Niners' Martz silent about reunion with Lions Print
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Thursday, 18 September 2008 13:47
NFL Headline News

 SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -Mike Martz could have mouthed all the usual platitudes that spout from any NFL coach before a meeting with an ex-employer.
The veteran offensive mastermind could have insisted there were no hard feelings about his forced departure from the Detroit Lions last season. He could have claimed he simply was excited to be in San Francisco now, perhaps throwing in a crack about the balmy California weather.
Except Martz did something that echoes much louder than any platitude: He refused to say anything at all about the Lions early in the week leading up to their trip to face his 49ers at Candlestick Park.
``You know the game means a lot to him,'' 49ers running back Frank Gore said. ``That's just natural, but he hasn't really said it to anybody. He doesn't have to.''
Only the 49ers' offense knows what Martz has in store for his former team, but any thoughts of revenge will be enacted on the field, not in the newspapers.
publicly in 2006 when the Lions traveled to St. Louis, his home for the previous seven seasons. Detroit then put up 34 points and 370 yards against the Rams, only to lose when St. Louis managed 41 and 427 - which encapsulates why Martz is now in San Francisco despite building two relatively strong offenses for the Lions.
After his ugly departure from the Rams, Martz spent the past two years running his pass-intensive schemes with the sad-sack Lions alongside a porous defense that negated much of his work by forcing Detroit to throw in catch-up mode too often.
Jon Kitna produced big numbers with receivers Roy Williams, Calvin Johnson and Mike Furrey, but the Lions' most important number was hideous: Detroit went 10-22, and Martz took the hit.
``Coach Martz was as close to a father figure as I've had in this game,'' Kitna said. ``He treated me like a man. He always told me the truth. He always told me when he didn't like what I was doing. He always told when he felt that I was doing the right thing. ... I've had some good quarterback coaches in this league, but I probably learned more during those two years with Mike. He's so brilliant.''
Lions coach Rod Marinelli came to town with Martz, and their parting was hardly pleasant. Marinelli also was clearly reluctant to discuss the reunion - but unlike Martz, a head coach can't avoid the questions.
`He's very bright. I've said that a hundred times, and I'll leave it at that. To me, that's a long time ago. I just have great respect for him.''
Martz was the fall guy in Detroit, but coach Mike Nolan quickly snapped him up as perhaps the last lifeline to save his own floundering team. The early returns are promising for Martz, who has clearly energized an offense that finished last in the NFL in two of the past three seasons.
``I think Mike's done an outstanding job,'' Nolan said. ``From the time I hired him on, he's got a great command - not only of the offense, but he's got a great command presence with the players. They've got a lot of belief in what he does. They know that if they just do what he says, they've got a great chance to get the ball.''
Plenty of 49ers got the ball in last week's 33-30 overtime victory at Seattle. While the Lions' vaunted receivers were the primary beneficiaries of Martz's plans in Detroit, Gore is the centerpiece of Martz's plan in San Francisco - and the fourth-year pro is eager for the challenge.
The versatile running back has 157 yards rushing and 93 yards receiving in two games, and his value as a decoy is nearly as important. Martz rarely sets specific goals for the number of times he wants a player to touch the ball, but he has made an exception for Gore, who must be ``one of the very, very elite in this league'' for the 49ers to succeed, the coach said.
After just two games and a full preseason, Martz clearly has brought back respectability to the team that revolutionized offensive football in the 1980s. Just as Kitna has passed for at least 200 yards in 30 of the Lions' 34 games since Martz's debut in 2006, J.T. O'Sullivan's 300-yard passing game last week against Seattle made him the first 49ers quarterback to reach that mark since 2004.
While Martz doesn't always get along perfectly with his bosses, few players have bad things to say about a coach who's constantly thinking of new ways to make them look good. In fact, the Lions already are starting to miss him desperately during their winless start under new coordinator Jim Colletto.
``Last year, we would start the game in four wide and dictate the tempo,'' Williams said after the Lions blew a late lead in last week's loss to Green Bay. ``Now, we only get into it in 2-minute situations, or if we're down 21-nothing. Why would you get in that when you're down? Why don't you just start it and get up?
``But I'm just a player.''

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