San Diego Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer won his 200th regular season game this week. He joins the smallest of clubs in the league. Only Don Shula, George Halas, Tom Landry and Curly Lambeau have won as many games. Of course, Schottenheimer is the only one of these coaches not to have won a Super Bowl or league championship.
Prior to coaching the Chargers, Schottenheimer led the Washington Redskins for a brief stint. He has also served as head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs and mostly famously as leader of the Cleveland Browns. Schottenheimer’s Cleveland Browns lost two epic battles to the Denver Broncos (led by Tom Landry’s protege Dan Reeves) in 1986 and 1987. Schottenheimer, for all of his success, have never even coached a team to the biggest game.
Last year, he watched one of his former charges, Bill Cowher and the Pittsburgh Steelers, win it all. For the past five years, he has also watched other pupils of his struggle to get to the big game: Tony Dungy (Indianapolis, Tampa Bay) and Herman Edwards (NY Jets, 2006 KC Chiefs). Schottenheimer became infamous for an ultra-conservative brand of football derisively branded, “Marty Ball.” This 3 yards and a cloud of dust approach to offense was also typified by conservative approaches to defense and special teams play. Interestingly, Cowher broke from this tradition in the postseason of 2005 for the first time. The Steelers opened up their offense and surprised teams like the Bengals, Colts and Broncos by passing early for scores in playoff games.
“Marty Ball” remained a staple of Schottenheimer teams until an early regular season in Baltimore to the Ravens. The Ravens were able to bottle up many of the Chargers most explosive players, including league MVP LaDainian Tomlinson and emerging QB Philip Rivers. After the loss to the Ravens, Rivers was unleashed and allowed to throw 30 to 40 passes while leading a high-powered dynamic offense. The Chargers announced the unofficial death of “Marty Ball” and proceeded to post the best record in the AFC. The Chargers have a bye and they earned home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
It remains to be seen if Marty can keep the genie out of the bottle and follow in the footsteps of Bill Cowher. Both the Chargers and Steelers feature young QBs drafted in the 2004 season, tenacious, pressure-packed 3-4 defenses, solid kicking games and speedy running backs. That formula was sufficient for the Steelers to win three road games en route to the Super Bowl. This year, the Chargers need only win two more home games to take Coach Schottenheimer where he’s never been before. This should be an interesting ride. Aside from the Baltimore Ravens, one might say the only thing is Marty’s way will be his own legacy of conservativism.
However this season ends for the Chargers, their coach deserves congratulations for joining such an exclusive club.