Mike Martz is headed for retirement. He told NFL Network's Jason La Canfora he will move on from football to pursue other opportunities.
Martz spent his final two seasons in the NFL as offensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears. It was an up-and-down ride to say the least. He helped lead the Bears to the NFC Championship game last year and during the team's five-game win streak this season, Chicago's offense was rolling at an extremely high level. Yet when things went bad, all of the criticism was heaped on Martz.
He turned down a contract extension last offseason, which was a strong signal he would not return after 2011. When rumors swirled late in the season about him being a candidate for available head coaching positions at Arizona State, UCLA and Hawaii, the writing was then clearly on the wall.
In his two seasons in Chicago, the Bears' offense finished 30th and 24th in the league. Last year, despite Martz's pass-happy tendencies, the club rushed for more than 2,000 yards – just the second Bears team in the past 20 years to do so.
Martz never built a strong relationship with quarterback Jay Cutler. Cameras caught Cutler cursing out his coordinator on national television this year. Still, Martz reiterated numerous times he wanted to return to the Bears in 2012. Yet it took coach Lovie Smith less than 48 hours after the season ended to part ways with his longtime friend – the two first coached together in 2001 in St. Louis.
Martz began his career in the college ranks. From 1974 to 1991, he was an assistant coach at seven colleges and universities, including two stints as offensive coordinator at Arizona State. He was hired as QB coach for the Rams in 1992, working his way up to offensive coordinator in 1999, where he orchestrated the "Greatest Show on Turf", helping guide the club to a Super Bowl championship that season.
He was named head coach of the Rams from 2000-2005, was offensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions from 2006-2007, and held the same post with the San Francisco 49ers in 2008, before joining the Bears in 2010.
The Bears promoted former offensive line coach Mike Tice to replace Martz.
Licht interviews for GM
The Bears announced last week the team's short list of five candidates for the vacant general manager position: Marc Ross, director of college scouting for the Giants; Phil Emery, director of college scouting for the Chiefs; Jimmy Raye, director of player personnel for the Chargers; Jason Licht, director of pro personnel for the Patriots; and Tim Ruskell, Chicago's current director of player personnel.
Yesterday, team president Ted Phillips conducted his first official interview with Licht.
Licht (pronounced LIGHT) has 16 years experience in NFL personnel and scouting departments. He is in his second stint with the Patriots, after previously serving as a scout and then assistant director of player personnel (1998-2001). He's also worked in various capacities for the Miami Dolphins, Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals.
The 40-year-old has plenty of experience in the talent-evaluation department. When he served as VP of player personnel for the Eagles (2006-2007), the team did well in the top rounds, selecting DT Broderick Bunkley (1st, 2006), QB Kevin Kolb (2nd, 2007) and LB Stewart Bradley (3rd, 2007), as well as TE Brent Celek (5th, 2007).
Phillips will interview Raye today.
Bears deny Vikings permission to interview Hoke
The Minnesota Vikings requested permission to interview current Bears defensive backs coach Jon Hoke. Chicago has always publicly stated a policy of wanting its coaches to move up in the NFL ranks. Smith reiterated as much during his end-of-season press conference.
"Hopefully we'll have guys on our staff that get an opportunity to move up, whether that's assistant coaches moving into coordinator roles," said Smith.
Yet the Bears denied the Vikings permission to speak with Hoke. Last offseason, Chicago denied permission to the Jaguars to interview Mike Tice for Jacksonville's then-vacant offensive coordinator position. Tice was compensated immediately with a raise and then a promotion a year later. It's unclear whether the Bears have the same plans for Hoke.
This isn't all that surprising though, as teams will often deny permission for their coaches to speak with division rivals.
Bears and Toub negotiating
NFL teams receive an exclusive 15-day negotiating period with coaches whose contracts have expired, before they can hit the open market. For the Bears and special teams coordinator Dave Toub, that window ends today. Toub interviewed last week with the Miami Dolphins for their head-coaching job and is still in play for that position.
Since joining Chicago in 2004, Toub's units annually rank at or near the top of the league in special teams. Five of his special teams players have made the Pro Bowl during that span, including Corey Graham this year. He joins Brendan Ayanbadejo (2), Robbie Gould, Johnny Knox and Devin Hester (3).
Toub is a hot commodity around the league. If the Dolphins don't make him the team's next coach, he'll surely receive lucrative offers to coordinate special teams outside of Chicago.
If he walks, the team could promote Toub's assistant, Kevin O'Dea, to the position of coordinator – a post he held previously with the N.Y. Jets (2008-2009) and Arizona Cardinals (2004-2005).
Passing coach search continues
When Mike Tice was elevated to offensive coordinator, the Bears announced they would be searching for a "passing" coach to work with Jay Cutler. The club sought permission to interview Tennessee Titans QB coach Dowell Logains, but were denied.
Last week, the team interviewed Greg Olson, offensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, yet no deal was finalized. Other reported candidates include Jeremy Bates, former offensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks, and Jedd Fisch, offensive coordinator for the Miami Hurricanes.
Bates was pursued by Chicago as offensive coordinator before the 2010 season, yet chose to join Pete Carroll in Seattle instead. Reportedly, Bears brass never got over that snub. Bates served as Cutler's QB coach in 2008 in Denver, yet their relationship has been "overstated".
Miami Hurricanes coach Al Golden said he spoke with Fisch and doesn't foresee him leaving for another job in the near future.
"I don't have any concerns. I think he's going to stay with us," Golden told SunSentinel.com. "As head coach, you try to help everybody on your staff realize their dreams. But right now, I think Jedd wants to be here and help us build a program."
Tice had been pushing for Dirk Koetter, but he signed with the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday to be their new OC. Another name is Colts OC Clyde Christensen, whose future with the club is still yet to be determined by new Indianapolis GM Ryan Grigson.
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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.