Tuesday, December 19, 2006

SI.com - Writers - Monday Morning QB (cont.) - Monday December 18, 2006 9:32AM: "...this is the best team Marty Schottenheimer has had this late in any of his 21 seasons as a head coach."

I've been wanting to say this for a long to anyone who will listen: as good as the Chargers are, they are coached by Schottenheimer. In addition to possessing arguably the single greatest last name in league history, Schottenheimer's better-safe-than-sorry brand of coaching has been historically the most disappointing (4-10 in the playoffs). Though he is, as King writes, one of the winningest coaches in NFL history, what's most notable about Schottenheimer is his inability to win games that actually matter.

First and most prominent in this list is his tenure with the Cleveland Browns. You may recall clips of Schottenheimer's Browns routinely going down to defeat to the Broncos. Two straight defeats in the AFC title game (1986, 1987) to John Elway's Broncos defined both Elway's and Schottenheimer's careers. Needless to say, Elway became well-known as Schottenheimer's nemesis. Fast-forwarding to 1995, Schottenheimer's Chiefs, heavily-favoured and playing at home, lost in a quizzical upset to the Colts. They would repeat the feat and the antagonist two years later, losing to John Elway and the Broncos.

Schottenheimer's preoccupation with running the ball and his aversion to passing may well placate those nostalgic for the hard-nosed, ground-based football of decades past. However, his corresponding aversion to the passing game creates a frustrating impotence in the late stages of the game. Now, it would be odd to blame Schottenheimer entirely for his teams' failures. Just as John Elway didn't win a Super Bowl without an outstanding team, so too can Schottenheimer's inability to win a Super Bowl be attributed to the cards he was dealt: Bernie Kosar, Steve Bono, and Elvis Grbac (notice a theme?). On the other hand, maybe it's no coincidence that the last playoff victory by a Schottenheimer-coached team came thanks to Joe Montana in 1993.

What makes all this matter is that Schottenheimer's Chargers are likely to be heavily favoured in the playoffs this year. They will play at least one game at home, likely two, employing one of the greatest running backs ever. LaDainian Tomlinson will either vindicate Schottenheimer's strategy or the Chargers will go down in obscurity, handing the ball to Tomlinson over and over against a team like the Ravens. The real story in San Diego is only about to begin.

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