Remembering Marty Schottenheimer: The Consummate Winner

by Mike Ferguson
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Photo courtesy of Kansas City Chiefs

The football world said goodbye to a coaching legend on Monday.

Marty Schottenheimer, who spent time as head coach of the Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Redskins and San Diego Chargers, died after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s. He was 77 years old.

Unfortunately, Schottenheimer holds the reputation for not being able to win a Super Bowl, but make no mistake. He was a winner through and through.

The Resume’

As a player for the Buffalo Bills and Boston Patriots in the late-1960’s, Schottenheimer spent six years in the NFL. His first job as an NFL coach came coaching linebackers for the New York Giants in 1975. After two years as linebackers coach, Schottenheimer was promoted to defensive coordinator for the 1977 season.

Schottenheimer would wrap up the 1970’s as a linebackers coach with the Detroit Lions. In 1980, he was hired as the defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns. That’s where he would eventually earn his first head coaching job.

Schottenheimer replaced Sam Rutigliano midway through the 1984 season. After a 1-7 start, Schottenheimer led the Browns to a 4-4 record to close the season.

Over 21 seasons as a head coach, Schottenheimer would finish with a losing record just twice. In his final year as head coach of Kansas City in 1998, the Chiefs went just 7-9. In 2003 as head coach of the Chargers, he finished just 4-12.

In 21 seasons, Schottenheimer led his team to the playoffs 13 times. He’s one of only eight head coaches in NFL history to win 200 games. Schottenheimer won more than 61% of his games as a head coach.

A Coaching Tree to Impress

Although Schottenheimer was unfortunately never able to win the Super Bowl, several who coached under him did. With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 31-9 win over the Chiefs in Super Bowl LV, Bruce Arians became the fourth former Schottenheimer assistant to win the Super Bowl.

Arians served as running backs coach under Schottenheimer in Kansas City from 1989-92. Bill Cowher, who coached six seasons under Schottenheimer in Cleveland and Kansas City, spent 15 years as the head man of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Under Cowher, the Steelers reached the Super Bowl twice and ultimately won Super Bowl XL over the Seattle Seahawks, 21-10.

The following season, the Indianapolis Colts’ Tony Dungy became the first Black head coach to win the Super Bowl with a 29-17 victory over the Chicago Bears. Dungy was also a Schottenheimer disciple, having served under him in Kansas City from 1989-91.

Current Dallas Cowboys’ head coach Mike McCarthy led the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl LV victory over Pittsburgh. McCarthy spent six years as an assistant under Schottenheimer in Kansas City.

Other former assistants who went on to become NFL head coaches consist of Gunther Cunningham, Lindy Infante, Herman Edwards, Cam Cameron and Tony Sparano. Infante, Cowher and Arians have all been named AP Coach of the Year.

Close Calls Far Too Common

Although Schottenheimer never coached in the Super Bowl, it wasn’t for a lack of ability. In fact, it may have been more of a case of bad luck.

Over his 21 seasons, Schottenheimer had a quarterback make the Pro Bowl five times (Bernie Kosar in 1987, Joe Montana in 1993, Steve Bono in 1995, Drew Brees in 2004 and Philip Rivers in 2006). In 13 playoff appearances, Schottenheimer’s team lost to a Hall of Fame or future Hall of Fame quarterback on 10 occasions.

Of those playoff losses, 10 came by five points or less. The most notable was the 1986 AFC Championship where John Elway led the Denver Broncos 98 yards for the game-tying touchdown before Rich Karlis kicked the game-winner for Denver in overtime. In 11 of those 13 losses, Schottenheimer’s team were tied or led in the fourth quarter.

Schottenheimer’s teams reached the AFC Championship three times. His teams finished with the regular season with the best record in the AFC on four occasions.


For all of his accolades as a head coach, many former assistants and players have expressed their admiration for Schottenheimer as a man.

That was again the case on Tuesday.

Cornerback Antonio Cromartie played for Schottenheimer in San Diego his rookie year.

Former Super Bowl winning assistants weighed in.

Kosar was Schottenheimer’s starting quarterback in Cleveland for four years, compiling a 30-17 record as a starter over that span.

Quarterback Ron Jaworski made three starts for Schottenheimer’s Chiefs in 1989.

Quarterback Rich Gannon made 16 starts for Schottenheimer in Kansas City.

Drew Brees made the Pro Bowl under Schottenheimer as member of the San Diego Chargers in 2004.

Cornerback Mark McMillan recorded 11 interceptions and three touchdowns in two seasons with Schottenheimer in Kansas City.

Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.

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