One of the winningest coaches in NFL history has passed away.
Marty Schottenheimer, who turned around the fortunes of three NFL franchises over the course of over 30 seasons, passed away on Feb. 8th at the age of 77, his family at his side. He had been battling with Alzheimer’s disease since 2014 and was just recently moved into a hospice facility.
“Our family and the entire Chiefs Kingdom mourn the loss of Marty Schottenheimer, and our prayers and heartfelt condolences are with his wonderful wife Pat and the entire Schottenheimer family today,” said Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt in a statement on Tuesday.
“Marty will rightfully be remembered as one of the greatest coaches in NFL history, but his legacy extends far beyond his winning percentage. He was a passionate leader who cared deeply for his players and coaches, and his influence on the game can still be seen today on a number of coaching staffs around the league.”
Hunt added, “Marty will always hold a special place in the history of the Chiefs, and he will be dearly missed by all of us who were blessed to call him a friend.”
The Cleveland Browns, whom Schottenheimer led to three consecutive AFC Championship games, released a statement as well regarding his passing.
“The Cleveland Browns are saddened to learn of the passing of Marty Schottenheimer.” As a head coach, he led the organization to four playoff appearances and three divisional titles, but it was his tough, hard-nosed, never give up the fight attitude the team embodied that endeared him to Browns fans and often led to thrilling victories. His impact on the game of football was not only felt in Northeast Ohio but across the entire NFL. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Pat, and his entire family.”
Before he became a coach, Schottenheimer himself was a player of the game, playing for the Buffalo Bills and Boston Patriots from 1965-1970.
After multiple defensive coaching positions in the mid-1970’s, Schottenheimer became defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns, and on October 22, 1984, was promoted by owner Art Modell to Head Coach. At the time of the promotion, the Browns were 1-7, but finished the season 4-4.
In the 1985 Supplemental Draft, the Browns drafted QB Bernie Kosar out of Miami, and the combination of Kosar and Schottenheimer proved to be one of the most successful QB/coach tandems in the league during the 1980’s. From 1985-87, the Cleveland Browns won three straight AFC Central Divisional Titles, as well as an appearance in the 1988 AFC Wild Card Game. Unfortunately, the Browns never reached the Super Bowl during Schottenheimer’s tenure, something that plagued him throughout his coaching career.
He and the Browns parted ways after the 1988 season, posting a 44-27 record over 4 1/2 seasons.
Immediately afterwards, he was hired by the Kansas City Chiefs as their newest head coach. Just like he did with Cleveland, Schottenheimer helped turn the fortunes of the fledging Chiefs around. In 10 years, the Chiefs went to the playoffs seven times and won three AFC West titles. Over the course of his tenure, future Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Marcus Allen joined the team, and, although at the tail end of their careers, helped lead Kansas City to the 1993 AFC Championship Game, but once again fell short of the Super Bowl.
Schottenheimer’s final record with the Chiefs was 101-58-1.
After a forgettable 8-8 season with Washington in 2001, Schottenheimer spent the final five years of his NFL coaching career as the head coach of the San Diego Chargers. And once again, Schottenheimer helped catapult the Chargers to the postseason. In his final season as coach, the Chargers went 14-2 and were the odds-on AFC favorites to reach the Super Bowl. But in the AFC Divisional round, they lost to the New England Patriots at home.
It was the last NFL game Schottenheimer would coach.
In 2011, he returned to coaching one final time as head coach and general manager of the Virginia Destroyers of the United Football League. He helped the team advance to the UFL Championship, where they defeated the Las Vegas Locomotives.
For a coaching career that saw little postseason success, it was very satisfying to see him end his career on top as champion.
He is the only coach with over 200 career wins that is not inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
We can only hope that changes soon.
Schottenheimer is survived by his wife, Pat, his children Kristen and Brian and grandchildren Brandon, Sutton, Savannah and Catherine.
(AP Photo: Mike King)