(EDITOR’S NOTE: To access the Bob Moore interview, please log on to the following attachment: ▶ Ep 25: Remembering Marty Schottenheimer with Chiefs Historian Bob Moore | The Eye Test for Two | Spreaker).
Shortly after word of former coach Marty Schottenheimer’s death circulated Tuesday, the Washington Post ran an obituary on its website under the following headline: “Marty Schottenheimer, NFL coach whose teams wilted in the postseason, dies at 77.”
News of his death wasn’t shocking. Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2014, Schottenheimer had been moved to hospice care over the weekend. What was unimaginable, however, was the insensitivity with which his passing was treated.
Apparently, the Post agreed. It changed the headline.
While it’s true Schottenheimer’s teams were 5-13 in the playoffs, it is also true he won 200 career games and eight division titles, made 13 playoff appearances, reached three conference championship games, and resurrected franchises in Cleveland, Kansas City, and San Diego.
It’s also true that he deserved more … much more … than a snarky headline.
“He’s missed, and he’s the best coach I ever worked for,” said Kansas City Chiefs’ historian Bob Moore, who’s been with the organization for over 40 years and was the team’s public-relations chief during Schottenheimer’s career there (1989-98).
Moore thought a lot of Schottenheimer. And Schottenheimer thought so much of Moore that the family entrusted him to contact media outlets Tuesday with news of his passing. Moore joined the latest “Eye Test for Two” podcast to discuss what he remembers … and will miss … most about Schottenheimer.
“It was every single day you dealt with him,” he said, “The thing that I learned from Marty was the fact that he was a very, very easy guy to speak to. He was very natural. He had a lot of leadership abilities that became apparent without having to act that way. In other words, he was a teacher. When you talk to other players and other people who were with him you’ll certainly find that they consider him as one of the best coaches they ever had.”
One of those persons Moore contacted prior to Schottenheimer’s death was former quarterback Steve DeBerg, who played for the Chiefs 1988-91. He also played for six others during a 21-year NFL career, some of which were led by Hall-of-Fame coaches.
“(He told me,) ‘I played for Tom Landry,’ “ Moore said. ‘I played for Dan Reeves. I played for Bill Walsh. I played for Don Shula. Marty Schottenheimer. I played for all these guys. Who was the best guy I ever played for?’ Marty Schottenheimer is what he said.
“Because Marty Schottenheimer knew the entire game. And he could coach it from every position. And that’s a heckuva statement from a guy who played for some of the greatest all-time Hall-of-Fame coaches in NFL history.”
If there was a knock on his Schottenheimer it was the playoff record. He lost two conference championship games to Denver while at Cleveland. He lost another to the Buffalo Bills when he was with the Chiefs. And after compiling a league-best 14-2 record in San Diego (2006), the Chargers dropped their opening playoff game to New England … and Tom Brady.
He was fired afterward. And he never coached again.
But those losses were punctuated by some of the most extraordinary events. There was “The Drive” in 1987. There was the Earnest Byner goal-line fumble a year later. There were three Lin Elliott missed field goals in a brutal 10-7 playoff loss to the Colts in 1995. And there was the Marlon McCree fumble following an interception in the 2006 Patriots’ victory.
“He never, ever made excuses for his playoff record,” Moore said. “He said, ‘It is what it is.’ I think it’s sad that he never got a chance to go to the Super Bowl, and you’ll find that people like (Hall-of-Fame tight end) Ozzie Newsome, who said to me the other day when he was talking about Marty’s career, that it was on the players; it wasn’t Marty Schottenheimer: ‘We let him down, and it’s something we all will have to live with.’ “
Martin Edward Schottenheimer died Monday, one day after the Chiefs lost Super Bowl LV and two days after the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its Class of 2021. He never reached the Super Bowl, and he probably won’t reach Canton. But neither defines a coach who had an impact on players, fans and pro football organizations. Nor should they.
“How will he be remembered?” Moore was asked.
“As one of the best coaches in the National Football League by the people who played for him,” he said. “They will know where the others will not. Because the others will just take a look at the record and say … and this is sad in a way … ‘Well, you know, I wish he could’ve won a Super Bowl.’
“He was a great coach. And a great teacher. And a great leader. And some of those things will get lost. But it won’t be lost on the players who played for him. It won’t be lost on the people who worked with him. That will be the key. And maybe in the end, that’s all you really want anyway, isn’t it? Maybe that’s the only thing that matters.”