Before Marty Schottenheimer Was a Legendary NFL Coach, He Was an AFL Championship Linebacker With the Buffalo Bills

There are very few NFL coaches who make a significant mark on the league and its players. One of the coaches who were able to make an impact during his career is Marty Schottenheimer. Schottenheimer was one of the game’s most loved and legendary coaches, from his pregame speeches to his tireless preparation.

Many people will remember the longtime coach for his successes and career as an NFL coach. A lot of people don’t even know Schottenheimer had another career before he got into coaching. His first job was to punish any opposing offensive player who stood in his path.

Marty Schottenheimer played linebacker for the Buffalo Bills

Before leading groups of men in the NFL, Marty Schottenheimer was one of those men being led by a coach. The then-called Baltimore Colts drafted him in the fourth round of the 1965 draft. The Buffalo Bills selected him in the seventh round of the same draft. This was before the merger, so the AFL and NFL were still separate from each other. Given his choice on who to play for, Schottenheimer chose the Bills.

Schottenheimer didn’t start his rookie season, but he did receive an AFL All-Star selection for his play. He and the Bills won the AFL title in his first season as a player in 1965. That is the last time the Bills won a championship. Schottenheimer played in Buffalo for four seasons before he was traded to the Boston Patriots. 

He played with the Patriots for two seasons before calling it a career. Schottenheimer seemed to have a nose for the ball, having six interceptions for his career. He returned one of them for a touchdown in 1967, according to Pro Football Reference. He was an ironman, only missing three games throughout his career.

It isn’t too surprising that Marty Schottenheimer was playing linebacker during his NFL career. He took some of the physicality and grit he had as a player and incorporated them into his philosophy as a coach. The foundation he set as a player was extremely beneficial for Schottenheimer’s excellent coaching career.

A coaching career defined by ‘Martyball’

RELATED: Marty Schottenheimer Spent a Forgotten Year in Washington

After terrorizing offensive players, Schottenheimer decided to take his talents into the coaching realm. It was a great decision, as he put together one of the best coaching careers in NFL history.

He was a coach for the Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego (now Los Angeles) Chargers, and The Washington Football team. His 200 career regular-season wins are the eighth-most in NFL history, thanks to his coaching style and philosophy.

Schottenheimer prioritized having a physical defense that isn’t afraid to get dirty. That stems from his days playing as a linebacker, knowing how a physical defense can impact a team.

On offense, running the ball was the focus, using that to open up other things. It was evident during his time with the Chargers and Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson. His style of play earned the term “Martyball,” which was smashmouth football at its best.

Schottenheimer was a very meticulous man also. He would make sure meetings and practices were scheduled out, sometimes even down to the minute. His desire for punctuality is evident, punishing players who came late to meetings or practices. Schottenheimer’s players appreciated him for demanding excellence each day from them.

Despite his exceptional coaching career, Marty Schottenheimer is not in the NFL Hall of Fame. All coaches who are eligible and have 200+ wins have entered the Hall of Fame. His 5-13 playoff record and zero Super Bowl rings probably played a part in it. However, Schottenheimer deserves to be in the Hall because of not only his career accomplishments but the impact he had on his players.

Marty Schottenheimer passed away at 77

Marty Schottenheimer had an extraordinary coaching career, but that isn’t the only side of him. Off of the field, many thought of him a gentleman, great friend, and very personable. On Monday, February 8, Schottenheimer passed away at the age of 77. Friends and family surrounded him at the time of his passing in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

Schottenheimer was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2014 and had been battling it since. His family didn’t shy away from sharing that Schottenheimer had Alzheimer’s and continued to support him through it. He was moved into hospice care on Jan. 30. Once the news of his death became public, the thoughts and condolences started pouring in from everyone around the NFL. 

The Bill, Browns, Chiefs, Chargers, and Washington all released statements, thanking Schottenheimer for what he did for those franchises. Former players also shared their thoughts on the head coaches passing, including Drew Brees and LaDainian Tomlinson. The entire NFL felt the loss of one of their own legends.

Marty Schottenheimer was a great person, legendary coach, and excellent strategizer. Even though his coaching career will be brought up first, don’t forget that Schottenheimer was an exceptional linebacker on a championship team. His legacy will live on forever, as “Martyball” will never be forgotten in the NFL.