Mike Martz admits he strives to be a head coach in the NFL again one day, but for now he's excited about the opportunity to serve as the 49ers offensive coordinator.
"To be a part of this organization is a dream come true. I have great respect for such an elite franchise," said Martz. "There are a lot of really outstanding pieces here that we just need to tie together. If we can do that, they are so well established in special teams and on defense, I think the potential and the opportunity is pretty exciting. It's not a challenge, it's an opportunity and that's the part I enjoy."
Nolan also interviewed Chan Gailey for the role and had phone conversations with five others, but ultimately offered Martz a two-year contract and the reigns to the 49ers offense.
"It'll be his offense," said Nolan of his fourth coordinator in four years. "He's the offensive coordinator, and that's the way it's been here. It was the same with Mike McCarthy when it started. It was the same with Norv Turner, and obviously, it was that way with Jim (Hostler) last year. Mike will put the offense in. Mike has got a very thorough offensive attack. It utilizes the personnel extremely well."
Martz joins the team from the Lions where his offense finished 9th in passing and 31st in the run game, but he's best known for bringing "The Greatest Show on Turf" to the St. Louis Rams, a high speed offense that is predominantly known for its aerial assault. However, according to the Rams former head coach and recently fired Lions offensive coordinator, 49ers Pro Bowl running back Frank Gore will still take center stage in the 49ers offense.
"I think to be able to run the ball effectively, obviously, the centerpiece of any offense starts with the offensive line. The next piece has always been the running back," claimed Martz. "The quarterback has got to manage the game and play the position well. For instance when we were at St. Louis, no one ever talked about taking away Isaac (Bruce) or Torry (Holt) or the quarterback Kurt (Warner). It was always, 'the first thing you need to do is take away Marshall (Faulk),' because it can affect you in so many different ways, more than just a quarterback can. And I think that's the case here, a great running back, which I think Frank is, has such a bigger impact on the game, potentially, than any other position."
Faulk enjoyed a league best 5.5 yard rushing average in 1999 under Martz' system, something the 49ers new coordinator envisions for Gore.
"I think Frank is a very unselfish player like Marshall," said Martz. "I think that the dynamics on how they run the football are a little different, but they're so successful. Frank is a little bit bigger, more physical, but he has the receiving skills, he's an unselfish pass blocker and he's really a complete player who really shouldn't come out of the game, unless obviously he's fatigued, and that's hard to find in this league anymore. I think you can put him as the centerpiece and build around that and that's what you do with Marshall and I think there are some similarities in that respect."
As for that quarterback needed to manage the game and the open competition that is expected to take place this spring and summer between Alex Smith and Shaun Hill, Martz sees it as a good problem to have. In the end, Martz said he'll favor whichever player completes the most passes.
"From what I've seen from Alex Smith and Shaun Hill, it's exciting," said Martz. "There's great potential there. They're both accurate and I think Alex, watching him through the year, is very impressive. We just have to get everybody on the same page."
Getting on the same page will first require some retooling of the offensive coaching staff. Quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti left earlier in the week to take a position with Cal, while Nolan announced on Tuesday that he let go of assistant offensive/offensive line coach Mark Nori and running backs coach Bishop Harris.
Nolan does plan to keep Ted Tollner, hired mid-season to assist the 32nd ranked offense, but he hasn't determined his role yet, leaving only offensive assistants Pete Hoener, Jerry Sullivan and George Warhop in their same capacities.
Nolan said that Martz will have input into filling the offensive vacancies.
"Mike will have some say," said Nolan. "We talked a little about it, but it will be my decision ultimately who they are. But, I do want to complement Mike, just like Mike, I believe, will complement our offensive players."