|Sunday, September 15
Updated: September 16, 11:09 PM ET
Rams 0-2 starts rests on Martz's shoulders
By Adrian Wojnarowski
Special to ESPN.com
ST. LOUIS -- The smug, arrogant act of the St. Louis Rams coach ends now, a self-congratulatory, acid-tongued genius rapidly reduced to a common coaching clown, the red-nosed floppy-shoed folly threatening to topple the Greatest Show on Turf. What deserved to be a dynasty is decaying down by down, game by game. Mike Martz is the lost soul standing on the sidelines.
Every week, it gets worse for Martz. Every week, he slinks deeper and deeper into his own doing. Nobody cares. Nobody feels bad for him. He's brought everything on himself. His stubbornness blew the Super Bowl, his ego and carelessness profoundly costing the Rams this 0-2 start to the season. Yes, it gets worse every day.
Everyone in the National Football League trashes Jason Sehorn, but nobody did with Martz's venom, his glee, and the sport's prettiest face made him pay with a pound of flesh. Man, this had to be the most humiliating moment for Martz at the Edward Jones Dome, Sehorn picking a pass out of the air, running it back for a touchdown, running it down the throat of a speechless Rams coach.
All his mouthing off -- on Sehorn, on everything -- had come back to embarrass Martz. The boos tumbled down at the Dome, the restlessness of the city over the Super Bowl and Broncos loss rumbling into a rage.
When this 26-21 loss to the Giants was done, 10 years of New York futility against the Rams obliterated, surprise, surprise: Martz passed the blame to his players. When the Rams were winning, he craved the credit, but he wants nothing to do with accountability for a franchise that's lost its invincibility.
"Those turnovers will kill you," Martz said. "No matter what you call it, how you do things or don't do things, it doesn't make any difference…I wish I could tell you I haven't been here before, but I have, many, many times in my life, in my career.
"We'll respond. We'll come back."
Nobody is so sure anymore. Not because of Kurt Warner's interceptions, not because of a defense giving up nearly 400 offensive yards to the Giants, but because of the coach's erratic leadership. Around St. Louis, they're never sure of the leader they're going to get. What's Martz's mood going to be today? Up? Down? Nobody knows. This must have a cumulative effect on the psyche of the team, especially when a Super Bowl favorite is struggling, blame is flying and the coach is shirking his share.
"I made too many mistakes and I lost this game for this team," said Warner on Sunday, a noble gesture by the team leader.
Still, Martz doesn't get it. After failing on a 4th-and-2 in the fourth quarter of the Broncos loss, trading a fairly certain field goal and a tie game for the chance to show everyone his superior offensive mind, Martz stayed defiant last week. As it turned out, opening week was just an extension of the Super Bowl, when the Patriots flooded the secondary with defensive backs, daring Martz to run the ball. He has the best runner in the game, Marshall Faulk, but insisted on passing into the teeth of the New England defense. Winning his way was more important than winning at all.
Stubbornness faded into sheer stupidity on Sunday, when Martz confessed to forgetting Rams starting left guard Tom Nutten had left the game with a concussion when the coach called a running play for Marshall Faulk. This was 4th and 1 in the fourth quarter, the game on the line. The Giants tossed aside his replacement, Heath Irwin, stopping Faulk. Always, it is something with Martz. Always, a self-inflicted drama.
Now, Martz has to get his act together. For his acumen as an X's and O's mind, Martz has done little to inspire confidence as a cool, collected CEO. Schemes take a team just so far in this sport. This is about leading men, about a coach accepting the burden that comes with it.
This is going to be the toughest week of Martz's coaching life, with a Monday night game against Tampa Bay with stakes this simple: Still September, the season is on the line for St. Louis. This isn't on Warner. This isn't on Faulk. This is on the coach. All along, Martz wanted the Greatest Show on Turf to be about him.
He wanted Dick Vermeil out of the way, wanted the world to see him as the brains behind the Super Bowl championship with him as coordinator. Three years ago, they gave Martz everything -- complete control, the best talent in the sport and a chance to make the Rams a dynasty. Martz has made a mess.
Of all people, Sehorn had a good laugh Sunday, running past Martz for a touchdown, past the man transforming the Greatest Show on Turf into a three-ring circus. From the Super Bowl, to 0-2, this is not pretty.
Everyone is watching now. Everyone waiting. What deserved to be a dynasty is decaying and understand: This is on the lost soul standing on the sideline for the St. Louis Rams.
Adrian Wojnarowski is a columnist for The Record (Northern N.J.) and a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPNWoj@aol.com.