Sports

49ers hire Martz to rebuild offense

SAN FRANCISCO -- Mike Martz claims he can put together a fantastic offense with mostly the same San Francisco 49ers who made up the NFL's worst unit in 2007.

It's just the type of brash confidence everybody expects from Martz -- and Mike Nolan believes every word of it.

Nolan hired Martz to be his offensive coordinator Tuesday, tasking one of the NFL's most polarizing coaches with reinventing an offense that sank to historic lows last season.

Martz has been on a rocky coaching road for the past three years, but he tormented the 49ers for six years during his greatest successes with their NFC West rival St. Louis Rams. Martz built the so-called Greatest Show on Turf over seven seasons, honing a remarkable passing game while the Rams reached two Super Bowls.

After the Detroit Lions fired him last week following two seasons as their offensive coordinator, Martz -- who coached alongside Nolan in Washington a decade ago -- jumped at the chance to resurrect the franchise that redefined offensive football in the 1980s under Bill Walsh.

"There are a lot of really outstanding pieces there that we just need to tie together," Martz said.

"If we can do that, they're so well-established in special teams and on defense, I think the potential and the opportunity there is pretty exciting. It's not a challenge, it's an opportunity, and that's the part I enjoy."

Martz sees boundless promise in a San Francisco offense built around talented running back Frank Gore, who reminds him of Marshall Faulk.

Of course, Martz also inherits an undistinguished offensive line, a weak receiving corps and a burgeoning quarterback controversy. He didn't even blanche at taking a job with Nolan, whose job could be in jeopardy if the 49ers post a sixth straight losing season in 2008.

"You've got to remember, I've been on the hot seat, too," said Martz, who has been fired twice in just over two years.

"I believe that I have such a great feel for who Mike is. ... In this league, it's a year-by-year proposition anyway."

Martz, who got a two-year contract, is San Francisco's sixth offensive coordinator in six years.

"There's no one more creative, as far as using personnel that allows us to be productive on offense," said Nolan, who will return for a fourth season despite a 16-32 record. "He's got one of the best minds in all of football. ... Mike was about as excited as I've seen him, and certainly excited about a lot of our players."

Nolan and Martz were together on the Washington Redskins' coaching staff from 1997-98, with Martz coaching the quarterbacks while Nolan was the defensive coordinator.

It's difficult to tell how Martz's style will mesh with the 49ers, whose only reliable offensive skill has been Gore's rushing.

"I think you can put him as the centerpiece and build around that," Martz said.

"Frank is a little bit bigger (than Faulk), more physical, but he has the receiving skills, he's an unselfish pass-blocker, and he's really a complete player that really shouldn't come out of the game. That's hard to find in this league anymore."

Nolan will fill the rest of his coaching staff with input from Martz, but the 49ers already have dropped three of Hostler's assistants.

Martz seems inclined to keep receivers coach Jerry Sullivan and offensive line coach George Warhop, praising both veteran coaches Tuesday.

Ted Tollner, the veteran coach who came on late in the season to aid Hostler, also will return to the 49ers in some capacity.

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