Martz: Spring football in San Diego "does scratch an itch"

Former NFL coach Mike Martz, now the head coach of San Diego's entry in the Alliance of American Football, explains why his hometown is ready for spring football.

The Los Angeles Rams are making a push for San Diego football fans by having their games this season broadcast over a local -- and powerful -- radio station there, The Mighty 1090 ... which is an intriguing and creditable idea.

Except for one thing: The football fans of San Diego already have a pro football team.

The Alliance of American Football, a developmental league which kicks off next spring, just put a franchise there … and, OK, we get it, it's not the NFL. But it is pro football.

More important, the Alliance just put former Rams' coach Mike Martz in charge of it, and he's already lined up a coaching staff that includes recognizable names like Hall-of-Famer Jackie Slater, former quarterback Jon Kitna, former defensive coordinator Larry Marmie and former defensive back Dre Bly.

OK, great. But will it sell … especially in San Diego? Remember, "America's Finest City" is an area where there's an abundance of activities to watch or play … and also an area that just got used to a season without the pro football Chargers.

So why should a non-NFL product make it there, and why should it make it in the spring? Good question. So we asked him on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast.

"People don't realize how big a football town San Diego really is," said Martz, who grew up in San Diego and currently lives there. "Sid Gillman. And, of course, Don Coryell. The history there is exceptional.

"I was there when Sid Gillman was with the Chargers and Coryell … and what not. So I grew up on football in San Diego; Aztecs' football at San Diego State and the Chargers. I used to go to the Chargers' games when they were playing at Balboa Stadium down at San Diego High School.

"There's such a strong tradition of football there. People love it, and they miss it. And whether the Chargers were there or not … obviously this team was going to be there … it does scratch an itch there. There are a lot of people who love football in San Diego and will support it."

Of course, that remains to be seen. But what doesn't is the collection of marquee names the Alliance has assembled as head coaches -- including Martz, Steve Spurrier (Orlando), Rick Neuheisel (Phoenix) and Mike Singletary (Memphis).

Martz hasn't been a head coach since he left the Rams after the 2005 season when he was sidelined by a bacterial infection of his heart and hasn't coached with a pro team, period, since leaving Chicago as its offensive coordinator after the 2011 season -- though he has served as a coach with the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl since 2015.

"When I left the Rams as a head coach," he said, "Mike Holmgren said, 'Take a year off, then go back in as a head coach.' But I didn't want to stop coaching. I didn't want to take that year off. So I got back in and was an assistant coach at Detroit, then San Francisco and Chicago.

"As years went by A) they (owners and GMs) felt probably because of the heart infection that I had I wasn't healthy, and then B) once you go back as an assistant, they pigeon-hole you as one. So that was kind of a mistake.

"At that point in Chicago when I realized that it wasn't going to happen anymore, it was time for me to retire then and come back to San Diego. So it was a chance to basically coach a team with a bunch of guys that (I) care about and feel strongly about. Basically, hang out in San Diego and coach football. It doesn't get any better than that."