Bears' Smith in no mood to discuss Martz's status
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP)
Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith was in no mood to discuss Mike Martz's job status, snapping at an inquiry about his offensive coordinator's future.
''What kind of question is that anyway?'' Smith said Wednesday when asked if he plans to bring back Martz. ''At this time, what kind of question is that? Why would you ask a question like that anyway?''
Because Martz has an expiring contract and Smith has said he's the one who will decide if his offensive coordinator comes back. There's been plenty of speculation about Martz's future in recent weeks, and the Bears (7-8) could be in store for changes once they wrap up the season at Minnesota on Sunday.
Injuries wrecked an offense that had started to jell. A five-game losing streak knocked a team that seemed headed to the playoffs out of contention, but Martz hopes to stick around.
''I've addressed that already, and obviously I'd sure like to be back,'' he said. ''I think all that stuff works out. This is going to be a great football team, and I'd like to be a part of it. We'll just see how it works out. But we'll address that when the season is over.''
Asked if he's been given any indication that the Bears would like to have him back, Martz said, ''All those kinds of things I would never discuss. It is what it is. I've addressed it. I like it here, and hopefully, it works out.''
Things were clicking in a big way until Jay Cutler broke his right thumb against San Diego on Nov. 20. The Bears were putting the finishing touches on their fifth straight win when the quarterback was injured trying to help make a tackle following an interception late in 31-20 victory.
They were 7-3 after that but quickly went on a downward spiral, dropping five in a row. They'll try to end that slide on Sunday.
As if losing Cutler wasn't bad enough, Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte sprained a ligament in his right knee against Kansas City on Dec. 4, leaving Chicago without its two best offensive players.
Caleb Hanie was simply overmatched filling in for Cutler, going 0-4 as the starter before Josh McCown got the nod last week at Green Bay. Marion Barber committed several costly mistakes in back-to-back close losses to the Chiefs and Denver, and Roy Williams also dropped a touchdown pass in that seven-point loss to Kansas City.
''We were getting better every week (before the injuries),'' said Martz, the former St. Louis Rams coach who hired Smith as his defensive coordinator in 2001. ''We were doing a good job. A chance to get better each week. But, it just happens. You have to move on.''
The Bears averaged about 32 points during the win streak. Now, Martz might be on his way out.
To many, he was an odd fit for this team, a guy who was trying to force his system on a team that simply didn't have players such as Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt and Orlando Pace. And he left himself open at times to second-guessing, as when he called an end-around for Earl Bennett in the NFC championship game last year and when he had Hanie attempt a throwback screen in his first start against Oakland last month, resulting in an interception.
In both cases, Martz blamed poor execution.
Another point of contention was his reliance on seven-step drops in the early going the past two years that left Cutler just about flattened, with poor pass protection, but the offense also clicked in a big way once the Bears got away from that.
They were successful when they committed more to the run and allowed Cutler to move around and get rid of the ball quicker. But as the losses piled up, speculation about Martz mounted.
There were reports that he probably would not be back in Chicago, and his name was linked to head-coaching openings at UCLA and Arizona State, as well as the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Whether Martz stays or not, Williams made it clear he would like to stick around.
''I feel like I made plays when the opportunity came,'' the veteran receiver said. ''Of course everybody's going to bring up the negatives, which is fine. But for the most part I made enough plays, and I'll be happy to sign, but if not, I'll continue on elsewhere.''
The Bears signed Williams to a one-year contract following a disappointing run in Dallas, hoping he would rediscover some of the form that made him a Pro Bowl pick in Martz's system when they were both in Detroit.
Instead, he struggled at times to get open and had trouble hanging onto the ball. He has 33 receptions for 447 yards and did not have more than five catches in a game until last week, when he finished with six for 81 yards.
''This is a good football team,'' Williams said. ''I'm looking for a team to go to the playoffs and go to the Super Bowl, and I don't think there's another team than the Chicago Bears, in my honest opinion.''