Mike Martz is out indefinitely as coach of the St. Louis Rams while he recovers from a bacterial infection near his heart.
ST. LOUIS – Mike Martz is out indefinitely as coach of the St. Louis Rams while he recovers from a bacterial infection near his heart.
Martz, who has been ill for more than a month and missed two practices last week while undergoing tests, was on the sideline for the Rams’ 37-31 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. After the game, which dropped the Rams to 2-3, Martz said he wished he had stayed home.
The 54-year-old coach announced last week that he was being examined for endocarditis, a bacterial infection of the lining of the heart or a heart valve. Martz said at the time that his condition had worsened and began taking antibiotics Friday.
Assistant head coach Joe Vitt will lead the team in Martz’s absence. Players learned of Martz’s status during a brief meeting Monday afternoon, but none would comment.
Rams president John Shaw said in a statement Monday that Martz would be admitted to a hospital to continue his treatment.
“As a result of his condition, he will be unable to perform his head coaching responsibilities for an indefinite period of time,” Shaw said.
Martz spoke with a raspy voice but sounded optimistic about his health after Sunday’s game. Still, he said that in retrospect, he should have allowed offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild to run the show.
“I wasn’t myself this week, the game plan wasn’t clear for me,” Martz said. “It’s over with now but I just feel what happened to me has affected this team, and that breaks my heart.”
Endocarditis affects 10,000 to 20,000 Americans each year and in some cases can cause require open-heart surgery, according to Dr. Arthur Labovitz, director of cardiology at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine.
Martz was first hospitalized Sept. 30 with what was thought to be a sinus infection. He coached two days later during a 44-24 loss to the New York Giants.
Now in his sixth season, Martz is 56-36 including the postseason. The Rams have missed the playoffs just once in his tenure (2002) and reached the Super Bowl after the 2001 season, losing 20-17 to New England.
Martz joined the Rams as offensive coordinator in 1999, and his high-powered offense led St. Louis to its first Super Bowl title that season. He became head coach following Dick Vermeil’s retirement after that championship run.
NFL coaches are notorious for their long hours, and Martz is no exception, sometimes sleeping at the office. And heart problems have affected relatively young coaches before in the high-stress atmosphere of the NFL.
Dan Reeves had a heart procedure while coaching Denver in his mid-40s. During the 1998 season, he underwent quadruple bypass season at age 54 but returned to the sidelines less than four weeks later to coach the Atlanta Falcons to the Super Bowl.
Dallas’ Bill Parcells has had several heart procedures and cited health problems when he quit the New York Giants after winning his second Super Bowl with them at age 49 in 1991. He has since coached New England and the New York Jets as well as the Cowboys.
In 1988, Chicago coach Mike Ditka suffered a heart attack at the age of 49 and missed just one game. Two weeks later, in Washington, he was supposed to be just an observer, but ended up coaching the game.