- The Washington Times - Friday, November 17, 2000

Let the mind games begin.

How well did St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz learn Washington Redskins coach Norv Turner's style while spending 1997 and 1998 with the Redskins? Did Turner leave out a few lessons? Will former Redskins quarterback Trent Green and assistant coaches Jim Hanifan and Bobby Jackson use their inside knowledge to help the Rams when the teams meet Monday night?

Does each side know the other so well that play calling becomes paralysis by analysis? After all, if each knows the other knows their system, do they make changes to avoid traps? And if they do, would the other side have anticipated the moves and still been ready?

"Wait a second, let me put my straitjacket on," Martz said jokingly.

Free agency often results in players facing former teammates, but Turner will be taking on three former assistants and his quarterback of recent years. Martz was the Redskins' quarterbacks coach before becoming St. Louis' offensive coordinator last season. He was promoted to head coach when Dick Vermeil's retired in February after the Rams' Super Bowl victory.

Hanifan coached the Redskins' offensive line from 1990 to 1996 before joining St. Louis. Running backs coach Bobby Jackson left Washington after six seasons for St. Louis during the offseason. Green started 14 games in 1998 after three years on the bench.

If any staff can anticipate Turner's offensive play calling, it's the Rams. After all, Martz's offense mirrors the Redskins', only better. Then again, Turner and select assistants and players know their former associates' style, too.

And therein lies the paradox once more. It's like playing poker with the cards face up on the table.

"You can use it to your advantage, but if you use it too much it could negatively affect you," Turner said. "First of all, you prepare like you normally would. You prepare for what they're doing, and if there are some subtle things you try to use them."

Said Martz: "You just go do what you normally do. You always change a little bit week to week anyway. It comes down to execution. A lot more can be made of it from an X and O part of it than is really necessary. It becomes a game of personnel to get those matchups. We're not going to try to trick anybody. It's just putting guys out there to see if they can make a play."

Then again, both offensively oriented coaches conceded briefing their defensive staffs on the other's tendencies. Martz tends to throw more often, including on 17 consecutive snaps earlier this season. Turner mixes the calls more evenly but sometimes will abandon running back Stephen Davis.

"I haven't spent a lot of time with the defense, and I don't get involved with the calls," Martz said. "Obviously, we have talked about some of the things I think Norv will do in this game, but if you try to guess what he'll do all the time, you will drive yourself nuts. He's such a good play caller. He's the best there is. The unexpected always comes up, which is what I like about him so much. You expect the unexpected when you play against Norv."

But if Martz expects the unexpected, doesn't that make it expected?

Turner agreed that the Redskins are too balanced for Martz to target tendencies. Washington has run 305 times for 1,254 yards and thrown 338 passes for 2,410 yards. Conversely, the Rams have 244 carries for 1,168 yards and 381 passes for 3,738 yards. Overall, the Rams throw about five more passes per game than the Redskins.

"Mike will talk to his defensive staff about things we want to do," Turner said, "but our offense is flexible and multiple enough that it's hard to say that because we're in this [set] we're going to run that play."

Is Martz truly a Turner disciple? After all, he worked for eight colleges and the Rams before joining the Redskins. Could he have quietly absorbed Turner's style?

"In a lot of respects, absolutely," Martz said. "I learned so much in my two years there dealing with quarterbacks, being the head coach, calling the plays. It was the best thing that happened to my career to be able to sit there and absorb all that went on and watch Norv function."

Said Turner: "When I hired Mike, people said, 'Who is this guy?' I thought he and I had a lot in common. He had a good understanding of what we're trying to do offensively. A lot of things they're doing are things we did here."

Now Turner must wonder if he taught Martz too well.

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