As Bear fans we have been told for two straight weeks the offense will run the football more. Last week before the Green Bay game, Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz took blame for his play calling. Head Coach Lovie Smith assured both fans and the media the run/pass differential would be balanced against Green Bay. As a fan, I believed Smith. Last year the same situation occurred, and play calling changed after week eight. The final nine games of the 2010 season had the Bears winning seven of nine games. Sitting at Soldier Field on Sunday, the offense stumbled once again. Of the 59 plays called, 12 were running plays— quarterback scrambles accounted for three of the 12 running attempts.
I had my doubts when Mike Martz was brought in to run the offense. I was cautious in believing he was the best fit for the Bears. I had my reasons. I have watched Martz’s offensive scheme for years. He is a pass-happy-play-caller, and that does not bode well for the Bears’ offensive line. In his offensive style, line protection is crucial and an area the Bears have struggled with over the years. Going into the season already understanding Martz’s style and knowing the offensive line is an area of need, the Bears drafted only one offensive lineman, let team leader Olin Kreutz go, and signed subpar free agents. In 22 games with Martz calling offensive plays, the Bears have allowed 78 sacks. When does Martz realize he cannot continually put the offense into situations where they cannot succeed?
Martz’s offense relies heavily on precise route running by wide receivers. His offense requires wide receivers to be in particular spots on certain pass plays for the offense to be successful. When free agent receiver Roy Williams signed, he stressed the importance of this point. Bears receivers struggle to get off the line in press-man coverage which inhibits the quarterback from completing passes. Defenses recognize this, and the Bears will continue to see this type of coverage until their personnel learns to beat the coverage or until Mike Martz develops a new offensive game plan. The Bears receiving corps is not in the upper echelon. Yes, Johnny Knox had a career year in 2010, but where has that gone? We all know Devin Hester is best suited for special teams mixed in with a few offensive snaps. Earl Bennett is the most reliable receiver, but far from top tier. Roy Williams—never mind. And Dane Sanzenbacher is an unproven receiver fresh out of college. Bears management and coaches continually tell fans they are happy with the receiving corps. Sorry folks at Halas Hall, I disagree with your thinking.
Martz is a coach who believes in his offensive scheme so much he discourages audibling at the line of scrimmage. Football 101 suggests that if the defense pre-snap shows they have the play stopped, the quarterback needs to audible into another play. Martz’s belief is that there is going to always be an open option on every pass play no matter what the defense does. It’s obvious through three games the Bears need to be able to change the play or shift pass protection to pick up defensive blitzes. This emphasizes my caution of Martz being hired in the first place.
History suggests Martz is not willing to change his offensive play calling. So Lovie Smith…either Mike Martz needs to change his offensive scheme or you need to change offensive coordinators. This Bears team is in desperate need of offensive help. Will Martz decide to balance the play calling or will Bears’ fans continue to see incomplete passes, sacks, and interceptions?