49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

January 12, 2008
Q&A: The Martz era begins

Question: In your last Q&A, you answered my question and basically said that Martz would be a terrible fit, and here they go and sign him a day after they interviewed him. What's up with that? Along those lines, how come they didn't even give Billick or Cameron a chance to interview? Cameron seemed like the ideal fit with similar players in San Diego. Antonio Gates - Vernon Davis, LT - Gore, young QB's like Rivers and Smith, and no dominant receivers. Did the 49ers just not want to wait around for Cameron to make a decision? What's going on here?

Chris, El Cerrito

Answer: Who looks like the big fat loser now? Answer: Barrows. ... It's hard to get inside Nolan's head on this decision but here goes: I think A.) He wanted/needed to make a bold move at the position. If his argument for why the 49ers failed this season was "It's the offense, stupid," then that offense needed to be whipped into shape in a big way. Nolan felt that Martz was the best/only candidate for a massive overhaul. B.) He also may have worried that waiting around for Cameron could have left him with nothing in the end. Nolan was bitten hard by Norv Turner's late departure last year. He didn't want to be left in the lurch this year. A Martz in the hand is worth two Camerons in the bush so to speak. To me, there is no gray area in this decision. It's either an inspired move or a desperate one. Nolan either will look like a genius or it will be a total and utter failure. Either way, it's going to be a dang interesting season.

Question: Matt, I keep hearing the "wrong personnel" argument. If I'm not mistaken (and I'm not - ha ha) he inherited a Lions offense that was the bipolar opposite of the Rams Offense. Millen and Mooch built a classic West Coast Offense in Detroit with big receivers (See Williams, Roy; Williams, Mike; and even recent Johnson, Calvin). They also had a small athletic O-line perfectly suited for a WCO (Rams had a bigger O-line) and a QB in Kitna that was no Bulger or Warner. What did he do? He adapted and was successful with a totally different personnel group.

Mike, San Francisco

Answer: Mmmm. I'm not sure how much he adapted. One of his most prolific receivers in 2006, Mike Furrey, was a former DB he imported from St. Louis. And RB Kevin Jones was an afterthought in many, many games. And if he was so successful, how come he's no longer in Detroit?

- Matt

Question: Hey Barrows. I prefer Mike Martz's aggressive and innovative style when compared to Nolan's predictable and dull offense. When the season ended, I was hoping the Niners would fire Nolan and hire Martz as the head coach. I guess I'd have to settle for him being the OC, which begs the question: Who do you think will be the primary offensive play caller, Martz or Nolan? And will Nolan's "umbrella of caution" loom over Martz's gunslinging offensive style?

Zeb, Sacramento

Answer: Martz will have full control of the playcalling just as Hostler did. Hostler, however, likely yielded to Nolan's philosophy because, as a first-time OC, he was feeling his way and because he was obliged to Nolan for the job. Martz is a guy who feels entitled to be an OC and who feels he really should be a head coach. He will have no problem telling Nolan to butt out of the play-calling arena. And therein lies the rub. Can two alpha males with contrasting philosophies co-exist? Fireworks ain't just for July 4 ...

- Matt

Question: Be interesting to hear your thoughts on how the hiring of Martz might affect the way the 9ers deal with free agency( both coming and going) and the upcoming draft.

Tom, Sacramento

Answer: Well, yes, that's a very interesting topic. I'm going to the Senior Bowl later this month where I hope to ask Martz about the talent on hand. Hopefully that will give us an indication of how he's leaning as far as player evaluation. Martz's arrival certainly raises questions about particular players. Is Justin Smiley suddenly more valuable? Is Ashley Lelie suddenly less valuable? Is a guy like Cal's Lavelle Hawkins, a small receiver who likely would have been passed over in previous years, suddenly just the kind of receiver the 49ers are after?

- Matt

Question: Do you think Martz will take a cue from his past and turn M Rob into a WR? He did it with Mike Furrey and it worked well for him in St. Louis and Detroit. M Rob has great hands and is a great athlete.

Ernie, St. Louis

Answer: No, I think Michael Robinson will remain at running back where he will be even more valuable in Martz's offense. Robinson is big and is very good after the catch in the open field. I imagine he'll turn into a Martz favorite.

- Matt

Question: Hi Matt I'm from Mexico, love your blog. Just wanted to ask you, What's the name of the guy they brought to assist Hostler? Since the game at Arizona, I think he did a good job; things appeared to change when he came, and is he staying for next season?

Victor, Monterrey, Mexico

Answer: You're referring to Ted Tollner. Yes, the 49ers have announced that Tollner is sticking around, although they have yet to determine exactly what he'll be doing. His natural spot would be as a quarterbacks coach. However, I wonder if Nolan and Martz are paying extra special attention to that position. As we all know, the 49ers have lost their offensive coordinator in each of the three seasons Nolan has been head coach. Hopefully Nolan is thinking one step ahead in case Martz leaves after 2008. That is, perhaps he will pick a quarterbacks coach who could step in as offensive coordinator should Martz leave.

- Matt

Question: Matt, the playoffs have reiterated the importance of being stout and physical inside. The Ted linebacker in the 3-4, a position in question with the 49ers, in some ways, equals the significance of an interior lineman in the 4-3. Brandon Moore looked like the answer, but has managed to land in Nolan's doghouse. I was drooling after watching Rey Maualuga, but the Niners' chances of acquiring the Trojan seem slim. With Jay Moore returning and the team likely to land a couple outside linebackers in the offseason, could Parys Haralson, or even TBC, move inside, like Adalius Thomas of the Patriots?

Terry, Davis

Answer: That's a really interesting question. Derek Smith played the Ted this past season. Given his salary for 2008, there's a good chance he won't be back and it's certain the 49ers would try to upgrade the position anyway. They really liked Mark Washington as a future candidate for that role, but he was snapped up by the Dolphins. As far as TBC and Haralson, both seem stout enough to play the position. I think, however, the 49ers really like Haralson as an outside linebacker and will keep him there. TBC seems like a better possibility given that he played a number of different position sin New England. Remember, though, that the 49ers showed interest in Lance Briggs. If he was to be acquired as a free agent, he'd play Ted.

- Matt

Question: Hey Matt, quick question: If the Niners really want to have an open competition for the QB position, shouldn't they bring in some bona fide talent? Why not take a run at a backup like Billy Volek who can be had for less money than a starter but who would really set the bar for any competition?

Brian, Sacramento

Answer: I asked that question earlier this year. The 49ers don't feel that Volek would be any better than Shaun Hill. It'll be intersting to see if Martz feels strongly about any free agent QBs. If they don't bring one in, the 49ers certainly will draft one in April.

- Matt

Question: Matt, Other than Berrian what other top tier free-agent WRs are available this offseason?

Stephen, Portland, Ore.

Answer: Well, there's Arizona's Bryant Johnson. But he suddenly looks less desirable now that Martz is here. There's also been talk that Martz could bring in Isaac Bruce from St. Louis. Bruce always seems to have nice games against the 49ers, even on the grass in San Francisco. I still think the best guy would be Berrian. Seems like he could really excel in a Martz offense.

- Matt


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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