Before the season, many, including myself, assumed that Martinez could be as low as quarterback 3 on the depth chart. What ended up happening, was his raw talent made it impossible to leave him on the bench. It began as alternating drives, and to Birmingham’s credit, they didn’t drool all over themselves at the potential he brought, and rush him into the starting position. They took a slow calculated approach to try and help him ease into being the starter, while also making him prove he could do it. 

Looking back, it wasn’t always pretty as he had some rather rough outings early on. Looking at his body of work as a whole might erase those memories for some, however, it serves as a reminder of how far he has come and why spring football is so important. Martinez would have needed about 6 seasons worth of NFL preseason games to accomplish the level of development he has managed in one season with the UFL. 

It Wasn’t Always Pretty for Adrian Martinez 

To put this into perspective, the promising young quarterback played just 47 snaps during the 2023 preseason with the Detroit Lions. Now WHEN, not if, he is back in an NFL camp he will have improved in such a drastic manner that he will have a much better chance of sticking with a team. It also doesn’t hurt he will have another 60k in his pocket this upcoming offseason. If Martinez is smart, he would seek out a quarterback coach in any downtime he might have and work on refining his mechanics. It’s not even that he has flaws in his fundamentals when he has time to throw, it’s when he’s asked to improvise that he shows inconsistency in his ball placement. 

As my colleague Michael Washington has pointed out before, with Martinez it seems to be more about footwork than anything. He will at times stride during a throw which causes the trajectory of the ball to rise. Often early in the season, this resulted in incompletions or even interceptions. It appears some, but not all, of that has been cleaned up already this season. Skip Holtz has been hard on A Mart, but in my interactions with Martinez, it seems he understood that Holtz just wants the best out of him to help him get back to the NFL and stick. 

After helping Alex McGough accomplish this in 2023, and watching as J’Mar Smith was brought in for workouts as well, Holtz has quickly built a reputation at this level of developing and elevating quarterback talent. It will be interesting to track what happens with McGough, Martinez, and Corral this offseason. We could see a scenario where both Martinez and Corral get the call-up, and McGough is let go, potentially left to return to the Stallions and continue building his resume, and his brand in Birmingham and the UFL. 

Let’s Look at the Numbers

Dating back to college these inconsistencies existed in Martinez’s accuracy that caused incompletions and often time’s interceptions. He left Nebraska with 45 touchdowns to 30 interceptions, if not for his athletic ability his career could have ended right there. Teams aren’t looking for pocket passers that are throwing 1.5 touchdowns for every interception. 

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Looking at his time in the NFL it was much the same. On 24 dropbacks he attempted 18 passes, completing just 9. He was pressured on 12 dropbacks, as well as being sacked three times. Some of this was the result of holding the ball too long as he averaged 3.65 seconds per pass. He didn’t throw an interception but the defense batted down two passes. He also committed one penalty. 

Through the first two weeks of this season, Martinez reaffirmed the doubts about his accuracy and missed open receivers along the way to 10-21 for 114 yards 0 touchdowns, and 1 interception in two games. He again showed to be just a bit slow in diagnosing coverages at this level. If not for his 117 rushing yards on just 8 carries, he may not have gotten to expand his playing time going into week 3. Holtz and company intelligently saw that Martinez was however building toward something. 

Week 3 Changed Everything

In week three Martinez was given the entire game to show us what he could do. What he showed was he had already grown leaps and bounds in his accuracy and footwork. He still had work to do and this was evident when the defense produced 2 pass breakups, both of which should have been interceptions, 3 sacks, and forced a fumble that resulted in a touchdown. 

He still managed to complete 64% of his passes for 334 yards and 2 touchdowns adding 44 more rushing yards on 5 carries with 1 touchdown. This was an encouraging outing but still far from perfect and Holtz let Martinez know it in week four when he gave Matt Corral the start and allowed him to play the whole game. Martinez could have packed it in and given up, but instead, he refocused and continued to progress as a player seeing the challenge laid out before him. 

The Adrian Martinez Show

It wasn’t until week five that it was now the Adrian Martinez Show. Martinez came out firing in week five. He didn’t put up the passing numbers he did in week three but he completed 11 of 20 pass attempts for 155 yards and 1 touchdown. He added 9 carries for 138 yards rushing putting him just under 300 yards rushing with just 2 starts and spot duty in 2 games. 

In week six Martinez would complete 23 of 36 of his attempts for 369 yards and 4 touchdowns. He added 5 more carries for 25 yards. He also showed the ability to spread the ball around and work his way through his progressions more often than he had in the past which directly resulted in him running just five times in this game while also finding 10 different pass catchers in the game. This spelled the end of Martinez splitting reps with anyone for Birmingham. 

From week seven to week nine, Martinez would collect another 614 passing yards, 7 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions with 160 rushing yards, and 2 touchdowns. It seems teams began to learn how to defend Martinez late in the season, so it could be interesting to see how he responds in the playoffs.

League Leader: Adrian Martinez

Martinez has not only developed into one of the most productive passers in the league, he’s dominated in the rushing category as well. Currently, Martinez is 4th in completions, and attempts, 3rd in passing yards, tied for 2nd in passing touchdowns, and he has the highest yards per attempt of any passer with more than 40 attempts this season. On top of this, he stands 65 yards ahead of second place for the rushing title with 487 yards and has over 20 fewer carries than anyone else in the top ten. 

He has the highest per carry average of any player in the league with more than 1 carry at 9.9 yards per attempt. He is by far and away the most explosive single player in the league. It’s very interesting to look back and wonder what would have happened had the merger not caused the Generals to surrender the rights to Adrian Martinez. Would Martinez still be the favorite to win league MVP, and be on his way to leading a championship trip? Would the Stallions still be the top team in the UFL? 

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Sam Just

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