Advertisement
Share

Former Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer dies at 77

Marty Schottenheimer walks the field
Marty Schottenheimer in 2009.
(Ed Zurga / Associated Press)

Marty Schottenheimer, who won 200 regular-season games with four NFL teams thanks to his “Martyball” brand of smash-mouth football, has died. He was 77.

Schottenheimer died Monday night at a hospice in Charlotte, N.C., his family said through Bob Moore, former Kansas City Chiefs publicist. Schottenheimer was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2014. He was moved to a hospice Jan. 30.

Schottenheimer was the eighth-winningest coach in NFL history. He went 200-126-1 in 21 seasons with the Cleveland Browns, Chiefs, Washington Redskins and San Diego Chargers.

His success was rooted in “Martyball,” a conservative approach that featured a strong running game and tough defense. He hated the then-Oakland Raiders and loved the mantra, “One play at a time,” which he’d holler at his players in the pre-kickoff huddle.

Advertisement

Bruce Arians says he and Tom Brady discussed winning the Super Bowl for the Buccaneers in their first conversations. From there, they got to work.

Winning in the regular season was never a problem. Schottenheimer’s teams won 10 or more games 11 times, including a glistening 14-2 record with the Chargers in 2006 that earned them the AFC’s No. 1 seed in the playoffs. Schottenheimer was 44-27 with the Cleveland Browns from 1984-88, 101-58-1 with Kansas City from 1989to 1998; 8-8 with Washington in 2001 and 47-33 with San Diego from 2002 to 2006.

It’s what happened in January that haunted Schottenheimer, who was just 5-13 in the postseason.

His playoff demons followed him to the end of his career.

In his final game, on Jan. 14, 2007, Schottenheimer’s Chargers, featuring NFL most valuable player LaDainian Tomlinson and a cast of Pro Bowlers, imploded with mind-numbing mistakes and lost a home divisional round playoff game to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots 24-21.

A month later, owner Dean Spanos stunned the NFL when he fired Schottenheimer, mostly because of a personality clash between the coach and strong-willed general manager A.J. Smith.

Spanos on Tuesday recalled Schottenheimer as “a tremendous leader of men and a man of great principle. You couldn’t outwork him. You couldn’t outprepare him. And you certainly always knew exactly where you stood with him.“

“The best coach I ever had,“ Tomlinson said in a statement.

Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer is showered with water Dec. 31, 2006, following his 200th NFL win.
(K.C. Alfred / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Schottenheimer never made it to the Super Bowl, either as a player or coach. He was a backup linebacker for the Buffalo Bills when they lost the 1966 AFL title game to Kansas City, which then played the Green Bay Packers in the first Super Bowl.

As a coach, his playoff losses were epic and mystifying.

His Browns twice came tantalizingly close to earning Super Bowl berths, only to have them ripped away by “The Drive” and “The Fumble” in consecutive AFC title games against nemesis John Elway and the Broncos.

Schottenheimer’s Chiefs reached the AFC title game in 1993 but lost at Buffalo. Two of his Chiefs teams went 13-3 and locked up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs before shockingly flaming out in the divisional round.

Super Bowl LVI will be played at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood in February 2022, and the L.A. committee in charge of hosting the game already is busy.

Schottenheimer was born on Sept. 23, 1943, in Canonsburg, a small town outside Pittsburgh. He played at Pitt before a six-year pro career with the Bills and Patriots.

He is survived by his wife, Pat, and children Brian and Kristin. Brian Schottenheimer was fired as Seattle’s offensive coordinator last month and then hired by new Jacksonville coach Urban Meyer as passing game coordinator-quarterbacks coach.


Advertisement