by Aaron Schatz
Last week, we started a weekly series on "coaching all-stars," the best players in the history of some of the NFL's best (and most-travelled) head coaches. This week, we continue with a look at the best players ever coached by Marty Schottenheimer.
I was a little afraid of slanting this group too much towards the recent Chargers teams, but those teams really did have absurdly good offenses. The toughest choice is between Brees and Joe Montana. Montana was slightly better on a per-play basis in 1993, but only started 11 games. In his final season he played all 16 games, but wasn't quite as good as Brees in 2004. Bernie Kosar's best season was also a short season, the 1987 strike year.
This is a bit hard to believe, but Schottenheimer only had two wide receivers with 1,000-yard seasons: Stephone Paige in 1990 and Andre Rison in 1997. We don't have DVOA for Paige, but Rison had DVOA of just 0.2% because his catch rate was 48 percent. Keenan McCardell had over 300 DYAR in 2005, but I think when we consider the offensive environment and their teammates, Alexander and Davis were slightly more impressive having 200-plus DYAR seasons for the mid-90s Chiefs.
Tomlinson's 2006 season had the seventh-highest DYAR for any running back since 1993, while Gates' 2004 season had the third-highest DYAR for any tight end. While you might wonder about the choice between Gates and Tony Gonzalez, Schottenheimer only had Gonzalez in his first two seasons, with less than 1,000 yards in the two years combined. Ozzie Newsome's 1984 season was pretty good too, but he had 100 fewer yards and five fewer touchdowns compared to Gates in 2004.
Another surprise is how few Pro Bowl offensive linemen have played for Schottenheimer teams. My count may be incorrect, but from what I can tell, Schottenheimer offensive linemen have only made 13 appearances on Pro Bowl rosters, and five of those were Will Shields. Samuels over Marcus McNeill at left tackle is probably the hardest choice. Also worth considering: Tim Grunhard, the center of the mid-90s Chiefs, and Kris Dielman at left guard for the 2006 Chargers.
DE: Neil Smith, 1993 Chiefs
DT: Bob Golic, 1987 Browns
DE: Carl Hairston, 1986 Browns
OLB: Derrick Thomas, 1990 Chiefs
ILB: Donnie Edwards, 1998 Chiefs
ILB: Dino Hackett, 1989 Chiefs
OLB: Shawne Merriman, 2006 Chargers
Once again, we've got a coach who generally (although not always) ran 3-4 defenses, so we'll put together a 3-4 defense. Advanced stats for the 80s sure would come in handy here, to be able to compare runs up the middle against the 1987 Browns and runs up the middle against the 2006 Chargers, but without those advanced stats I have to go with Cleveland's overall 3.5 yards allowed per carry and take Bob Golic over Jamal Williams.
The Schottenheimer pass rush would just scare the hell out of opponents. At linebacker, who would you double with your tight end: Derrick Thomas and his 20 sacks, or Shawne Merriman and his 17 sacks? If they get tired, we can bring in Chip Banks, LaVar Arrington, and Clay Matthews (Daddy version) off the bench. Oh, and Neil Smith had 15 sacks as a 3-4 defensive end in 1993, which is just ridiculous -- although I have to think that was some sort of hybrid scheme. I'd love to hear from someone who knows more about those Dave Adolph defenses. The Chiefs switched to a 4-3 when Gunther Cunningham took over in 1995.
Inside linebacker is tough, because Schottenheimer never really had standout inside linebackers in his 3-4 defenses other than Edwards. If we didn't go with Hackett, we could kick one of the outside linebackers from Schottenheimer's 4-3 defenses inside, either Arrington in 2001 or Junior Seau in 2002.
From what I can tell, Schottenheimer has never had a Pro Bowl safety on his team. I had to page through a bunch of listings for guys I had never heard of, so the free safety pick is a total stab in the dark. (At least I could identify that having Rodney Harrison, even for just one year, is a good thing.) On the other hand, he loves good cornerbacks. Besides Bailey and Dixon, Schottenheimer corners to make the Pro Bowl included Albert Lewis, Dale Carter, James Hasty, Kevin Ross, and Frank Minnifield.
Special teams are hard to choose without advanced stats for earlier years. Pete Stoyanovich hit 26 of 27 field-goal tries in 1997, but was awful on kickoffs. I have no idea how good Lowery was on kickoffs in 1990, but he hit 34 of 37 field goals, so as long as he was at least average, he's our man. The 1997 Chiefs also had great punt value but that was more coverage than it was Louie Aguiar. Vanover had three touchdowns in 1995, so he gets the nod over 1987 Pro-Bowler Gerald McNeil.
The overall patterns here? Schottenheimer's teams have a really remarkable pattern of great running backs and tight ends without star wide receivers. He's had great pass rushers but mostly mediocre inside linebackers, and his cornerbacks have been far, far better than his safeties. (You do not want a Schottenheimer team running a Tampa-2, ever.)
For those wondering, I don't plan on doing head coaches who have spent their entire careers with one organization, such as Bill Walsh and Tom Landry. Those lists would effectively just be franchise all-star lists. I'm more interested in guys who have gone from team to team, because a) mixing players like that it just more fun and b) it might give us some hints about what kind of players that coach likes, separate from the question of what kind of players historically dominate in a specific organization like the 49ers.
Next week: Playoffs? You want to talk about playoffs? Even if we hold them in June? Kelvin Bryant and Peyton Manning share the stage for The Jim Mora All-Stars.