Have the 49ers gone mad? A team that had one of the tamest offenses in the league this past season announced a few minutes ago that it had hired one the most innovative and controversial offensive minds in the game, former Rams head coach Mike Martz. Mike Nolan met with Martz on Monday. A conference call has been set up for 5 p.m.
Martz will replace Jim Hostler as offensive coordinator. Hostler’s offense finished last in most offensive categories in 2007 and the 49ers’ offensive line allowed more sacks, 55, than any in team history.
The hiring of Martz -- brash, self confident and defiant -- comes as a surprise.
The 49ers were thought to be leaning toward recently fired Miami Dolphins coach Cam Cameron, who got good production from a similarly talented San Diego Chargers team when he was offensive coordinator there. Cameron also could have slid in and used the same offense Norv Turner installed in 2006.
Nolan, however, opted for a bigger splash.
“Our players are accustomed to and deserve strong leadership and competency,” Nolan said in a statement. “The addition of Mike Martz as offensive coordinator gives our offensive players both. Mike is an accomplished and highly successful offensive coach. That has had great success with individuals and entire offenses. I believe the addition of Mike will affect our offense and entire team in a positive way. “
Martz’s St. Louis offenses were some of the most prolific the NFL had ever seen and he performed a nice turnaround for the Lions passing attack the past two seasons. Martz was fired as Detroit’s offensive coordinator last week.
However, Martz often has been criticized for abandoning the running game – the 49ers’ strength – in favor of multiple receiver sets. His Lions squad, for instance, finished 31st in rushing yards and was last in rushing attempts last year.
Furthermore for the last three years the 49ers have been gathering personnel for an offense that seemed the opposite of the ones Martz built in St. Louis. The 49ers preferred big offensive lineman and big receivers who would be assets in the running game.
Martz’s two most famous receivers, Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, are smaller and shiftier than the ones currently on the 49ers’ roster. When he was with the Rams, Martz also drafted two of the smaller receivers in the game, Shaun McDonald, who is now with the Lions, and Kevin Curtis, who is now with the Eagles.
When Martz was with the Rams from 1999 through 2005, the team finished no worse than fifth in the league in passing and had the NFL’s No. 1 passing attack in three of those seasons.
Martz had a similar effect in Detroit, improving the passing attack from 26th to seventh last year, his first as the Lion’s offensive coordinator. The Lions’ rushing attack, however, finished 32nd in 2006 and 31st in 2007.
-- Matt Barrows