Too S'Martz for his own good
By Jason Whitlock
Page 2 columnist

Nothing prevents a man from learning more than his ego. That's why it should come as no surprise that Mike Martz looks like the dumbest coach in football this week, while his former boss, Dick Vermeil, looks like one of the sMartzest.

Mike Martz
The critics have spat all over Mike Martz's reputation during the Rams' 0-4 start.
No one can deny that Martz has the biggest ego in the National Football League, which is the equivalent of having the biggest breasts on the set of "Baywatch." There is no shortage of ego in the NFL. Most of the league's coaches believe, given enough X-rays to study, they could come up with a simple cure for cancer.

Steve Spurrier, Marty Schottenheimer, Mike Holmgren, Jon Gruden, Mike Shanahan and Brian Billick combined couldn't match the chip on Martz's shoulder. Martz is Dolly Parton. The rest of the league's coaches might as well be Ally McBeal.

Martz elevates smugness to an unprecedented height. Name me another coach sMartz enough to believe that obedience to his "system" is more important than handing the ball to Marshall Faulk in the Super Bowl. Name me another coach sMartz enough to eschew a game-tying field-goal attempt on the road against a playoff-caliber opponent. You can't. No one is as sMartz as Mike Martz, the creator of the Greatest (Winless) Show on Turf, the once unstoppable St. Louis Rams offense.

Martz bought the media hype that he revolutionized the NFL with his high-octane, multiple-formation offensive scheme. For the better part of three years, Martz could do no wrong. Didn't anyone tell Martz that we, the media, build you up so we can tear you down?

The nondescript tight ends coach splashed into the headlines in 1999 when the Rams hired him to rescue Vermeil's offense. Martz, Vermeil's offensive coordinator, received an inordinate amount of the credit for the Rams' turnaround and Super Bowl season. In fact, he garnered so much credit that Rams management took the unusual step of naming him Vermeil's successor before St. Louis won the Super Bowl and before Vermeil made up his mind to retire.

Mike Martz
With Jamie Martin, right, now starting at quarterback, Martz's system will be put to the ultimate test.
Three seasons later, eight months removed from his Super Bowl comeuppance and four games into a disastrous 2002 regular season, it's easy to see that Martz didn't take the time to learn anything from Dick Vermeil during their one season of working together. Martz is drowning in his own pool of ego. He thinks that he and his offensive system are smarter than the rest of the league.

Meanwhile, it's quite evident that the 65-year-old Vermeil, now the coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, the team with the Greatest Show on Grass, learned quite a bit from Martz.

The script has been flipped.

For nearly three years, the word out of St. Louis was that Martz carried Vermeil to the 2000 Super Bowl. Rams president John Shaw forced Vermeil to hire Martz. Rams general manager Charley Armey traded for Faulk over Vermeil's objections. Rams players' near revolt caused Vermeil to lighten the practice load. How could Vermeil be blind to Kurt Warner's talent?

The story was that Vermeil got lucky.

I admit it. I tended to believe the story. I remember questioning Vermeil about it when he was hired to rebuild the Chiefs last season. Vermeil dismissed all the stories. "I was there. I know what transpired," he would say.

Dick Vermeil
Dick Vermeil has plenty of reasons to smile in Kansas City.
I don't believe Vermeil knew this day would come, the day when Martz's ego would ruin the Rams, the day when the Rams would begin October without a victory, the day when all of St. Louis would be longing for Vermeil to return. But I do know that while in St. Louis, Vermeil learned to coach with very little ego. He delegates to a fault. He gives his coordinators too much power, too much latitude and too much praise.

Vermeil gave Kansas City's offensive coordinator Al Saunders the same freedom Martz enjoyed in St. Louis under Vermeil's watch. Vermeil and Saunders thought they'd learned enough from Martz to duplicate his offense. They believed you could put on a Great Show outdoors.

So far they're right. The Chiefs (2-2) lead the league with 142 points. In back-to-back games against the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins, two of the league's better defensive teams, the Chiefs scored 38 and 48 points. Running back Priest Holmes looks like the second coming of Marshall Faulk. Kansas City's offensive line, which is led by two potential Hall of Famers, left tackle Willie Roaf and right guard Will Shields, is the best in the league right now. Tony Gonzalez continues to redefine the tight end position in terms of big-play capability and compensation (Gonzalez pimped the Chiefs for wide receiver money, a $10 million signing bonus).

It will be interesting to see how K.C.'s offense holds up when the weather turns bitter cold. And no one in Kansas City is convinced yet that Vermeil's favorite quarterback, Trent Green, whom Vermeil acquired for a first-round pick, is the real deal. But five TD passes and zero interceptions against the Dolphins did stop Kansas City football fans from calling their QB Tr-INT Green.

For now, Chiefs fans are content that Vermeil is moving the team in the right direction. The same can't be said about St. Louis fans and their feelings about Martz. He's too sMartz for his own good.

Jason Whitlock is a regular columnist for the Kansas City Star (, the host of a morning-drive talk show, "Jason Whitlock's Neighborhood" on Sports Radio 810 WHB ( and a regular contributor on ESPN The Magazine's Sunday morning edition of The Sports Reporters. He can be reached at



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