Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer (Getty Images)
Well here we are: another season, another Super Bowl, another year waiting for the draft and hoping that the players we pick this year will be the difference makers. One thing is for certain we are ok at Coach, Oh I know there are a lot of people calling for his head but Marty Schottenheimer got this team to 8-8, a place it has not seen in 3 years. He has done no better then the previous coaching staff, this is true, but he has not done worse either.
When Marty Schottenheimer was first rumored to be coming here I was pissed, I did not want some Washington Reject, The Terror from KC that tore up our Charger teams all those years, I did not want *gulp* the enemy in our camp.
I then heard him speak, and after that one time my whole opinion changed and I believed, I believed we were going to make it, maybe not all in one year but I know we will, I know he is building the blocks for us to have a strong foundation. A Strong foundation that leads straight to the playoffs.
I guess to like the man you have to get to know the Man, He has lead 4 teams now in his coaching tenure, 2 of them were proverbial Playoff contenders, 1 of them let him go way to early some think, and of course now he leads our beloved Chargers where I hope we too will become proverbial playoff contenders also.
Schottenheimer got his start coaching in the NFL in 1975 as the linebackers Coach of the New York Giants ironically (or not) it was Bill Arnsbarger that brought him on board, he was the linebackers coach from 75 to 76 and then became the defensive Coordinator in 1977. He only stayed at that position for one year, then he took over as the linebackers coach for the Detroit Lions and was at that position till 1980 when he took over as the Defensive Coordinator for the Cleveland Browns. Halfway through the 1984 season he would get his first Head Coaching position with them.
Schottenheimer spent 4 ½ seasons in Cleveland as one of their most successful head coaches. In four straight years he would take the Browns to the Playoffs, and two of those times he took them into the AFC Championship game only to lose both games to the Denver Broncos. He moved on to the Kansas City Chiefs in 1989, leaving Cleveland with a 44-27 regular season record and a 2-4-post season record. Not bad for a first time head coach. Cleveland was the Kosar years, Schottenheimer’s teams have always been known to have strong defenses and had consistently been ranked in the Top 10, and he is a defensive minded coach that believed in pounding the ball.
In 1989, Schottenheimer took hold of the Kansas City Chiefs becoming their head coach and the most hated rival (next to Al Davis’ Raiders) of the San Diego Chargers, he terrorized the AFC West with his ball hawking Defenses and his pound it in your Face offense. In 10 years as the coach of the Chiefs Schottenheimer had a record of 101-58-1, with a .634 winning percentage, the only team that had a better Winning Percentage than Marty’s Chiefs were the 49ers whose winning percentage was .769. As the Chiefs head man, Schottenheimer leaned heavily on his defense. Under Schottenheimer the Chiefs had a Turnover Ratio of +99. Wow, that was some heavy hitting and keeping your eye on the QB and knowing where the ball was at all times. He had one of the Best linebackers in the Business in Derrick Thomas (God Bless him). Marty had a stronghold on the AFC West and the coach had an 18-3 record against the Oakland Raiders and a 16-3 Record against the Seattle Seahawks. He held a division record of 55-28 overall against the AFC West.
Between his coaching time at Cleveland and KC he led his teams to 12 straight playoff runs from 1986 to 1997. That is just a little background on what the man could do and his Credentials leading to him as the head coach of the San Diego Chargers. Many, including myself, believe the best coaching that Schottenheimer ever did was in 2001 as the Head Coach of the Washington Redskins when the Team started out 0-5, his team was on the verge of a Mutiny against him, star players were complaining his treatment of them was to rough. Marty sat down in a closed door meeting with his team and they talked, he changed a few of his views and led that team on an 8-3 run to finish off 8-8. He was later let go by the little General, as I like to refer to him as, Dan Snyder the owner of the Washington Redskins. He chose to go with Steve Spurrier who did not even get the team to .500.
Well another man’s Loss is the Chargers Gain as I like to put it. One of the most Respected Coaches ever in Football had this to say about Schottenheimer before he came here, “Marty is an outstanding football coach in the NFL,” said Don Shula, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997. “He’s been a winner everywhere he’s been, Cleveland, Kansas City and Washington. I think he may have done his best coaching in Washington, starting 0-5 and then winning eight out the next 11 games. He’s as solid as can be and will surround himself with the best staff. He will get the job done in San Diego.”
Ok so we all agree that his defensive staff is not quite what we hoped for, and the Special teams was pretty much a disaster, but his hiring of Hudson Houck and Clarence Shelmon from the Dallas Cowboys were Excellent pick ups.
In only his first year as the head coach of the Chargers, Schottenheimer did just about if not better than what most people expected. He had to pick his Coaching staff on the fly as they say. Most of us agree that hiring of Dale Lindsey was not one of his best coaching decisions, but in Lindsey’s defense he had some of his best players hurt all year, and he was trying to install a new defensive scheme. The players either just could not pick it up or did not want to, that is still in debate on Message Forums and newspapers across the Football spectrum.
Marty could not of been to happy starting out 6-1 with the #5 rated Defense only to win 2 out of the next 9 games and finish off 8-8 with one of the Worst defenses in Football and the Worst Pass Defense in Football. Schottenheimer is not known to make Changes, he is and has always been a pound the ball, eat up time and yardage and pass when you have to Coach. He relied heavily on his Defenses and sticking to that format this year lost us 3 of the last 4 games. This is the first time Charger Fans could say in several years that the Offense kept us in games and the Defense lost it for us.
Marty said after the end of the year he did not see any Changes coming in his defensive staff, yet there might be some in his Defensive players. One of the most loved Chargers Rodney Harrison may no longer wear a Charger uniform come the first Mini Camp. That would be a great loss to this organization and this community, but if he can not pick up the defense, he is detriment and not a help. Hopefully Schottenheimer will get the players he needs to bring his Defense back up into the top 10.
One of the First things Marty said to the Charger Fans is he was going to teach this team how to win, and he did the first 6 games, after that they forgot, Does all the blame fall on Schottenheimer’s shoulders? No, he did not play on the field or miss tackles, he did not miss field goals from 40 and 35 yards away, he did not miss Blocks on 3rd and 1’s. There are a lot of things he did not do because he was not on the field, but there are several things that he did do that he could have corrected.
He could have made offensive adjustments when teams were stacking 8 or 9 men at the line to stop LT, making his Young QB pass the ball, he could of sent his receivers on slants and curl routes to back the safeties off, throw more down the field. These things he did not do. He could of went back to the aggressive defense that he played in the first 6 games that had the Defense in the #5 spot, that had this Defense in the top of the league in Takeaway and Giveaways. That he did not do. He could have made adjustments at halftime when he saw that his offense was sputtering and his defense was not picking up players. That he did not do. He could have made changes. That he did do, at least he attempted to, There were several times he tried to do something different only for it to fail, like bringing in Doug Flutie when you are only down by 3 In Buffalo, or opening up the offense like he did in the last game against Seattle, Where Drew Brees had on of his best Games as a Pro throwing for 332 yards 3 touchdowns and 1 interception.
Some ask if Marty lost his touch, are today’s players to hard for Marty to coach? I don’t think so; I honestly think he came in with personnel that were on this team that he did not get a good chance to evaluate. Some he thought would fit the positions he needed and they did not, now it is time for Marty to sit down after his first full season, get rid of those he can or will not grow with the strengths of this team and get players in here that he knows will.
As they say in Football, time for him to get his players. As I said earlier, I always felt Rodney was and is a Marty guy and hopefully he will be here next year to prove it, but if not, that is part of the game. I feel that Marty, even though he may not get us to the Super Bowl (though I hope he does not only for the Chargers but for his sake), is the coach for this team right now, He did a lot of things wrong, but he did more things right, he believed in his players and his players believed in him, they might not of all been on the same page but they believed in one another, and that is one of the first things into growing into a playoff team is belief.
Over the next few months there are going to be a lot of changes for the Chargers, players will come and go, the Draft, and the mini camps. One thing is for certain, Marty will be here, tough as ever and asking his players to believe, believe that they can win, believe that they can be the best, and believe in themselves. It might be hard work to get those players to believe in him. It won’t take that much for me, because I already do.
Tom Criswell (aka Boltaholic) can be reached at: Boltaholic
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