Just days ahead of their Super Bowl 55 matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Kansas City Chiefs — well, really the NFL family as a whole — have received heartbreaking news as the team’s longtime head coach and Hall of Famer, Marty Schottenheimer, has been placed in hospice care.
Schottenheimer, who also served as the head coach of the Browns, Chargers, and Redskins during his 27-year NFL coaching career — he also spent six seasons in the AFL/NFL as a player — was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease back in 2014. The 77-year-old has the most victories of any head coach in NFL history without winning a Super Bowl or NFL Championship.
Marty Schottenheimer played six seasons in the AFL/NFL
A standout linebacker at the University of Pittsburgh, Marty Schottenheimer was selected in the fourth round of the 1965 NFL draft by the Baltimore Colts and also by the Buffalo Bills in the seventh round of that year’s AFL draft.
The Pennsylvania native chose to sign in Buffalo and helped the Bills to an AFL Championship as a rookie, earning All-Star honors. He spent four seasons with the team before being traded to the then-Boston Patriots ahead of the 1969 season and spent two years with the franchise, his final season being the first year of the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
Schottenheimer was traded twice ahead of the 1971 season, first to the Steelers and then to the Colts but opted for retirement instead. He worked a few years in the real estate industry before returning to football in 1974 as a coach, which is how he made his true mark on the game.
He coached for 27 years in the NFL
Marty Schottenheimer’s first coaching gig came in 1974 with the World Football League’s Portland Storm, for whom he served as linebackers coach. He jumped to the NFL the following year and spent two seasons as the New York Giants’ in the same role before becoming the team’s defensive coordinator in 1977. In 1978, he became the linebackers coach for the Detroit Lions and then moved to Cleveland in 1980 to become the defensive coordinator for the Browns.
Schottenheimer was promoted to head coach during the 1984 season and held that position for four and a half seasons. In each of his four full seasons as the head coach, he led Cleveland to the NFL playoffs, including two trips to the AFC Championship Game, suffering heartbreaking losses to John Elway and the Denver Broncos both times.
Apparently not having seen enough of the Broncos, Marty Schottenheimer moved to the AFC West in 1989 to become the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, a position he held for a decade. In those 10 years, he compiled a 101-58-1 record in the regular season but went just 3-7 in the postseason. The two sides parted ways following the 1998 season, at which point Schottenheimer took some time off from coaching to work as an analyst for ESPN.
He returned to the sidelines in 2001 as the head coach of the Washington Redskins but was controversially fired after just one season as Dan Snyder wanted to replace him with Steve Spurrier. Schottenheimer then served as head coach of the San Diego Chargers for five seasons but was fired following the 2006 season.
In 21 years as an NFL head coach, Marty Schottenheimer amassed 200 regular-season wins, good for seventh on the all-time list. He was inducted into the Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Fame in 2010 but hasn’t yet been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Many feel the fact he never even made it to a Super Bowl has been the big thing keeping him out.
Marty Schottenheimer has been battling Alzheimer’s disease for years and was recently moved to hospice care
After leaving the NFL, Marty Schottenheimer returned to television for a time and did briefly come out of retirement to serve as the head coach and general manager of the UFL’s Virginia Destroyers in 2011. He promptly led the team to a UFL Championship, earning Coach of the Year honors in the process, but abruptly left the team in 2012 and later filed a lawsuit against the team’s owner after not getting paid.
Just two years later, Schottenheimer was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, although it really didn’t become public knowledge until 2016. He maintained much of his memory and function for years but in an announcement made by his family on Wednesday, he was placed into hospice care this past Saturday following complications from the disease. He’s said to be in stable condition.
His wife since 1968, Pat, says the family is “surrounding him with love” and that everyone is “putting one foot in front of the other…one play at a time,” just as Marty Schottenheimer “taught us all.”
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference