State Your Case: Marty Schottenheimer deserves a HOF look


Photo courtesy of the Kansas City Chiefs

The road to Canton is paved with victories and championships for coaches.

Bill Belichick has plenty of both. In his 17 seasons with the Patriots, he has won 201 games and five championships. Tom Brady has been the quarterback for 235 of Belichick’s 272 games in New England. Brady has been at the helm for 183 of those victories, all five championships and has been invited to 12 Pro Bowls in his 16 seasons as a starter.

Belichick’s career has benefitted from the stability and mastery of the quarterback position by Brady. Find a Hall-of-Fame coach, and you’ll generally find a Hall-of-Fame quarterback. You play the hand you’ve been dealt as a football coach, and Belichick has played this hand very well.

But few coaches in NFL history have played the hand they’ve been dealt as masterfully as Marty Schottenheimer. He coached for 21 seasons and won 200 games. He suffered only two losing seasons in his career, taking 13 teams to the playoffs and winning division titles with eight of them.

But Schottenheimer never won a championship – so his name never comes up in any Hall-of-Fame discussions.

Schottenheimer deserves better because his success came despite a lack of stability at the quarterback position. He had 11 different starting quarterbacks in his 21 seasons, and a total of 21 different quarterbacks started games for him in his career. Belichick has had only five quarterbacks start games in his 17 seasons at New England.

Schottenheimer took teams to the playoffs with Steve DeBerg and Dave Krieg at the helm. He achieved the top playoff seeds in the AFC with Bernie Kosar, Steve Bono and Elvis Grbac at quarterback.

Schottenheimer did have Joe Montana for two seasons – but it was at the tail end of Montana’s career. He was 37 years old when Schottenheimer got him in Kansas City, and Montana promptly took the Chiefs to the AFC title game that season. Schottenheimer also fielded playoff teams with a young Bernie Kosar, a young Drew Brees and a young Philip Rivers.

In 1984, with the Cleveland Browns struggling along at 1-7, Art Modell fired Sam Rutigliano and replaced him with Schottenehimer, his defensive coordinator. Schottenheimer finished out the year 4-4 and, inside of two seasons, had the Browns in the AFC title game.

In 1988, injuries forced the Browns to start four different quarterbacks. Schottenheimer still squeezed out 10 victories and a playoff berth — but was fired by Modell at season’s end.

Schottenheimer was quickly snapped up by the Kansas City Chiefs. Kansas City had enjoyed only two winning seasons in the previous 15 years and was coming off a 4-11-1 season in 1988. With a 35-year-old DeBerg at quarterback, Schottenheimer coaxed an 8-7-1 season out of the Chiefs in 1989 – the first of nine consecutive winning seasons for Kansas City. Schottenheimer wound up winning more games (93) than any NFL coach in the 1990s.

Schottenheimer stepped away from the Chiefs after the 1998 season and spent two years away from the sideline before resurfacing in Washington as head coach of the Redskins in 2001. Washington opened the season 0-5 but rallied for a .500 finish with Tony Banks at quarterback, even pushing for a playoff spot in December. But Redskins’ owner Dan Snyder fired Schottenheimer at season’s end.

Schottenheimer was quickly snapped up by San Diego and posted a 47-33 record in his four seasons there. In his final season in 2006, Schottenheimer guided the Chargers to a 14-2 finish for the top seed in the AFC playoffs. But he was fired at season’s end after a home playoff loss in the divisional round.

Schottenheimer coached 327 games in the NFL and never had the same starting quarterback for more than four consecutive seasons. The quarterback who started the most games for him was Brees with 58. Kosar was next with 47. Schottenheimer also went into games with Paul McDonald, Gary Danielson, Jeff Christensen, Mike Pagel, Don Strock, Steve Pelluer, Mark Vlassic, Jeff George and Doug Flutie as his starter.

Despite the variety and often-times mediocrity at the quarterback position, Schottenheimer won 61.3 percent of his career games and finished in double figures in victories 11 times in his 21 seasons. He reached conference title games three times, twice with the Browns and once with the Chiefs. The most heart-breaking loss was “The Drive” engineered by John Elway in the 1986 AFC championship game.

But a lack of championships translates into a lack of attention from Canton. There are 20 coaches enshrined in the Hall of Fame, and 17 won championships. The other three all reached Super Bowls. That’s missing from Schottenheimer’s resume. But it’s the only thing missing from what otherwise was a Hall-of-Fame coaching career.

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3 Comments

  1. Steph
    September 26, 2017
    Reply

    I really like this article. Marty will always be overlook because he lost so many heartbreakers in the playoffs, but he was a great coach. He was also a fantastic teacher who developped lot of very good players as well. I don’t think he’ll make it to Canton but for me, the Marty era in KC was a golden one, I’ll never forget it.

  2. bachslunch
    September 26, 2017
    Reply

    No question Marty Schottenheimer has the regular season coaching stats for serious HoF consideration at 200-126-1. But his never having reached a Super Bowl is a problem for his case, am thinking. No coach who has never been to one is in. Will be interesting to see if he’s the first to get elected or not.

  3. Kerouac
    September 26, 2017
    Reply

    Nod the report card: if you fail the big final test, do you still get an A and pass on to graduation Canton? That perspective mine, despite being a lifelong Chiefs fans… I’d vote no to Schottenheimer (second, third & fourth the motion, re: Bud Grant, Marv Levy & George Allen as well.)

    No less an expert in the lack of respect Rodney Dangerfield might say ‘tough crowd tough crowd!’, but, it seems as if more & more over the years participation trophy has replaced the genuine article: also-ran’s same apex as creme de la creme, which at minimum affirms just how subjective/biased/play favorites voting is.

    The irony in two-time Superbowl winner Tom Flores not being in the Hall of Fame, yet consideration might be given Schottenheimer, and enshrinement has already been delivered Head Coaches who never sniffed a World Championship, curious… like the Hall of Fame same.

    What of the argument ‘there should be a hall of the very good’ just as has been referenced in the past re: very good players not quite good enough to be enshrined the Hall of Fame as such?

    Why would/should an similar measuring stick not be used same in terms Coaches? After all, a Head Coach has but his record for stat, unlike players who may make a big impact statistics yet never win Championship(s); some come to mind already in Hall of Fame.)

    Personally, I don’t believe there should be two sets criteria, one for a player and another for a Coach. When it comes to a Coach accolade, let it be for actually accomplishing the objective – ‘winning’ – as in the last game of the season upon the national stage. Otherwise, the ‘no Coach left behind’ line forms to the right.

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