila, just like that, you have a new contract for the Rams head coach. Except that's where there's a problem. Let's say you think Martz should get the $3.5 million annually that Tampa will pay Jon Gruden. So the Rams pay Martz $1 million a year in 2002 and 2003, then hike the checks to $3.5 million a season beginning in 2004. That would take the value of a five-year deal to $12.5 million, with an average of $2 5 million a year. And that's where this thing gets stuck. "Right now," said Shaw, "they're having trouble with the blended numbers." And right now that's where this stands. There hasn't been an offer by the Rams, and there hasn't been a demand by Martz. There has been no assessment of what Martz considers his "fair-market value," nor has there been a mention of Spurrier, the Redskins or $5 million. Shaw is not concerned. He's under no obligation to do anything for a coach with two years left on his contract, but he also understands the importance of doing good business. Remember, this is the guy who made the deal for Marshall Faulk. Shaw wants to keep Martz, and he wants to keep him happy. "This shouldn't be a problem," he said. Clark Judge can be reached at his e-mail address,
Tagged: Rams, Redskins, Marshall Faulk

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