Martz: Stabilization has led to Alex Smith's success

Martz: Stabilization has led to Alex Smith's success
August 27, 2012, 11:59 am
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DENVER -- When Mike Martz watches Alex Smith now, he sees the player he expected
Smith to be during their brief time together.Martz, hired as 49ers offensive coordinator in 2008, went through the offseason and training camp with Smith in a competition against Shaun Hill and J.T. O'Sullivan.Smith lost the starting job O'Sullivan, and then he underwent season-ending shoulder surgery before the start of the regular season. Smith never returned to full health after sustaining a separated shoulder the previous season.Martz, who was in Denver on Sunday for a dress rehearsal to prepare him for his new job as a FOX NFL analyst, said he is not at all surprised that Smith rebounded last year with his best season."There've been so many moving parts around Alex during his career that when things got stabilized, he was allowed to develop," Martz said. "When I say moving parts, just the changing of the coordinators, receiver groups, offensive line changes. They've stabilized all that now."Martz was one of those coordinators -- Smith's fourth in four seasons. But Smith never attempted a regular-season pass in Martz's one year with the 49ers."Alex, when I had him, he was just not right," Martz said. "He missed a lot of throws that he normally wouldn't miss. I knew there was something wrong. I didn't say anything to him. And eventually he realized it, and that's when he had his (shoulder) surgery."Under Martz, the 49ers' offense ranked No. 23 in the NFL in yards -- a vast improvement from 32nd overall in 2007. The 49ers ranked 13th in passing yards.Mike Nolan, the coach who hired Martz, got fired during the season. Mike Singletary was promoted to head coach. Immediately following the season, Singletary fired Martz and eventually hired Jimmy Raye.Martz, now retired from coaching, left San Francisco with a high opinion of Smith from what he witnessed off the field."He's really a gifted guy -- very intelligent," Martz said. "He was a joy to work with -- he really was -- because he's a committed guy. He asks all the right questions. I'm very happy for him. He was in it all the time. He followed what we were doing. He was a pro."I never questioned that (his mindset). The only issue I had with him was the accuracy I saw in college and earlier, when I got there, he would miss throws he ordinarily wouldn't miss. I didn't know what to do about it, to be honest with you. I know he got frustrated with it, too. He's just too good of a player."Smith never told Martz that his shoulder was ailing, Martz said.Last season, Smith started all 18 regular-season and playoff games for the 49ers. He completed 61.4 percent of his passes with 17 touchdowns and just five interceptions."The thing you saw with him is that he made some incredible throws under duress, which is what he did in college," Martz said. "He'd have a guy in his face, and he'd stick it right on the guy. When he's not real confident about the throw, he's going to hold it a little bit. That's what he did with me. And he didn't do that last year. He was letting it go."I would've liked to have had him when he was feeling good and everything was good. But that's the way it is. That's the NFL."With a stable supporting cast that includes the return of coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman and talented surrounding cast, Smith is set up to build on last season, Martz said."They run the ball so effectively that anytime he flashes the ball to Frank Gore, the defense is coming toward the line of scrimmage," Martz said. "So the throws he's getting on first and second downs are big, productive throws, particularly to Vernon (Davis). Because the under coverage is coming down to stop the run and they have some big plays."With the additions of Randy Moss and Mario Manningham joining Michael Crabtree, the 49ers have some options Martz compares to his time with the St. Louis Rams' "Greatest Show on Turf.""That threesome, the wide receiver threesome, will help Alex immensely," Martz said. "We know what Vernon is. And Vernon is an elite player in the league. He just needed more than Vernon."If you can put three receivers and a tight end in there, how do you cover that? That's what we did in St. Louis. Pick your poison. I think they have to chance to do that. Moss does not have line up on their best cornerback any more. They can put Crabtree out there and put Moss in the slot. That's another mismatch."