Sunday, January 11, 2004

posted by James - 2:37 PM

Ok, here's the situation. You're on your own 40 and you've reached 4th down with six to go, in the mid-fourth quarter, down by two touchdowns. You're at home, so your fans are going crazy for you to go for it, but your defense hasn't stopped your opponent all day and giving your opponent the ball at this spot in the field would be disastrous. What do you do?

If you're Dick Vermeil and you're coaching the Kansas City Chiefs with a shot at the AFC Championship Game on the line, you go for it. You put the ball in the hands of your quarterback, your team leader and he puts the ball in the hands of Eddie Kennison for a 19-yard gain and the drive continues.

Vermeil's former protégé, Rams Head Coach Mike Martz, wouldn't trust his QB with the ball on the 15-yard line, knowing he didn't have to force anything because a field goal from there is already a lock.

Which is why the sharks should be swimming around Martz just as fast as they were swimming around Red Sox Coach Grady Little, who got fired for blowing Boston's first chance at the World Series since 1986... the rest you know.

The situation is eerily similar to the aftermath of the 1999 season where Martz was a hot commodity among coaching ranks and Vermeil stepped down to give him the reigns.

This season, Defensive Coordinator Lovie Smith is the hot prospect, with Martz blocking his way in St. Louis.

Unfortunately for Smith, most of the coaching jobs are already gone, but there are still openings in Oakland and Chicago.

The Rams need to consider once more whether losing a top assistant, who was most instrumental in the success of the team, is worth keeping a head coach who showed no faith in his team at a critical moment.

This wasn't the case with Vermeil, as he left because he had nothing left to prove after leading the Rams to the Super Bowl and did the right thing for the organization, but it is the case with Martz, who faces a serious lack of loyalty from his team if he returns next season.

If Smith can admit he would have made a different call and showed his team the confidence they deserved after working so hard to get to that point, then I'd make the change right now.

Martz can take the job here in Chicago, or in Oakland, but he'll still have the reputation to fix as a coach who quit believing in his team.

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