Remembering Chargers legendary head coach Marty Schottenheimer
Written By: Menachem Ickovitz (Twitter: @menudo_man)
Long time NFL Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer passed away at the age of 77. The news comes only a few days after his family announced that he was moved into hospice care for complications caused by his Alzheimer’s Disease which he’s been battling since 2014.
Schottenheimer had a playing career before becoming a coach. He played linebacker in the AFL for the Buffalo Bills and Boston Patriots. While he was far from a star player, he was a key contributor. In his rookie year of 1965, the Bills won the AFL Championship. Interestingly, his coach was Lou Saban, who was a member of the inaugural Cleveland Browns; a team Schottenheimer would one day coach.
Additionally, during his playing career he struck a friendship with New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath. Both being from Western Pennsylvania and playing against each other in the AFL, they became very close. Sadly for Schottenheimer, his playing career was not as memorable as Namath’s.
Schottenheimer’s coaching career started in 1974 as an assistant coach with the World Football League’s Portland Storm. The next year he would make it into the NFL as the linebackers coach for the New York Giants under head coach Bill Arnsparger.
In 1980, Schottenheimer joined the Cleveland Browns as their defensive coordinator under head coach Sam Rutigliano. In 1984, after the Browns started 1 – 7, Rutigliano was fired and Schottenheimer was offered the job as head coach.
As the story goes, Schottenheimer told Owner Art Modell and GM Ernie Accorsi that he would not take the title “interim” head coach. If they wanted him to do the job for the rest of the season he would have to be the guy they hired for years to come. Accorsi suggested to Modell that he give Schottenheimer the job even under these unique circumstances.
As a head coach, Schottenheimer was a culture-changer. Before being named head coach of the Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers, those franchises were extremely bad. Within a season, he turned the teams around and led them to playoff contention.
Additionally, he coached in Washington but was only given one season there. So there was no opportunity to see the team ascend like the other ones he coached.
His playoff losses were often heart-breaking. “The Drive” and “The Fumble” with the Browns in 1986 and 1987 was only the beginning of the heartbreak. While other playoff games didn’t get named, it doesn’t mean that the anguish was any less. Missed field goals and timely turnovers cost him playoff wins with the Chiefs and Chargers. With the one constant being Schottenheimer and his affinity to play a prevent defense which would be referred to as “Martyball.”
When talking about coaches we often look at their coaching tree and Schottenheimer’s tree is excellent. Some of the coaches who worked under Schottenheimer include Super Bowl champions like Bill Cowher, Bruce Arians, Tony Dungy and Mike McCarthy. Offensive innovators like, Cam Cameron and Rob Chudzinski. As well as defensive gurus like Wade Phillips, Gunther Cunningham and Herm Edwards. He gave his assistants opportunities to become the great coaches they were.
It is interesting to note that his defenses were regularly filled with great linebackers. Brad Van Pelt, Clay Matthews Jr., Dick Ambrose, Derrick Thomas and Shaun Phillips were just some of the many excellent linebackers under Schottenheimer’s fare.
Schottenheimer’s regular-season record of 200 – 126 – 1 is quite impressive. His 200 career wins is good enough to be ranked seventh all-time. He deserves to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame; unfortunately, entry now into the Hall of Fame will have to be posthumously.
He would often talk about “the gleam” a reference to the shine of the Lombardi Trophy. Sadly Marty Schottenheimer never won a Super Bowl and for his many fans and supporters his gleam will be remembered now in video clips and memories.
May all those who loved Schottenheimer, and there are many, find solace in an appropriate time.