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Mike Martz retires from coaching

Former coordinator Mike Martz had Bears’ offense humming before Jay Cutler got hurt. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Former coordinator Mike Martz had the Bears’ offense humming before Jay Cutler got hurt. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: February 18, 2012 8:17AM

Thirty-eight years ­after starting his career at a ­Fresno, Calif., high school, Mike Martz decided to ­retire from coaching Monday.

“It’s time,” Martz told the Sun-Times.

His greatest pupil disagrees.

“He’s a great teacher of the game and has great knowledge of the game, and he has so much to share,” two-time MVP Kurt Warner said. “It’s disappointing. But it doesn’t fully surprise me.”

Warner, now an NFL Network analyst, pointed to a conversation he had with Martz a couple of years ago, when the coach lamented if the right opportunities would be available to him.

“In the NFL, too often, a perception that someone has becomes reality,” Warner said. “I knew that when I [left] St. Louis to find another job.

“And I think Mike had to deal with that, with the personality conflicts he’s had with some coaches. Unfortunately, that goes out in front of him, and he doesn’t get the opportunities he deserves.”

Young quarterbacks are the ultimate victims, Warner said.

Warner credited former St. Louis Rams coach Dick Vermeil for giving him his first break in the NFL. But Warner credited Martz for teaching him the intricacies of the game.

“It shaped me as a player, no question,” Warner said. “It was so instrumental in who I became as a football player in every facet.”

Martz didn’t elaborate on his decision. He’ll turn 61 in May, and he has had a full career. It began at Bullard High School in 1973. In 1999, Martz was named the Rams’ offensive coordinator, and he led the famed “Greatest Show on Turf” that set several NFL records en route to a victory in Super Bowl XXXIV.

“We would not win a world championship with the Rams without Mike Martz,” Vermeil said last year. “We had other great coaches, too. But he was, to me, the real catalyst. He was the final piece of our puzzle.”

That’s what the Bears were hoping when Lovie Smith hired his former boss in St. Louis. The Bears endured rough stretches in 2010, but the offense improved down the stretch as the team made a surprising run to the NFC North title and the conference championship game.

This season, after a slow start, the Bears were scoring more than 30 points a game during a five-game winning streak. Running back Matt Forte was considered an MVP candidate, and Jay Cutler was among the hottest quarterbacks in the league.

That reinforced Martz’s adaptability, Warner said.

“Outside of Jay and Matt Forte, they don’t have any superstars on offense,” Warner said. “But Mike was able to adjust to the limitations.”

But Cutler broke his thumb during a 31-20 victory over the San Diego Chargers on Nov. 20. The Bears were 7-3, and they lost five in a row before finishing 8-8.

With his contract set to expire, Martz and the Bears decided to part ways. Offensive line coach Mike Tice was promoted to offensive coordinator, and the Bears plan to hire a quarterbacks coach who will provide input on the passing offense.

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