The following is an excerpt from Blitzed: Why NFL Teams Gamble on Starting Rookie Quarterbacks by Thomas George, with a foreword by Warren Moon and an afterword by Tony Dungy. The book will be published on Sept. 5, 2017.
A highly drafted NFL quarterback enters the league with glitz and glee. The hope, on all fronts, is that he is a franchise quarterback. The desire is he will become the face of the team. The plan is he will be a dazzling light of the city and organization.
NFL history is littered with illustrations where a young quarterback's fast start faded into shattered dreams. It is filled with other instances where he quickly crashed. The ugly characterization afterward is he's a flop. The nastiest is he's a bust.
That label — bust — cascades a lasting sting for the quarterback and the franchise. He can find it taxing to escape this brutal narrative. It can become a lifetime tag more utilized than his actual name. The factors for his demise, however, are often complex.
The fabrics of these stories share familiarity to Mike Martz.
Martz spent most of his NFL career working with veteran quarterbacks. His production with Kurt Warner and the Rams offered one of the NFL's most prolific offenses in a Super Bowl championship season (1999), where the Rams scored 529 points.
He worked most with veteran quarterbacks, but was exposed to rookie ones as well. "You have the one-year wonders who light it up and the next year guys adjust to them and they do not adjust," Martz said.
"You've got guys who just aren't very tough, just not competitive enough, who don't understand that the great ones don't say no — they find a way. And then you've got what is probably the worst coached position in sports. Not enough of these coaches are clear. If you have a rookie franchise quarterback, each situation is different. It's difficult to measure if he should sit or play. You've got to get a feel for the quarterback. You've got to know what's around him. It is a decision to make considering many factors."
Martz lives in San Diego. He said he received a call from representatives of both Jared Goff and Carson Wentz to work with them before the 2016 draft. So, Martz met both quarterbacks three months before the draft on an Orange County football field.
"I didn't see anything wrong with them. They were both terrific prospects. I told them I hope and pray they go someplace where they develop quarterbacks."
In Martz's estimation, Goff did not while Wentz did.
"Jared Goff?" asked Martz. "I don't know if he can play or not, but I do know he couldn't have gone to a worse place. If you took him and switched him with Dak Prescott in Dallas, who knows what would have happened for Goff there. Goff at Cal came from an offense where they ran as many plays as they could — fast. Jared in college did an amazing job of throwing a true ball off balance, under duress, making things happen. You knew the speed of the NFL would throw that kind of timing off. But he still throws a true ball. The Rams wanted to rewire him to what? I watched the Rams offense last season. It was awful football. There was nobody there on that staff that could teach him, develop him. You have a high-value guy like that and he went to the worst offensive place, the Rams."
The Rams 2016 season top offensive coaches were assistant head coach/offense Rob Boras and quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke.
Martz was asked if he believed new Rams head coach Sean McVay can make a difference for Goff.
"What is he, a couple of months older than Jared? They hired a buddy for Jared. The NFL has nothing to do with being the friend or the buddy of the quarterback. You've got to coach them and work them hard with respect. But buddy? And this guy is a quarterback expert? An offensive expert? Wait a minute while I puke. Right, he's going to be able to teach and handle and guide Jared through tough times because of all of his expertise and knowledge? Right. I'm not going to drink that Kool-Aid."
Martz said he does not know much about Philadelphia's offensive staff, but he does know it consists of Frank Reich, a former long-time NFL quarterback, and others with textured offensive backgrounds.
Martz is especially high on Wentz.
"Wentz ran a pro-type offense at his school and was ahead of the curve in that respect. I've never seen any young quarterback work out like Wentz did in my time with him. I saw Peyton Manning work out coming out of college. Wentz was just ridiculous, the arm strength, the overall arm. I mean, both guys are 1-2 in the draft, so, you could flip them around all day and you still have talent either way. Let's see what happens."
That is an apt refrain for all future NFL rookie franchise quarterbacks.
Update: Martz disputed the report Tuesday afternoon in a report on ESPN LA 710. Thomas George issued the following response:
“At no point in a 48-minute phone interview on April 21st for ‘Blitzed’ did Mike Martz request any off the record comments or restrain from offering his strong opinions on a variety of NFL quarterbacking subjects, including Rams head coach Sean McVay and quarterback Jared Goff. His quotes in today’s book excerpts on SB Nation are completely, 100 percent accurate.”
Blitzed: Why NFL Teams Gamble on Starting Rookie Quarterbacks by Thomas George, with a foreword by Warren Moon and an afterword by Tony Dungy, will be published on Sept. 5, 2017, by Sports Publishing, an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing. The book is available for preorder at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and IndieBound.