Player Points - Jay Cutler
By Chase Stuart
May 4th, 2010

The biggest reason for optimism this year? Mike Martz is now in town. I don't claim to know whether Martz's system will work with the mediocre offensive line in Chicago this year. But let's review his coaching history:

In 1995, as the Rams' receivers coach, Isaac Bruce caught 119 passes for 1781 yards and 13 TDs, the second most receiving yards in a single season in NFL history.

In 1996, Eddie Kennison gained 924 receiving yards and 9 TDs as a rookie. He never caught nine touchdowns in another season, and wouldn't top 924 receiving yards until 2004.

The Redskins saw Martz's success and named him their QB coach. In 1997, the Redskins passing game improved a little bit, but were devoid of talent at both QB (Gus Frerotte) and WR (no WR had either 600 yards or 6 TDs). The next season, despite still being thin at receiver, out-of-nowhere Trent Green had a breakout season. Green had been out of the NFL for years, but ranked as the #7 fantasy QB in 1998.

Martz then returned to the Rams, where St. Louis experienced one of the greatest transformations in the history of the league. In addition to Martz, the Rams added Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and Torry Holt, making it unquestionably the most dynamic quartet of offensive fireworks to ever join one team in one year. Add in HOF-caliber players like Orlando Pace and Isaac Bruce already on the roster, and the Rams from '99 to '01 became arguably the most dominant offensive team in NFL history.

After Dick Vermeil retired following the Rams Super Bowl championship in '99, Martz took over as head coach. He stayed there until 2005, before heading to Detroit for two seasons and San Francisco for one. He was out of the league last season. Here's a look at how Martz's teams have done through the air:

First, let's compare how his team did, relative to league average, in points per game, QB fantasy points, and run/pass ratio. A higher number means above average; a lower number means below average. So a 121 in QB FPs means his QBs, as a team, scored 21% more FPs than the average team QB in the league. For run/pass ratio, a lower number means a more pass-heavy team.

Year
Team
PPG
QB
R/P
1999
StL
158
151
100
2000
StL
163
152
85
2001
StL
156
140
93
2002
StL
91
103
78
2003
StL
134
117
86
2004
StL
93
116
84
2005
StL
110
116
82
2006
Det
92
112
72
2007
Det
100
95
78
2008
SF
96
107
95
Avg
n/a
119
121
85

Let's also look at Martz's team ranks in pass attempts, passing yards, net yards per attempt, passing TDs and INTs:

Year
Team
Att
YD
NY/A
TD
INT
1999
StL
19
1
1
1
7
2000
StL
3
1
1
1
28
2001
StL
12
1
1
1
24
2002
StL
1
2
11
11
32
2003
StL
2
3
11
11
31
2004
StL
5
5
10
13
28
2005
StL
4
4
10
9
30
2006
Det
2
7
18
13
27
2007
Det
4
9
17
17
30
2008
SF
18
13
18
13
26

From '99 to '01, the Rams were in Greatest Show on Turf mode, leading the league in every meaningful passing category. In '02, Warner started terribly and Jamie Martin relieved him when he was injured in week four. By mid-season, the Rams found Marc Bulger, who led the league the league in yards per attempt, net yards per attempt, adjusted yards per attempt and adjusted net yards per attempt. If Bulger had played all season long, it's reasonable to assume that the '02 Rams would have looked very similar to the '99-'01 teams. Perhaps most importantly to understanding Martz, the '02 Rams led the league in pass attempts and were second in yards.

In '03, the Rams continued their dominant offensive play, ranking 2nd in points scored and pass attempts, and third in yards. In '04, Marshall Faulk finally broke down, and the offense regressed. St. Louis ranked just 19th in points scored, but still were fifth in pass attempts and yards. In Martz's last season in St. Louis, Bulger played only half of the season with injuries, and Jamie Martin and Ryan Fitzpatrick replaced him. Still, the Rams ranked in the top five in passing yards.

Martz's tenure in St. Louis, at least as a passing coach goes, was as successful as any stretch in league history. When his players were healthy, he had absurdly dominant passing offenses. When he was forced to play with backups, his teams still passed for a ton of yards.

Then came the Detroit years. Martz must have felt like he went from the SEC to the WAC once he left St. Louis. In '05, the year before Martz, the Lions ranked 28th in points, 27th in yards, and 26th in passing yards, passing touchdowns and net yards per attempt. Joey Harrington and Jeff Garcia were the QBs, Kevin Jones was the RB, Roy Williams and Scottie Vines were the starting WRs and Marcus Pollard was the tight end. Big Mike Williams was the slot receiver.

In Martz's first year, the Lions ranked 21st in points, 22nd in yards, 7th in passing yards, 13th in passing touchdowns and 18th in net yards per attempt. Jon Kitna was the QB, Jones and Williams returned at RB/WR, Mike Furrey was converted from free safety to WR, and Dan Campbell replaced Pollard at tight end. Corey Bradford and his 164 yards filled in at slot receiver. Martz's first year in Detroit, from a fantasy standpoint, was impressive.

The next season, the Lions continued their upward climb to 16th in points, 19th in yards, 9th in passing yards, 17th in passing touchdowns and 17th in net yards per attempt. Roy Williams regressed, leaving Shaun McDonald as the number one receiver. A rookie Calvin Johnson was the #3 WR with Furrey dropping to WR4. The Lions lacked a good receiver, but McDonald, Williams, Johnson and Furrey all had over 650 receiving yards. Considering the injuries to Kevin Jones and Roy Williams, I'd consider the Lions relatively neutral move in the relevant rankings an improvement.

Martz then went to San Francisco, where the cupboard was again bare. In '07, the year before Martz, a 35-year-old Trent Dilfer split time with Alex Smith at QB, with Frank Gore being the only star on offense. Arnaz Battle led the team with 600 receiving yards, with Vernon Davis leading the team in receptions and Darrell Jackson ranking third in receptions and receiving yards. The 49ers ranked last in the league in points, last in yards, last in passing yards, 26th in passing TDs and last in net yards per attempt. Compared to this, Detroit didn't look half bad.

Under Martz, SF ranked 22nd in points scored, 23rd in yards, 13th in passing yards, 13th in passing TDs and 18th in net yards per attempt. No, it wasn't The Greatest Show on Turf II, but it was an improvement considering the talent. Martz made Shaun Hill, who had been out of the NFL, into the team's starter. Between him and J.T. O'Sullivan, the 49ers had less talent at QB than any other team in the league. A 36-year-old Isaac Bruce led the team in receiving yards, with Bryant Johnson as the #2 WR. Gore and Davis returned, and Josh Morgan was the slot receiver. Martz has an excellent history of improving the passing attack of any team he coaches.

So what does this mean? The best case scenario is that the '10 Bears somewhat resemble the old Rams. More realistically, consider that even with a bare cupboard in Detroit, playing with QBs that were half as talented as Jay Cutler, Martz's teams still ranked in the top five in pass attempts and the top 10 in passing yards. They were around league average in passing touchdowns and passing efficiency. In San Francisco, with even worse talent, Martz's teams still exceeded expectations. And it's worth remembering that Mike Singletary was the 49ers coach for half of '08, and he instilled a more ground-oriented offensive attack.

It's too early to project with any certainty how Cutler will do this season. But it stands to reason that Chicago should rank in the top five in pass attempts, and based on Cutler's skill level, in the top five in yards. Between Johnny Knox, Devin Hester, Earl Bennett, and Devin Aromashodu -- four young, talented receivers -- the aerial attack should only improve. Greg Olsen was just 24-years-old last year, when he caught 60 passes for 612 yards and 8 TDs. Martz doesn't have a history of using his tight end (and reports continue to surface that Chicago might trade Olsen), but he's never had a receiving threat in his prime at the position like he does now. There are young passing weapons on the Chicago offense. Like them or not, Jay Cutler and Mike Martz know how to pass the ball. For fantasy purposes, this is an intriguing pairing. The Bears underachieving offensive line and Mike Martz's wide open offense could end up getting Cutler injured. But if he stays upright in 2010, I think he's going to be a steal in your fantasy draft.

Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to stuart@footballguys.com.