LAKE FOREST – The Bears will search for their third offensive coordinator in the past four seasons after saying goodbye to Mike Martz on Tuesday.
Martz, whose two-year contract expired after this season, learned of his fate during an afternoon meeting with head coach Lovie Smith at Halas Hall. Smith also decided not to bring back quarterbacks coach Shane Day, who was one of Martz’s recruits.
Bears president Ted Phillips said Smith would be responsible for hiring Martz’s replacement. Martz’s exit had been rumored for weeks and was overshadowed by the Bears’ surprise decision to fire longtime general manager Jerry Angelo.
“That was Lovie’s call,” Phillips said of the team’s decision not to re-sign Martz. “They had some philosophical differences and a parting of the ways.”
The philosophical split was no secret to those familiar with the team.
Smith is a defensive-minded coach who prefers a conservative offense led by a power running game. Martz earned his reputation as a descendent of the “Air Coryell” offenses, which featured thick playbooks and innovative passing attacks.
Martz’s style thrived with the St. Louis Rams, where he won a Super Bowl as an offensive coordinator and won an NFC title as head coach. But the Bears lacked the early-2000s Rams’ explosiveness at receiver and strength on the offensive line.
The result was 75 sacks allowed against Bears quarterback Jay Cutler in 25 games.
Smith was not made available to reporters Tuesday.
However, Phillips said he had confidence in Smith to choose the next offensive coordinator. It’s possible that Smith could stay in-house and promote offensive line coach Mike Tice, or he could go outside of the organization for a replacement.
A day before Martz’s dismissal, Bears running back Matt Forte said he hoped the team would not make a change at coordinator. At the same time, Forte said, players would be able to learn a new offensive system if necessary.
“That would be tough to do, but it happens all the time,” Forte said. “You’ve got to learn the playbook. When coach Martz first came in, we learned his plays and did pretty well. It’s just when there’s no consistency and having to change the playbook and all that, that makes it a little more tough.”
Cutler occasionally clashed with Martz during their time together. At the least, Cutler figures to play an indirect role in which candidate is hired as the next coordinator.
“Our offense goes as far as Jay takes us,” Phillips said. “He’s our franchise quarterback, we love what he brings to the table, and we’re going to do what it takes to make him successful. That’s our goal.”