Mike Martz described in deadspin
The original Greatest Show scheme, which was born while Martz was the Rams quarterback coach and wide receiver coach, was his own take on an old Don Coryell system. So it's a taxonomic descendent of Air Coryell as well as a spiritual one—relentless and vertical in a way Bill Walsh's bastard stunted version never was. The turf show thrived on five wide, spreading the secondary and ensuring man coverage somewhere. Backfield in motion, to confuse the defense with a variety of looks. A capable, veteran offensive line, to give the deep threats time to get sprung.
It's not complicated stuff, but the sheer number of route permutations means everyone needs to have their playbook down pat. Those Rams, not least of them the coldblooded Kurt Warner, were a rare assemblage of specialized cogs. Perhaps more so than most schemes, Martz's baby needs a very specific environment to thrive. (If you're wondering why he's retiring now, read a wholly depressing account of Martz explaining that the Bears would never ask Caleb Hanie to do "that St. Louis kind of stuff.") It allows for and requires a whole arsenal of offensive weapons, most of them available on any given play. The height advantage receiver. The speedster. The crafty white guy with good hands. The shifty pass-catching running back. The dangerous tight end. The transcendent quarterback. And, inevitably, a woeful defense, its weaknesses hidden behind turnover numbers inflated by opponents desperately trying to catch up. Green Bay, New Orleans. And New England, where Bill Belichick remains almost in awe of Don Coryell.
Mike Martz in his own words
-Martz explained his offense as a read-and-react scheme. He said in every play, the quarterback has three choices and then what the defenses do eliminates the choices. There’s never a situation where Martz says, “go deep on this play.” It all depends on the defense.
My take on Martz was that he undervalued pass catching tight ends, to him a tight end was the occasional 6th blocker. His scheme was dependant on a superior left tackle, which was why he failed in Chicago, and an uber smart QB who could absorb punishment, which was why he eventually failed everywhere else. Kurt Warner was perfect except for the physical fragility, the concussions and thumb injury ruined him for Martz in STL. In SF, Martz was never going to succeed, the personnel was all wrong, and Martz is too inflexible to change his scheme that much. Same in Chicago.
The greatest show on turf was no joke. But achieving that mix of offensive personnel while still having a defense that can do anything but play pass D is almost impossible in the cap era, which is why the SHOW was never going to last. Pass blockers cost more, guys like Faulk aren't cheap, those receivers, that quarterback...all expensive.
I broke down a Mike Martz game back when the Seahawks were getting half their annual wins vs the Rams. His routes take time. A lot of 7 step drops and timing plays where the reciever breaks just as the QB hits that 7th step. Big play, big risk. He also hated the gun, which only exposed his QBs to more hits.
I think Martz was limited by his won ego most of all. he refused to adapt his system as he went from job to job, and if you want a real glimpse into how rigid his mind is, just watch the Hawks at Rams game he called last year. His myopic thinking on Russell Wilson will give you belly laughs in retrospect. The funny thing is, with his mobility in escaping free rushers, Russell could have saved Martz job in SF and Chicago.