“Martyball” became a negative term, and that’s unfair to Marty Schottenheimer.
Schottenheimer’s long football career shouldn’t be defined only by his lack of a championship. Schottenheimer coached 21 years in the NFL and had only two losing seasons, and became one of eight coaches in history to reach 200 wins. He was a master motivator who got the most out of his players for more than two decades as a head coach.
Schottenheimer’s conservative approach didn’t lead to a championship. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t have a big impact on the game, and his players.
Marty Schottenheimer had a long, storied career
Before his coaching career, Schottenheimer was a standout linebacker. He played four seasons for the Buffalo Bills from 1965-68, making the AFL all-star team his rookie season, and two seasons with the Boston Patriots from 1969-70. He helped the Bills win the AFL championship in 1965. Schottenheimer did have ultimate postseason success, just not as a coach.
His football career spanned more than four decades. He got into coaching after trying to sell real estate for a few years after his playing days were done. His coaching career started in 1974 with the Portland Storm in the short-lived World Football League. In 1975 he was hired to be the New York Giants’ linebackers coach, and he’d spend 10 years as an NFL assistant before getting his first head-coaching job.
Schottenheimer was the head coach of four teams: Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers and Washington. He posted a losing record just twice. He was 200-126-1, a remarkable record. His .613 winning percentage is 31st all-time among coaches with at least 50 games. The two coaches right behind Schottenheimer are Bill Walsh and Tom Landry.
But bring up Schottenheimer’s coaching career, and the first thoughts for most fans will be that “Martyball” led to some memorable playoff failures.
Schottenheimer had playoff heartbreaks
Schottenheimer’s regular season record is fantastic, but his playoff record was 5-13. He has the most wins for any coach who didn’t win a Super Bowl or NFL championship.
Schottenheimer’s conservative style, which put an emphasis on not making mistakes and winning field position, worked in the regular season. When it didn’t work in the regular season, he was criticized for it.
Schottenheimer lost crushing AFC championship games to John Elway and the Denver Broncos in the 1980s, went one-and-done in the playoffs five times with the Chiefs, including twice after posting 13-3 regular-season records, and had a rough end in San Diego. The Chargers went 14-2 in 2006, had one of the most talented rosters over that decade, and lost their playoff opener to the New England Patriots. Schottenheimer, despite going 14-2, was fired. He never coached another NFL game.
Schottenheimer’s pregame speeches are a staple of NFL Films — “There’s a gleam, men,” is a clip that will live forever — and his love for the physical aspect of the game is a throwback to a different era of football. Schottenheimer’s constant positivity made him a popular figure in the game.
Schottenheimer didn’t get to a Super Bowl, and that gets brought up often, but “Martyball” had an impact that shouldn’t be remembered just for playoff losses.
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