Chicago Bears president Ted Phillips said the decision to release former offensive coordinator Mike Martz was that of coach Lovie Smith alone. Officially, it was called a resignation based on "philosophical differences." According to Phillips, Smith and Martz spoke Tuesday morning and agreed to part ways.
"That was Lovie's decision," said Phillips. "He's always had the decision-making authority on his coaching staff and that's going to stay the same way."
Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun Times spoke with Martz yesterday. He said the split was amicable and he harbors no ill feelings toward Smith or the Bears organization.
"It was a thrill to join Lovie's staff," said Martz. "He does a great job. Nothing in our relationship has changed. It was just time to move on."
There were rumblings of animosity between not only Martz and Smith, but also Martz and line coach Mike Tice, as well as quarterback Jay Cutler, who was caught on camera mid-season cussing out Martz in the middle of a game. Yet Martz says none of those rumors played into his decision to leave.
"There's nothing to analyze," Martz said. "This is a personal thing for me. There isn't anything to talk about or discuss. I have great memories of Chicago. The people there are great."
The offense was clicking in Cutler's second year under Martz. During the team's five-game win streak, the group was averaging more than 30 points per game. Then Cutler broke his thumb and things spiraled out of control.
"I thought we were special as a football team, not just as an offense," said Martz. "I felt we were playing better than anyone else in the league. But injuries can always happen.
"Jay is so talented. He got comfortable [in the offense]. But that's on Jay, not myself. His command of the system was excellent. The best is yet to come."
The Chicago Tribune's Vaughn McClure first reported that coordinator Rod Marinelli signed a contract extension before the 2011 season. The team never went public with the news, as Marinelli preferred to keep it quiet. The terms of the extension aren't known but it's assumed to be concurrent with the extension Smith signed, which runs through 2013.
"I feel good about being here, and I feel good about being with Lovie," Marinelli told the Tribune. "I love being with these defensive players and these defensive coaches. You couldn't have better guys than Babich, Hoke, Gill (Byrd) and Mike Phair. We have great chemistry. This is not about one guy."
It appears Smith and Marinelli are content with the defensive coaches, so don't expect any turnover on that side of the ball. Yet, if they can't turnaround a defense that dropped from ninth overall in 2010 down to 17th overall in 2011, Smith, Marinelli and company may not be in line for any future extensions.
"Not good enough," Marinelli said. "Our job is to outplay the opponent. If we don't do that, it's not good enough."
Toub visits Miami
Speaking of Bears coaches, special teams coordinator Dave Toub met with Miami Dolphins executives yesterday regarding the Dolphins' head coaching vacancy. Toub has coached nine years in Chicago and is considered one of the best special-teams coaches in the game. His unit annually ranks at or near the top of the league. This year, his group ranked ninth in the NFL in kickoff coverage and sixth covering punts. In addition, P Adam Podlesh's 43.9 gross punt average is tops in Bears history, as was the team's 40.4 net average.
Yet it appears the Dolphins are in heavy pursuit of Jeff Fisher and that Toub is a long shot. Smith has always encouraged his assistants to pursue career advancements, yet it appears Toub will be sticking around for at least more season in Chicago.
Speaking of Fisher
It was reported this week by Albert Breer of NFL.com that Fisher has always viewed the head-coaching job in Chicago as his dream position. According to a source with knowledge: "That's the one he's always wanted."
Yet Fisher is one of the hottest commodities for teams in need of an established head coach. Fisher coached the Tennessee Titans for 17 seasons, going 142-120 in the regular season and 5-6 in the playoffs, including a trip to the Super Bowl in 1999.
He played for the Bears as a defensive back and return specialist from 1981-1984 and began his coaching career as a defensive assistant in Chicago in 1985. Yet with Smith on board for 2012, it doesn't appear Fisher will be landing his dream job anytime soon.
With Martz's firing, Smith will be searching for his fourth offensive coordinator in just eight years in Chicago. Yet that's par for the course in today's NFL, where assistant coaches are cycled through organizations each and every season. High turnover is just part of the game.
For Smith, he has gone through a whopping 28 assistants since signing with the Bears in 2004. Here is the year-by-year list of coaches (compiled and first reported by Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune) that have departed:
After 2004: Vance Bedford DB, Karl Dunbar DL, Pete Hoener, OL, Terry Shea OC
After 2005: Charlie Coiner Spec. Teams Asst., Perry Fewell, DB, Torian Gray Asst. DB
After 2006: Mike Bajakian QC, Harold Goodwin Asst. OL, Don Johnson DL, Ron Rivera DC, Wade Wilson QB
After 2007: Hardy Nickerson LB, Kevin O'Dea Spec. Teams Asst.
After 2008: Ryan George Strength Asst., Brock Haley DL, Lloyd Lee LB, Steve Wilks DB
After 2009: Rob Boras TE, Luke Butkus Asst. OL, Pep Hamilton QB, Harry Hiestand OL, Charles London Asst. WR, Ron Turner OC
After 2010: Chris Tabor Spec. Teams Asst., Eric Washington DL
After 2011: Shane Day QB, Mike Martz OC
Futures contracts signed
Lost in the midst of the front-office chaos this week was the signing of two Bears players. TE Draylen Ross and C/G Reggie Stephens, both of whom ended the season on Chicago's practice squad, were signed to a reserve/futures contract for 2012.
Reserve/futures contracts allow teams to sign players, which did not finish that year on the active roster of any NFL team, for the following season.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of Bear Report magazine and BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.