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Fox’s Martz More Critical Than Sportswriters


I think Buffalo Bills Coach Chan Gailey should hire a sportswriter or sportscaster to stand next to him on the sideline at games.

After all, sportswriters seem to know all the answers and have the game-day instincts that the coach has failed to have in maddening losses like Sunday’s 15-12 defeat to the St. Louis Rams.

This thought came to mind while watching the Bills-Rams game in a New York City sports bar without hearing Fox commentary as several NFL games played on different TV sets.

I was the only one watching the Bills-Rams game, occasionally being interrupted by a female Atlanta fan who got so excited watching the Falcons fall apart in a loss to Carolina that she obscured my view of my game. I felt like I was at the Ralph because that happens there all the time.  

Mike Martz

Although I didn’t hear any Fox commentary from play-by-play man Ron Pitts or analyst Mike Martz, I got plenty of commentary via Twitter. I also had a running debate with Buffalo News sportswriter Mike Harrington ( who I greatly admire) over whether the Bills should have gone for two points after scoring the touchdown with 3:26 left in the third quarter that put them ahead, 12-7.

He was OK with Gailey’s decision to go for one point, which the Bills didn’t get because of a botched snap. I was for going for two on the theory that you never regret going for two points, you only regret not going for it. I think you should put that motto in a fortune cookie.

Harrington’s point of view was endorsed in a way by Pitts and Martz, who didn’t even think going for two points was worth addressing before the botched PAT.

I heard their commentary when I got home Monday and watched most of the game again thanks to my DVR. Yes, I agree, watching the game again proves I am a glutton for punishment. But you should know that by now. I watched bad TV shows for a living for three decades.

One of the reasons I watched was because Martz was being killed on Twitter. I wanted to hear if he was that bad. He wasn’t. Oh, sure, he supported some of Gailey’s conservative decisions. But you expect a former coach to still think like a coach when he goes to the booth so I gave him a pass.

His analysis actually was interesting at times. He noted the schemes the Rams were using against the Bills’ reconstructed and overmatched offensive line, questioned the Bills defensive strategy of going to zone on the final Ram touchdown drive, and wasn’t reluctant to criticize players. He got on Bills receiver Stevie Johnson for not going all out on a key third-down pass and criticized defensive end Mario Williams for “disappearing” during the Rams winning touchdown drive when he was blocked one-on-one.

I didn’t read any such criticism of Johnson or Williams in the Buffalo News coverage Monday. Johnson blamed himself in a quote. Williams was praised, not criticized.

Let me say that I agreed with just about every criticism that The News sportswriters made in Monday’s newspaper. Mark Gaughan, Jerry Sullivan, Jay Skurski, Tim Graham and Bucky Gleason make a great Monday team.

But even critics deserve criticism at times. Heaven knows, my readers criticize me all the time in comments. The biggest criticism of some of the writers is they can be unfair at times. Sometimes, they also miss some details.

First the omissions. I didn’t read anything about the issue that led to the Twitter debate that I had with Harrington about whether the Bills should have gone for two points.

Gleason’s column about Bills safety George Wilson dropping another interception that could have won a game omitted the fact that Wilson actually dropped two interceptions in the Rams’ scoring drive. That detail would have made it a stronger column.

In the same column, Gleason wrote “Fitzpatrick turned into Fitzpatrick and threw an interception.” That was unfair. The Fitzpatrick pass that was intercepted in the fourth quarter came on a third down and 19 yards to go in Bills territory with 12 seconds left. Pitts noted the QB’s arm was hit when he threw it. Martz suggested that receiver T.J. Graham ran the wrong pattern. The point is Fitzpatrick’s only interception was a desperation pass under pressure with time running out. He didn’t turn into Fitzpatrick again.

Which brings me to another unfair point. In his grading of the offenses, Graham gave the Bills a C minus in the passing game and the Rams a B minus while conceding Fitzpatrick out-played Bradford for much of the game. Graham noted that Fitzpatrick had completed 23 of 27 for 228 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions before the Rams final drive. Graham gave the Rams the higher grade because Bradford led the Rams on the winning touchdown drive. However, Bradford was able to do it because Wilson dropped two interceptions and a receiver made an incredible catch on a terrible fourth-down throw. The grades made about as much sense as some of Gailey’s decision-making.

This just in: Here is Graham’s explanation of the grades in a Facebook message: “The grade is for the passing game, not the quarterback. The receivers are part of the passing game. So are the offensive linemen. The Bills couldn’t throw downfield because of them.”

I replied to Graham that I hadn’t read that anywhere. I added that it should be explained every Monday or else only he might know how he arrived at his grades.

Finally, there’s Jerry Sullivan. I love his Day After columns after Bills losses. He called for Gailey’s head because of his “bone-headed” decisions and because he has been “ruled by fear.”

I couldn’t agree more.

I also thought Sullivan was dead-on for criticizing Gailey’s play-calling before the Bills’ Rian Lindell kicked a field goal late in the first half. But he might have been a little rough on Gailey for calling timeout to try the kick with 11 seconds left on third down rather than wait until 3 seconds were left to make the kick the final play of the half.

After all, if the snap is mishandled (and one later was) on third down, the holder could throw a pass into the ground and live for another snap with 11 seconds left. The half would be over with 3 seconds left. Gailey’s mistake was having Lindell kick the ensuing kickoff deep rather than squib it and allow the Rams to run it back.

Sullivan criticized Gailey for needing a timeout to make the decision not to allow Lindell to try a 52-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. Even without the sound on in the NYC bar, I could almost hear Lindell’s anger as Fox’s cameras caught his reaction to Gailey’s decision to punt. Martz thought the punt was a good idea and it seemed to be when the punt and a penalty pinned the Rams on their 2-yard line.

However, a long pass play got the Rams out of trouble. We’ll never know if Lindell would have made it. The Bills would have at least made it to overtime if he had, so it was a regrettable decision.

Like the Fox team, Sullivan was surprisingly silent on the issue that led to the great Pergament-Harrington debate. All right, I’m nit-picking hear. Sullivan probably didn’t think it was worthy of debate.

One of the reasons I would have preferred the Bills had gone for two points when they up 12-7 was because I didn’t want them to regret not trying something that could have saved the game. As I wrote earlier, you never regret going for it, you only regret not going for it.

But this Bills season is all about regrets.


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3 responses to "Fox’s Martz More Critical Than Sportswriters"

  1. Doug says:

    Martz is good, but he will never second guess a coach, and he loves Fitz because he coached him. The funniest was when he complemented Fitz for a great pass on the awesome Spiller screen play.

    Martz sounds like a guy who is looking for a job with a team somewhere.

  2. JMP says:

    I have to be honest you lose credibility when you say you watched the game in NYC with no audio. There are multiple Bills Backer’s Bars that are short cab ride from anywhere on Manhattan as well as Bills Backer’s Bars in Brooklyn.
    There is no reason to sit by yourself with no audio in NYC.

    If a person has made the decision to watch the game with no audio for no reason can other decisions they make be trusted?

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