Marty Schottenheimer has a rather dubious honor of being considered one of the most unlucky coaches in history. Whether this reputation has to do with his failures as a coach or a stroke of bad luck, unfortunately, it has become the most memorable aspect of his long coaching career. While Schottenheimer had several good teams under his belt, he never won a Super Bowl. The closest he ever got, however, solidified his status as a walking, talking curse.
Schottenheimer joined the NFL’s coaching family following a five-year stint as a player. At first, he was a New York Giants Linebackers Coach following a single season in the position with the Portland Storm of the WFL. Within three years, Schottenheimer was promoted to defensive coordinator before moving to Detroit to take his old title back. His most productive years, however, came when he moved to Cleveland. There, Schottenheimer was the team’s defensive coordinator for five years before getting the promotion to Head coach in 1984.
After keeping the Browns afloat in 1984, Schottenheimer had a decent first full season as their coach. The Browns fell in the first round. This led to the most successful and frustrating stretch of Schottenheimer’s career. The Browns went from 8-8 to 12-4 during his third season, thanks to Bernie Kosar, who the team drafted in the 1985 supplemental draft. Unfortunately, the team failed to reach the Super Bowl.
In 1986, the team held a 21-3 halftime lead in the divisional round but gave up three-straight touchdowns to Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins en-route to a loss. The Schottenheimer curse was born. Despite that hiccup, the Browns made the best out of their situation. They followed up that season with a pair of ten-win seasons, but the team remained unable to make it past the Super Bowl.
Schottenheimer’s best shot
After the 1988 season, Schottenheimer parted ways with the Browns and quickly found a new coaching job with the Kansas City Chiefs. There, with quarterback Steve DeBerg, he helped the team reach the playoffs after a mediocre first season. In 1993, however, Schottenheimer had his best shot at winning a Super Bowl.
That offseason, the Chiefs acquired aging quarterback Joe Montana. Although he was 37, Montana only lost his job in San Francisco thanks to Steve Young’s rise to greatness. With a seasoned, Super Bowl-winning quarterback, Schottenheimer’s Chief’s had a legitimate shot. At the end of the season, they were 12-5. This was enough to get them to Wild Card, where they won a thriller against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The next game, they took care of the Houston Oilers. Everything came down to the Buffalo Bills. Despite their great showing leading up to the game, the team fell short thanks to a less-than-stellar display from Montana and company. This proved to be the last time that Schottenheimer had a chance at Super Bowl glory.
Schottenheimer’s later years
Schottenheimer coached the Chiefs until 1998. After a brief stint with the Washington Redskins three years later, he took over the San Diego Chargers. Initially, after going just 12-20 in his first two years, Schottenheimer’s team, led by future superstar Drew Brees looked like a lost cause. Something clicked in 2004, however. However, the team remained afloat, and by 2006 they had a new starting quarterback in Philip Rivers.
In what would be Schottenheimer’s final year as a head coach, the Chargers looked terrific. Rivers gave the team a spark and led them to a 14-2 record thanks to stellar seasons by him and superstar LaDainian Tomlinson. In true Schottenheimer fashion, however, the career-best 14-2 record meant nothing by their first playoff game, and Tom Brady and the New England Patriots handed him the final loss of his career.
Schottenheimer was a good coach who struggled to become great. Despite a great career, the what-ifs outweigh the accolades. Years removed from his career, his lack of rings aren’t necessarily an indictment on his talent, but they don’t help him either. Still, as close as he got in 1993 and 2006 to Super Bowl glory, there always was a way for him to be brought down to earth.