Chicago media and fans need to give Martz the benefit of the doubt

August 5th, 2010 - 4:49 pm

Mike Martz talks with Jay CutlerFor those of you who have yet to catch on to how the Chicago sports media operates, allow me to sum it up for you. Controversy sells newspapers, or, in this day in age, it increases page views. Whenever the idea for a new story surfaces, sportswriters feel it’s incumbent upon themselves to dissect it from every angle and find the most controversial and thought-provoking way to present it to their readers.

In theory, this way of reporting makes sense. It causes readers to become upset and write comments condemning the senseless drivel they’ve just seen. Take me, for instance. I’m spending time to write a response to negativity I read from the Chicago sports media this morning. Their techniques for increasing exposure to their product obviously work, right?

Normally I treat critical articles like mosquitoes: they may annoy me, but I just brush them off and that’s the end of that. Like mosquito bites, though, critical articles may linger with you for days, if not longer.

The latest bumps on my skin come from negative articles from our beloved Chicago sportswriters who criticized Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz for being too optimistic about the state of his offense. Martz hadn’t spoken to the media in a couple months and when he finally did on Wednesday, his words were ridiculed in articles from David Haugh, Steve Rosenbloom, and Rick Morrissey.

Does it surprise me that they didn’t think too highly of Martz’s rosy assessment? Of course not. They’re columnists, they’re paid for their opinions and they’re three of the most self-righteous, negative clowns in the Chicago media today.

Suddenly, though, it’s as if these guys have had too much optimism from Lovie Smith the past seven years that no one is allowed to speak glowingly about anything. God forbid if when Rod Marinelli is interviewed he says anything positive about five-time Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs. I can’t imagine how many hours the think tank would waste brainstorming ideas to dispute those comments.

Seriously, if you were Mike Martz — a football intellectual by all accounts — and after having not spoken to the media in more than two months the first time you do so, your every word is scrutinized and derided for being too optimistic, would you ever again want to speak to that group of reporters, guys who’ve had their most sports success in middle school gym class dodgeball?

I didn’t think so. Unfortunately, talking with them is part of Martz’s job. However, reading their articles is none of ours.

Everywhere Martz has gone, which has included stops in Detroit and San Francisco, two of the bottom feeders in the league before Martz took over, he’s had immediate success — or improvement, at least — with them. And now he steps into a job that offers him the most physically gifted quarterback he’s ever had at his disposal and the media wants to rip him for being downright giddy?

Yes, the offensive line is a cause for concern. I think every non-biased person will admit to that. But it’s not completely bereft of talent.

Chris Williams did some good things last year when he switched to left tackle midseason and he should only get better in Season 2 at the position. Olin Kreutz had surgery this off-season to repair an ailing Achilles tendon and he should be able to move much better. He’ll be better this year than last. Frank Omiyale was a bad left guard last year. There’s one big problem with that: he’s not a guard. He’s a solid tackle and I think he’ll prove that this year. And if he doesn’t, Kevin Shaffer will be waiting to back him up. Offensive line coach Mike Tice — another reason to be optimistic about the offensive line — gave Shaffer a high grade when he completed his analysis of how the line performed last year. And Roberto Garza, while not currently declared the starter, has been a consistent and dependable player who rarely gives up sacks at right guard. The one position that is receiving heavy competition is left guard and competition only makes everybody better.

The tight end position is deep and solid and Brandon Manumaleuna will help the offensive line. The wide receivers are young and explosive and proved last year that they’re consistent and reliable. And Matt Forte and Chester Taylor provide a dangerous and potent one-two punch out of the backfield.

Believe me, this offense is a long way away from the lackluster ones put forth in the 90s, but these sportswriters will have you believe it’s John Shoop running the offense, not Martz.

Critics accuse optimists of “drinking the Kool-Aid.” Well, I accuse pessimists of drinking sour milk.

Everything in football starts up front on the line. That’s football lore. Everybody who knows anything about the sport will acknowledge that. And because the Bears played poorly along the offensive line last year and didn’t make any major additions this off-season, it’s understandable for people to be worried. I will never fault someone for being concerned about a legitimate issue.

But for the Chicago sports media to fault a guy for speaking positively about a unit that looks improved from last year is just plain wrong. To criticize his comments before giving him a chance to prove himself is not only incorrect, it’s just plain dumb.

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