Over the offseason the 49ers quarterbacks were careful not to complain about their grueling competition and offered little insight into the inner sanctum of a Mike Martz-led meeting room. Instead, it was a former Martz pupil, Kurt Warner, who shined a little light on the subject this week. Said Warner during a conference call:
- "Probably the anecdote is that when I first got there in my first year with Mike [Martz] that I was the 'whipping boy' that you hear about when Trent Green was there and all of the coaching was done through me. But a couple of quick anecdotes was that there were a couple of times that I would get yelled at in every single meeting. There would be days where I'd go home and I would call my wife and I'd be sitting on the phone telling her that 'Man I suck, I'm not any good' because that's all that I heard in the meetings. I never lacked confidence before but I remember tell her that 'man, I'm just not very good.' Then there was the time, to just kind of put in perspective, about five weeks into that first year. I think that we were undefeated I was playing pretty well a media group came in and was interviewing myself and four or five of the other guys, Marshall [Faulk], Isaac [Bruce], Torry [Holt] and I think Ricky Proehl. I remember them asking the question to those guys ' did you have any idea that Kurt could play this well' and every single one of them looked back at the interviewers and said 'No, we thought Kurt was terrible because all we remember is in meetings all through training camp he'd get yelled at. So we did think he was very good at all.' That's kind of an idea of what it's like in those meetings."
Asked about that technique by Brian Murphy of KNBR this week, Martz chuckles. "Some guys you need to press a little more and find out how they'll respond to those situations," he said. Martz said he usually applied the heavy pressure to a player who wasn't playing at the time as was the case with Warner during the '99 offseason.
So who was the 49ers' "whipping boy" this offseason? By all indications it was Shaun Hill. In a recent piece, Yahoo! Sports writer Mike Silver writes that Martz tends to coach all the quarterbacks by focusing his animus on one player - in this case Hill - and that Hill went to Mike Nolan during the offseason to complain that the competition was rigged.
But Warner doesn't seem to hold any grudges. In fact, he credits that pressure with jump-starting his career when Trent Green suddenly went down with an injury prior to the '99 season.
- "Mike pushes you to the limit and wants you to be perfect, wants you to get to your full potential and scrutinizes a lot of things that you do to see if you can handle it, if you can take it in, you can regurgitate all of the stuff that you're trying to learn and you can apply it when you get on the football field. [It's] very difficult to go through. Like I said, [there] were times that I lost confidence or didn't feel like I could play anymore but at the end of the day , the desire inside of me to want to be great made me take that stuff and take the criticism and the little points that he was trying to teach me within those meetings and apply them to my game and ultimately it helped make me a better quarterback."
One of the arguments against shortening the preseason is that teams will enter the regular season rusty and out of sync. To them, I give you last night's yawn-inducing seazzzzzzon opener in which the Giants and Redskins combined for 14 penalties. The Giants had four preseason games with which to prepare. The Redskins had five and yet still committed three false start penalties and apparently didn't have a two-minute offense installed. Really, can it get any worse than that with just two preseason games?
-- Matt Barrows