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Best Professional Coach 

Mike Martz

As much as we admire the cool professionalism of Joel Quenneville and the brooding intensity of Tony La Russa, the Rams' Mike Martz ranks as St. Louis' most outlandishly entertaining coach since Whitey Herzog retired to the fishin' hole. Martz suffered last year from absurdly outsized expectations: He took the reins of a Super Bowl champion, and handicappers confidently predicted Martz would ride his offensive Thoroughbred to another crown. The Rams obviously fell short of that goal -- imploding defensively, losing Kurt Warner to a freakish pinkie injury for a five-game stretch and backing sheepishly into the playoffs as a wild card before a first-round exit. But was a 10-7 season ever so flat-out fun? With the exceptions of the Kansas City debacle and second Carolina game, every week offered heart-palpitating excitement as the Rams and their opponents ratcheted up the scores to stratospheric heights. Even the playoff loss to division rival New Orleans -- which started awfully with a misfiring, concussion-fogged Warner and out-of-character play-calling conservatism from Martz -- ended with a jaw-droppingly brilliant scoring run that had the Saints looking stunned and helpless until Az Hakim took mercy and muffed a fair catch. The refreshingly frank Martz also brings his hard-charging offensive approach to bear on decision-making in other areas: Faced with an inept, underachieving defense, the coach didn't cautiously tinker or tweak but boldly rebuilt. When Joe Germaine sputtered in the preseason, Martz yanked and publicly berated him in the San Diego game, traded him to the cross-state Chiefs and secured Jamie Martin as backup QB in a head-spinning three-day span. Betting on a Rams Super Bowl win remains a long shot -- too many unpredictable variables -- but counting on Mike Martz to endlessly astonish us is a mortal lock.

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