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Marty Schottenheimer Dead at 77

Marty Schottenheimer passed away last night. Seventh all-time on the list of regular-season wins. I’m busy with personal responsibilities today so no long commentary by me, but here’s a place for readers to discuss and appreciate the legacy of Martyball. 

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51 comments, Last at 12 Feb 2021, 8:17pm

16 To be clear that's because…

To be clear that's because Andy's a strong proponent of resting starters at the end of the season. Only reason the Chiefs did it this year is because the #1 seed wasn't locked until week 17, I believe. Philly pretty obviously would've went 14-2 or better in 2004 if they had given a damn.

Doesn't change the point of your comment, though.

3 An obvious HOFer, and The…

An obvious HOFer, and The Patron Saint of Poor Judgements Informed by Obviously Inadequate Data Points.

5 Agreed - thought he should…

Agreed - thought he should be in HoF long time ago anyway.

Now they've let JJohnson, Cowher and Flores in, there's no decent argument against a 200-win coach like Marty absolutely should.

29 More than the raw winning…

More than the raw winning percentage is the consistency - he had a total of two losing seasons in 20.5 years as a head coach. The reason he's not in the HoF is because of the RNG gods. 


6 After Paul Brown and Blanton…

After Paul Brown and Blanton Collier, who were there at the inception of the franchise, the next coach to win a playoff game with the Cleveland Browns was Marty Schottenheimer.

9 Look, I thought he…

Look, I thought he mismanaged his timeouts in that divisional game. But I guess Spanos saw that fumble int and missed fg, assumed that improper coaching was to blame, and decided that 14-2 was one big mirage and Marty had to go.

Or maybe I'm giving Spanos too much credit. The more likely result is the Lord of No Rings had his usual ego trip and Spanos the sapp just went along because that's what owners of Nfl teams do.


I'm sad for Marty. Rest in Peace.


10 He was fired in S.D. because…

He was fired in S.D. because A.J. Smith,  Certified Professional Football Genius, was convinced that Ted Cottrell, fresh off his stint in not being able to get players lined up correctly for the Vikings, should be the next Chargers defensive coordinator, and Schottenheimer presented an impediment to executing that brilliant decision. Sure enough, in about a year, Norv Turner, hired after Cottrell and stuck with him, goes to Smith, and sez, "Um, A.J.? Our guys on defense seem to be having a tough time getting lined up correctly, and Ron Rivera's available. Can we hire him to help us with that minor detail?"

You really can't make this sh*t up.

13 Wikipedia can be kind of…

Wikipedia can be kind of funny sometimes. I became curious about how Cottrell's time with the Chargers was remembered. An excerpt..

"In 2008, many fans wanted Cottrell to be terminated.[citation needed] At the midpoint of the season, the team had a record of 3–5 despite having a highly effective offense. Many[weasel words] attributed this poor record to the fact that the Chargers ranked last among NFL teams in defending against the pass. Defenses led by Cottrell had similar problems in New York and Minnesota."

15 Slipping into the playoffs…

Slipping into the playoffs as a 8-8 division winner while the 11-5 Cassel-led Patriots stayed home for failing to better the 11-5 Wildcat Dolphins.

Who knows what Philip Rivers career could have been like with six years of Marty and not Norv. Especially as the Patriots had a few relatively down years coming up.

42 There's a little bit more to…

There's a little bit more to it than that.  Dean Spanos would not let AJ Smith fire Marty immediately after the playoff loss.  Then both coordinators (Cam Cameron and Wade Phillips) left for head coaching jobs.  AJ wanted to hire Ted Cottrell, while Marty wanted to hire his brother Kurt.  Marty's wanting to replace Wade with his brother Kurt was what finally led to Dean Spanos firing Marty.  

11 It's honestly kind of nuts…

It's honestly kind of nuts that Bill Cowher is in the Hall of Fame but Schottenheimer isn't. That's putting maybe a mite too much emphasis on Winning The Big One for my taste.

30 It's because sports writers…

It's because sports writers are writers first and foremost - they make their careers writing a narrative that fits a familiar arc. Marty is the guy who couldn't win in the postseason. Never mind the particulars - a fumble at the goal line by your reliable, workhorse RB. A miraculous drive by one of the greatest QBs in history. An all-pro kicker missing a 40 yarder in overtime. A DB fumbling a game-ending INT against the GOAT.

That last one is especially egregious because there's NFL Films footage of Marty, during practice that week, coaching his defenders to not be a hero, and instead fall on the ball if they make a big play at the end of the game.

Marty was genuinely one of the best coaches I've ever seen. No disrespect to Cowher or Dungy, but I think Marty was better than either of them.

41 Uh. What? Huh? I mean, I'm a…

Uh. What? Huh?

I mean, I'm a big Schottenheimer fan, but it's not exactly "nuts" to think Cowher's better than him. Higher winning percentage, higher average DVOA, plus obviously significantly better postseason success.

Schottenheimer was a more consistent than Cowher was, but it's a big leap from "more consistent, worse on average" to "nuts that he's not in and Cowher is." 

43 Cower's coaching talent is…

Cower's coaching talent is more defined because he had a lot of success over a long period of time and without a superstar qb. However, he was in Pittsburgh the whole time and that franchise has shown to be top notch for a while now. In that way, we dont really know how Cower would do if he had left and gone to the Redskins or the Chargers.

Marty in that respect leaves far less doubt about his coaching replicability. 

I think a good example is Mike McCarthy, or even George Siefert. If he does not do well in Dallas - and its not as if hes inheriting a talentless team, how should that inform us about wins and Superbowls? 

46 I largely agree with you,…

I largely agree with you, but there is a sort of reverse survivorship bias in place here. I don't think we can hold it against a coach if they are too good to ever get fired from their first job (although we could possibly mark down Cowher for choosing not to challenge himself further after retiring from his first job.) Once there is a large enough sample of games, it saves a lot of argument to just agree 'the wins are the wins', without straying too far into hypotheticals and subjective judgment. 

Marty is really quite unique with his resume of consistent success, through several different teams. The only comparable I can think of is Parcells (who kept retiring rather than being fired). A function of unusually bad/unlucky playoff results, plus encountering idiot management, that is unlikely to be repeated. Saying all that, he fully deserves to be in the HOF.

14 I am also very surprised…

I am very surprised Marty didnt get another NFL head coaching job after SD. He continued to coach in the lower leagues so clearly it wasn't a lack of interest. 


17 That some NFL team didn't…

That some NFL team didn't offer him a head coaching position is unfathomable. The man turned around every team he coached. Sure, he had some bad luck in the playoffs, but why wouldn't you hire him if your team is really bad? You can hire someone else once he has turned them around.

22 "You can hire someone else…

"You can hire someone else once he has turned them around."

The Browns and Chiefs tried that, and quickly became mediocre/bad again. As for the Redskins and Chargers, who the hell knows what their owners were thinking, but they've been wading through coaching purgatory ever since.

23 That's the Washington team…

That's the Washington team that started 0-5 and always shows up in those early season worst-ever DVOA tables, right? Yet by the end of the year was 8-8 and mid-ranked by DVOA. Have to reckon there was some solid coaching and ongoing improvement there. Not according to Snyder.

25 Marty's performance in his…

Marty's performance in his one year in Washington was amazing. As noted, the team started 0-5 and was one of the worst teams in DVOA history through the first few games, and Marty dragged them to an 8-8 finish (15th in DVOA). But that doesn't begin to describe how difficult it was.

He came into a team that was bloated with overpaid name veterans, and cut most of them (as mandated by ownership which had brought all those guys in in the first place), leaving the team poor on offensive talent. His opening day starter at QB was Jeff George (left over from the previous administration). George put up a passer rating of 34.6% in 2 games before Marty outright cut him. The starting QB for the rest of the season was Tony Banks, who represented a dramatic improvement to the tune of to a passer rating of 71.3%, which even 20 years ago was still quite bad. The running backs were Stephen Davis and more Stephen Davis (he had almost 300 more carries than the next guy) at 4.0 yards per carry. No one reached even 60 catches or 800 receiving yards.

On defense, the team still had pretty good talent, but no pass rush, ranking 29th out of 31 teams in total sacks. 38-year-old Bruce Smith lead the team in sacks with 5. If you prefer team sack%, they were 28th out of 31. Somehow they still managed to finish pretty good on D (7th overall DVOA, 3rd in Weighted DVOA) despite a disastrous start.

And his reward for dragging a demoralized, undermanned team to respectable mediocrity (and more than respectable defense) was to get fired after just one year at the job.

20 Coach Schottenheimer

A coach I have always respected.

Has there ever been a coach more unappreciated for his success?

Fired in Cleveland after going 10-6, his third straight season of double digit wins.  Resigned in KC after his first losing season in 10 years (7-9) amid the always insightful "can't win the big one" criticism, as well as general criticism of his conservative "Marty ball".  If Marty ball was so detrimental, why did he post double digit wins half of the time?  Fired in Washington after one year by a complete . . . well, anyway.  Then fired in San Diego after 14-2 by A.J. Smith, whose personality has been documented both here and elsewhere.  Every stop but Washington is successful, and wasn't that really an "incomplete"?  Yet every stop he was unappreciated by either fans, management, or both.  Maybe Coach bears some of the blame for this -- personality, hard-headedness, lack of deference -- who knows?  Whatever it was, it wasn't the inability to coach football.



21 It was a combo of playing…

It was a combo of playing style, horrible luck, and personality.  Marty Ball was a very risk averse style and, while the approach obviously worked for cranking out wins over the course of the regular season, its frailities became apparent during big games in which the small sample size and better opponents magnified the downside of conservative punts and play calls.  His teams were involved in some of the most heartbreaking playoff defeats of the era - the Drive, the Fumble, Len Elliott against the Colts, losing at home to Denver in 1997, the 14-2 Chargers team, etc.  He also wasn't the most media friendly, charismatic coach who could use charm to mask the above attributes.  Not being someone that people love to have around makes it easier for teams to fire you when things aren't going swimmingly well, and, by definition, things can never go swimmingly well if people have issues with your overall approach while enduring a series of tough losses.  


Of course, things would have been different if he had gotten the 1-3 SB appearances that his overall record justifies IMO.  

31 The thing is, going…

The thing is, going conservative was absolutely the right decision with Bernie Kosar and Elvis Grbac; when he had Joe Montana and Philip Rivers, he let them loose. His coaching history is a Greek tragedy where his birth somehow offended the random number gods, and was cursed to repeatedly attain great success only lose in the final moments via divine intervention before the entire world. 

26 It's going to be hard to…

It's going to be hard to come up with a more underrated, underappreciated coach than Marty. He was successful at 4 different franchises, basically averaged 10-6 a year for over 2 decades, and is 8th all time in wins, 8th all time in games over .500, and 6th all time in number of playoff appearances. And yet most fans think of him as a loser because of his playoff record and never reaching the Super Bowl.

I mean, he was obviously a better coach than Dick Vermiel, right? Weeb Eubank? Marv Levy? Pete Carroll? Various Mikes (Holmgren, Shanahan, Ditka, McCarthy)? Tom Coughlin? Dan Reeves? Jimmy Johnson? Bill Cowher? Bud Grant? Tom Flores? Yet all those guys are seen as winners or at least successful coaches.

27 Mmmm...

Not *obviously* better than Bud Grant, Pete Carroll or Mike Holmgren. I might include Levy and Cowher as well. Might he be better than those 5? Maybe, but it's not obvious. They are probably all in the same tier of coaches. Well, except for Grant - I think he's a step above those guys.

32 I'll give you Bud Grant…

In reply to by LyleNM

I'll give you Bud Grant.

Pete Carroll is a tough call because he's still active. He'd have to maintain his success for several more years to match Marty, and he's done most of it to this point with Russell Wilson. If he can keep it up for a few more years, and especially if he can do it without Wilson, I'll agree that he's roughly equal to Marty. But if he retired right now? No.

I think once you dig a little, Holmgren is clearly not as good as Marty. Holmgren has a lower career win%, over a shorter career, with fewer franchises, and with a large chunk of his career having Brett Favre, while Marty had Philip Rivers for a shorter chunk of his career (and it's not like those Phil Rivers years are inflating his career record, either). Put it all together and Marty had a stronger overall career while also being less entangled with a star QB.

Levy had a worse record over a shorter career while coaching Jim Kelly for most of it. He's like Holmgren only his inferiority to Marty is even more obvious.

Cowher didn't have a star QB (until Big Ben at the very end). His record is better than Marty's but shorter and with only a single franchise, which happens to be one of the most stable franchises in the league. Basically, you could convince me on Cowher, at least that Marty is not clearly better.

So take Grant, Carroll, and Cowher off the list, but the other guys are clearly worse than Marty.

33 See,

That's my point though. I am willing to be convinced that Marty was better but if it requires convincing then it's not obvious. Which puts them all in the same tier of coaching greatness and then it's just fine tuning. It's also not really appropriate to ding coaches for having great QBs just as it isn't to ding Marty for never having one. Their records have to stand on whoever their players were. Also coaching for fewer franchises is usually seen as a positive unless you think somehow Belichick should be knocked down for only coaching at 2?

34 It's not that coaching for…

In reply to by LyleNM

It's not that coaching for fewer franchises makes you a worse coach, but someone like Parcells or Marty (or Reid, or Dungy, or Holmgren, or even Carroll) who had had success in multiple places is more impressive to me than a Cowher or Tomlin or Ditka or McCarthy or Tom Flores or George Seifert who only had success with a single franchise. I'll grant that once you've had success at 2 franchises, it's probably unfair to ask for more.

I mean, Bill Walsh is widely viewed as one of the greatest coaches of all time, but how much do we really know about how good he was? He coached for a relatively short time, with a single franchise, whose roster was stacked on both sides of the ball, and which continued to perform at the same level of success after he left. His win% isn't even as good as Marty! If he had also been a head coach somewhere else (even for 1 year like Lombardi), it would tell us a lot more about how good he really was. Marty doesn't have that problem, to say the least.

37 I couldn't agree more and…

I couldn't agree more and the example of Siefert just emphasizes how much roster and franchise context plays into winning.

To me, the most impressive coaches are guys who win in multiple places. Now they might be getting lucky twice or three times, but at least it would appear their results are replicable. If Mike Mccarthy flames out in Dallas, that should inform us on how good a coach he is, not just his sb Victor.

39 Bil

Roster was not stacked when Hbill Walsh started with 40ers. Dreadful team. "Building a Champion" excellent book about how walh made tema good.

35 What people don't appreciate…

What people don't appreciate about Grant was how little roster control he had, and how bad the ownership group was;cheapskates always sniping at each other, to the point the NFL doesn't allow that kind of partnership any longer. Once they ran off Jim Finks in '74, over a pittance, Grant had to fend off those morons on his own for a dozen more years.  

49 I give Holmgren more credit…

I give Holmgren more credit for Favre than I give other coaches credit for having hall of fame QB's (which is basically none). More than any other Hall of Fame QB, Favre needed to be coached.

28 Agree he deserves the Hall…

Agree he deserves the Hall.

Forget what the poster above said, Marty was the Patron Saint of Working for Idiot GMs.



38 One thing about Marty:  he…

One thing about Marty:  he really hated the Raiders, especially when he coached the Chiefs, and made it a special point to beat them.  Which he did:  the Chiefs in the Marty years went 18-3 (including one playoff win) against the Raiders.  He was only 1-2 vs them when he coached the Browns, but 8-2 as Chargers head coach.

In the regular season, his career winning pct was .613.  Against the Raiders it was .788 and against all other teams, .594.