Mike Martz: Bears didn’t draft Nathan Enderle to be No. 3 QB
SEAN JENSEN ON THE BEARS May 4, 2011 10:04PM
Quarterbacks Jay Cutler (right) and Caleb Hanie (12) will be joined by fifth-round pick Nathan Enderle and Matt Gutierrez. | Jonathan Daniel~Getty Images
Updated: August 6, 2011 12:20AM
Last Friday, when the lockout was temporarily lifted, Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz reached out and arranged a meeting with his two quarterbacks.
He exchanged voice mails with Jay Cutler and Caleb Hanie, and they planned to meet at Halas Hall.
“But then it changed overnight,” Martz said on Tuesday. “I’m sure they’re as disappointed as we are.”
On Saturday, though, the Bears’ quarterback room got a little more crowded after they selected Nathan Enderle out of Idaho in the fifth round. Matt Gutierrez, who played at Idaho State before signing as an undrafted free agent with the New England Patriots, also is on the Bears’ roster.
“We didn’t draft [Enderle] to be the third quarterback,” Martz said. “If that was the case, then there was no reason to draft a quarterback.
“You have to be good at that position to win, and one just isn’t enough. We feel really good about Caleb, but what if Nate is better? Who knows? I don’t know that he is or isn’t.”
Ultimately, Martz is excited about that competition and many others. Although the offense finished the 2010 season ranked 30th, the Bears played markedly better in the second half of the season and flashed a multidimensional attack.
To that end, Martz — like several others in the organization — couldn’t believe that Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi was available toward the end of the first round.
“[Carimi] has too many pluses,” Martz said. “It’s hard to find a nick on him.”
In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Martz alluded to a future beyond 2011, even though his contract expires after the upcoming season.
So what are his plans?
Feelings about the future
The Sun-Times reported last week that Martz turned down a contract extension from the Bears, but he downplayed any hard feelings toward the organization.
“I have a representative in Bob LaMonte who’s the best at what he does,” Martz said. “I just do whatever he tells me to.
“He doesn’t tell me how to coach, and I don’t tell him how to negotiate. But he knows how badly I want to be here, and I would like an extension. I don’t worry about it. I’m sure it’ll work out.”
Asked why he was so confident, Martz gushed about the 2010 season.
“It was as much fun as I’ve had in coaching in many years, and the reason why is Lovie [Smith] makes it fun,” said Martz, who was out of football in 2009 and coached with the Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers before that. “He’s a terrific head coach. He provides great leadership, and he lets you do your job.”
Martz also has enjoyed working with quarterbacks coach Shane Day and all the offensive players.
And Martz acknowledged that he welcomes a chance to develop young quarterbacks, which is why he’s encouraged by what he has seen from Enderle. Player personnel director Tim Ruskell had scouted him when he was with the Seattle Seahawks, and he recommended that Day and Martz take a look.
“He was very, very impressive,” Martz said. “I thought if we had a chance to take one in that area — middle to later rounds — this is a guy I’d want to see in person.”
So Martz personally visited only one rookie quarterback.
“If you’re going to travel to Moscow, Idaho,” Martz said, “you got to have a feeling that there’s pretty good support for him in the building.”
Enderle’s statistics weren’t overwhelming, but Martz noted how many weapons the Vandals lost heading into his senior season. So instead of just dwelling on completion percentage, Martz looked at how Enderle recognized what a defense was trying to do and how he reacted.
“You have to sort through the garbage,’’ Martz said. ‘‘They were overmatched in a lot of games. When you look at those tapes, he may or may not have good numbers. But you have to take some of that with a grain of salt.
“The thing that was impressive, against those [top] teams, he stood in there and tried to make a play. He played as if he belonged there, regardless of what’s around him.”
Cutler knows no ceiling
But for all the potential he sees in Enderle and Hanie, Martz knows Cutler is going to be key to the Bears’ offense in 2011.
Martz knew before they worked together that Cutler was a tough player. But he marveled at the abuse he endured and how he bounced back.
“He’s resilient,’’ Martz said. ‘‘He’s going to pop back up [after a hit]. And he really adjusts very well in games.”
Asked if he has abandoned a passing philosophy that — with Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger — emphasized throwing to spots and timing-based routes, Martz said, “We never left that. That’s what the system is.”
But Martz said the way defenses approached his offense forced them to deviate from that.
“That’s probably the best way to put it,” Martz said.
“But [Cutler] has no problem with that at all. It’s not something he can’t do. But we leaned on the running game.”
Martz said it’s unfair to compare the Bears’ offense to the one he engineered in St. Louis, which was consistently among the league’s best.
“We were on a fast track, indoors, and we had a litany of receivers,” Martz said. “One gets injured, and we’d trot another one out there.
“[The Bears’ receivers are] good, but we’re not as deep.”
As he always has done, Martz heaped praise on Cutler.
“Jay is very special,” Martz said. “He hasn’t even touched on what he can be yet. I know he feels good about where he is as a player, but I’m not even sure he knows how good he could be.
“To me, he could be the very best in the league right now. Absolutely. We just have to get him there.
‘‘There are some things we need to clean up. But he’s on his way.”
Part of that, Martz said, is to continue to get a handle on the personnel around him.
“We’re learning a lot about our guys,” he said, “and what we can do and can’t do.”