Thanks to my buddy Mac for emailing me the news: Mike Nolan hired his soulmate in clock management, Mike Martz, to be the 49ers next offensive coordinator.
But Mac didn’t give me the news just as an FYI, but due to our history with Martz. No, neither of us have ever met the man, but when Martz was the head coach of the Rams his twice-yearly matchups with the Niners led to perhaps our favorite running joke.
Boy, I don’t know what it is about Saturday nights with friends that lead to delirious NFL Sunday mornings full of stupid jokes (and of course by that I mean I know EXACTLY what causes the delirium).
I don’t remember if we were at Mac’s place or mine, but one morning in 2004 the Niners were facing St. Louis and the announcers (Ron Pitts and Bill Maas, probably) were fixated on young Rams wide receiver Kevin Curtis, and how the speedster was Martz’s favorite new weapon. That led to Mac and I pretending that Martz treated Kevin like a pet, sort of a Dr. Evil/Mr. Bigglesworth type of relationship. In our scenario Martz called him Mr. Curtis, and they would have dialogues like this:
Martz: Mr. Curtis, you must be tired from all that practice, you need to drink some milk.
Mr. Curtis: Meow?
Martz: Come here! Oh, Mr. Curtis loves his milk and his daddy, don’t you Mr. Curtis! Opposing defenses don’t know what wonderful plans I have for you. You know that I selected you due to your fine pedigree!
(Now petting the top of Mr. Curtis’s head)
Mr. Curtis (feeling quite proud): Mroowww!!!
This little routine pleased Mac and I to no end, but the humor was lost on several others (in addition to most of the people reading this, no doubt). Our friend Carp, in particular, was no doubt ecstatic when the two were separated after the Rams fired Mr. Curtis’s daddy before the 2006 season, since Carp wasn’t with Mac and I in front of the television that morning. “Mr. Curtis” might make the top five in the “you had to be there” countdown.
So when Mac emailed with the Martz news, of course he wrote the following: “Oh, how soon til we get Mr. Curtis? I don’t think he will like Mr. Lelie quite the same.”
I for one am ecstatic, even giddy about the Martz signing. There is absolutely no way the words “conservative” or “boring” will be used next year to describe the offense in San Francisco. “Foolhardy” maybe, “risky” definitely, but at least it won’t be sleep-inducing.
My hope is that Martz finds a new pet on his new team, Mr. Davis. Vernon seemed to get better at catching the ball as 2007 went along, his only problem was actually his freakish ability to stay on his feet. Sometimes his unwillingness to take a knee with five defenders tugging at him led not only to lost yardage, but lost time at the end of halves. But there is no mistaking that Mr. Davis is the only receiver that brings any sort of unknown to an opposing defense.
The scouting report on the rest of their receivers probably looks something like this:
Darrell Jackson: Fragile, both in mind and body…Possesses ability to drop any pass longer than five yards, smile, and jog cheerily to the
Arnez Battle: Not bad for a former Notre Dame quarterback, the essence of mediocre as an NFL wide receiver…Will fumble without much provocation…maybe the only wide receiver starting in the NFL in part due to his personality.
Ashley Lelie: Not a factor, Nolan won’t play him because he has a “girl’s name.”
Jason Hill: Only thrown to during unnecessary fourth down passing attempts.
Brian Gilmore: Makes Cedrick Wilson look like Plaxico Burress.
However, the biggest changes Martz will bring will probably be behind center. Alex Smith will almost assuredly be the starter next year – Martz’s ego is way too big not to try to resurrect a No. 1 pick’s career, given the chance. And Frank Gore may lead the team in receptions next year, especially if the current group of receivers is left as is.
Of course, if the 49ers stick with Jackson, Battle, etc., it will lead to the first time in history that an NFL team had no receivers starting for any single fantasy football team throughout an entire season. Even Martz can’t make this group of receivers fantasy-worthy.
Another wrinkle the Martz hire brings is a new realm of clock management. Now the 49ers have the two coaches west of Herm Edwards with the worst grasp on when to use timeouts and challenges. As Rams coach, Martz would challenge the spot on the opening kickoff. I saw him call all three timeouts in the third quarter more than once, which may have led to Marc Bulger getting the NFL’s first concussion without actually getting hit.
Now teamed up with Mike “11 seconds is nowhere near enough time to throw a pass before attempting a field goal” Nolan (at Nolan’s request no less, according to ESPN’s John Clayton), we may be in for the wackiest game managing since, well, I guess Nolan’s 2007 season. I wish I could hear the headset conversations between Nolan and Martz in the first quarter of the season opener.
Martz: Challenge it.
Nolan: Challenge what?
Martz: The coin flip. Challenge it.
Nolan: What do we want…our football team…to get out of this challenge?
Martz: Challenge it.
Nolan: It’s the red flag, right?
Martz: Challenge it!
Nolan: No problemo (chuckle). We are one helluva pair, aren’t we?
Martz: Challenge it.
Unfortunately, now that Mr. Curtis has gone on to bigger and better things (1100 yards this past season with the Eagles), the 49ers would have to pay dearly to reunite him with his rightful owner. I guess it will just be up to Martz to find a new Mr. Curtis in the Niners’ pound, and up to Mac and I to get delirious enough to take another joke much, much too far.