Conservative offensive play has led to the demise of many an NFL coach. Perhaps the best example of this principle has been the former coach of the Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers: Marty Schottenheimer. During the regular, Schottenheimer was a genius compiling a won-loss record of 200-126 (.613). His winning percentage ranks 26th all-time, just behind Joe Gibbs, Bill Belichick and Andy Reid; and just ahead of Bill Walsh. Schottenheimer, unceremoniously fired after a 14-2 season in San Diego, is currently 74 games over .500. The only coaches higher on the list are: Don Shula, George Halas, Paul Brown, Curly Lambeau, and Tom Landry.
Still, Coach Schottenheimer’s teams are remembered for some of the most epic post-season losses in the history of the NFL. His career post-season record of 5-13 is among the worst in the history of the league. It is the worst among coaches who’ve been in as many as 18 games.
For all of his years in the league, he also developed a family tree of coaches that included former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy and former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher.
Both Cowher and Dungy had many memorable and heartbreaking struggles before ascending to the top. Cowher and Dungy are ranked #7 and #9 all-time in playoff games coached. Cowher retired from the Steelers, one season removed from a Super Bowl win, with a 12-9 mark that before 2005 was punctuated by 3 losses at home in the AFC Championship Game. Dungy retired from the Colts, two seasons removed from a Super Bowl win, win a 9-10 mark that before 2006 was punctuated by repeated defeats at the hands of the New England Patriots. Since 2007, the Colts’ seasons have ended in the same fashion: by losing to the underdog San Diego Chargers (in 2008 at home; in 2009 on the road).
The Colts seemed to break through to their Super Bowl victory in an improbably way. They went away from their tendencies and developed the ability to play powerfully on offense. The Steelers, do, explored a different offensive approach in 2005. They passed more, particularly early in games. Could it be that the ability to break tendencies in the post-season was the principle reason that Coach Schottenheimer’s teams never made it over the top? Perhaps it was merely bad luck.
Here is a list of other coaches who have faced similar challenges…
From the Pittsburgh Tribune Review:
Assistants who served under Bill Cowher in Pittsburgh didn’t always find success elsewhere as head coaches. Here is a look at how they fared.
Dom Capers: Former Steelers defensive coordinator took Carolina to 1996 NFC Championship game but was fired after a 4-12 season in 1998.
Chan Gailey: Former Steelers offensive coordinator lasted just two seasons as the Cowboys’ head coach. He posted a 18-14 record in 1998-99 and lost two playoff games.
Jim Haslett: Won a division title his first season as head coach of the Saints in 2000. But the former Steelers defensive coordinator was fired after the Saints missed the playoffs in the final five seasons of his six-year run in New Orleans.
Mike Mularkey: Former Steelers offensive coordinator resigned after just two seasons as the Bills’ head coach. He went 14-18 from 2004-05 in Buffalo.
Dick LeBeau: Steelers defensive coordinator went 12-33 in three seasons coaching the Bengals (2000-02).
Marvin Lewis: Former Steelers linebackers coach succeeded LeBeau, a mentor of his, in Cincinnati and is still there. Bengals may have to make significant improvement this season for Lewis, who has a career record of 46-49-1, to keep his job.
Ken Whisenhunt: After an 8-8 rookie season in 2007, Whisenhunt guided the surprising Cardinals to the Super Bowl last season. The former Steelers offensive coordinator has the look of a coaching star.