Schottenheimer vs. Edwards: Marty Did More with Less
Say what you want about Marty Schottenheimer, but if he were head coach of the Chiefs this season, somehow I know that Chiefs would be at least 3-2 and not 1-4 at this moment.
How can I be so sure about this? The reason stems from the fact that Marty knows how to build a football team. Granted fans and pundits can argue all day about whether or not Marty's chokes in the play-offs or whether he is just the benefactor of a wave of luck so bad that it would make the ancient Hebrews say, "Damn, that's tough." But, either way, there is no doubting that the man knows how to build a winner.
In 1984, Marty took over a Cleveland Browns team that was 1-7 and promptly led them to go 4-4 the rest of the way. This performance earned him the head coaching job in 1985. That season, the Brown managed to claw their way to an AFC Central title and a play-off birth (granted the worst record of any division title winner in the modern era at 8-8). The Browns then went on to average 11 wins per season over the next three years, taking two more division titles.
What is really interesting is the type of adversity Marty had to overcome. In 1988 en route to a 10-6 record and a wild card birth, injuries caused Marty to start four different quarterbacks (sound familiar), yet, he managed to get it done. Maybe you can criticize Marty for a last second loss to Houston (23-24) in the wildcard game, but he was playing with Mike Pagel his 3rd string quarterback behind and injured Bernie Kosar and an injured Don Strock.
Then, in 1989 Marty left the Browns to join the Chiefs. What became of the team Marty left behind? With a healthy Bernie Kosar, the team managed one less win in 1989 and by 1990, virtually the same team was 3-13 and out of the play-offs. The team brought in a young coach by the name of Bill Bilicheck (yes, the same one), who in five years managed only a wild-card birth while compiling a 36-44 record.
Meanwhile in Kansas City, what happened to the Chiefs? After going 4-11-1 in 1988 (and enduring their 2nd consecutive four win season) the Chiefs finished strong and went 8-7-1. Then, in 1989 the Chiefs went 11-5 and made the play-offs for only the 2nd time in 18 seasons. What followed was eight play-off appearances and nine winning records in the next 10 seasons. What has happened since? Things have reverted back to the pre-Marty era. In 10 seasons, only two play-off appearances and three winning records.
Similar things have happened in Washington and in San Diego. In one season in Washington, the Redskins finished 8-3 after a 0-5 start, only to go 7-9 the following year with Steve Spurrier at the helm. In San Diego, Marty inherited a team that had been 1-15 and 5-11 in two previous seasons and in his third season had them go 12-4.
So, what makes Marty's record so different from that of Herm Edwards? It certainly isn't talent. During Marty's 10 years with the Chiefs he managed winning seasons with five different starting quarterbacks. Many of these, frankly, were journeyman types like Dave Krieg, Steve DeBerg and Steve Bono. As a result, it is preposterous for pundits to say that the Chiefs can't win with a guy like Damon Huard or Brodie Croyle. Who can honestly say either of these guys is worse than Steve Bono? Granted, Schottenheimer did have Joe Montana for two seasons, but this was a fragile Montana whose play-off injury quite possibly kept the Chiefs out of the Superbowl in 1993. Then there was Elvis Grbac...need I say anything more.
At runningback, Marty never had the benefit of a player like Larry Johnson. It may surprise fans to know that the Nigerian Nightmare Christian Okoye - had only two 1,000 yard seasons and only one truly great season (1,480 yards in 1989). Otherwise, Marty muddled through finding players he could use to compete. In his 10 years with the Chiefs, Marty had only three 1,000 yard rushers and had 5 different running backs lead the team in rushing. Granted, he had Marcus Allen for four seasons, but it is to Marty's credit that he used Marcus well enough and sparingly enough to get that long out of a 35-year old runningback.
At receiver, Marty got by with names like J.J. Birden, Willie Davis, Tim Barnett, Chris Penn or Lake Dawson. Certainly none of these guys even begins to approach the quality of a Dwayne Bowe. Frankly, most of them remind you of a Devard Darling or a Chris Webb. Further, Marty had Tony Gonzales for only his first two years and in ten seasons had only two 1,000 yard receivers and the most receptions by one receiver were 71 (Andre Rison in 1997). Yet, without a number one receiver of any kind, Marty managed to make it work.
On the offensive line, again, Marty was confronted with a situation similar to the one confronting the Chiefs' current regime. A revolving door existed at right tackle. In his 10 years, the Chiefs used six different right tackles, guys like Ricky Siglar, Rich Baldinger, Glenn Parker, Derrick Graham and Victor Riley. Certainly none of which are household names and some of which including Siglar, Graham and Riley were awful. Still, the Chiefs managed to work around the holes in their offensive lines and have success.
What about defense? Granted the Chiefs did have big names like Neil Smith, Derrick Thomas, Dale Carter and Mark Collins. However, here in lies a big difference between Schottenheimer and Edwards. When Derrick Thomas came to the Chiefs he immediately performed. He had 10.0 sacks in his rookie season and 20.0 in his second. Neil Smith, who underachieved in his rookie season, suddenly went from 2.5 sacks to 6.5 and then to 9.5 in his 3rd. What was more impressive was how Marty knew how to get the most out of these guys. He moved them around, often placing them on the same side (an idea that went against conventional wisdom at the time) in order to attack and overwhelm opposing offenses.
Much like today, though, Marty's defensive teams were never without holes in personnel. In 1994, faced with a lack of talent in the linebacking core, Marty and the Chiefs switched their scheme from a 3-4 to a 4-3. What an idea! Actually changing your scheme to match your talent. This is something Edwards has proven incapable of doing. Instead of adapting which should be a big part of any rebuilding process Edwards seems to instead push his scheme while he waits for management to find players who can fit in. This isn't a recipe for success. Part of rebuilding is learning how to use your young talent, not trying to bang the same square peg into the same round hole.
Additionally, unlike Edwards, Marty managed to get team production with less than average players at key positions. At strong safety for example, the Chiefs got by with players like Kevin Porter (1 interception in four seasons as a starter), followed by four different starters in the next six seasons. Also, the Chiefs had average players in many other positions, yet somehow the defense was a success.
Much of this has to do with the idea of finding ways to get the most out of the players that you have. It is beyond my understanding why the Chiefs don't use Derrick Johnson in much the same way they used Derrick Thomas. Johnson has the speed to be this kind of player. Instead of being a difference maker, pounding quarterbacks, penetrating and generally wreaking havoc, Johnson spends most of his time dropping into coverage. On the other hand, I don't think it is a coincidence that Shawn Merriman's play reminds me of that of Thomas'. It isn't that Merriman and Johnson are different players, as much as it is that they are used differently.
And in case you were wondering, who is the coach who figured out how to use Merriman and make him the player that he has become? (prior to his recent injury, of course) That man would be Marty Schottenheimer.
Finally, Marty was the master motivator. Here is where I think a real difference between Herm and Marty exists. Marty was tough and when he talked everyone listened and respected him. Anyone remember when Derrick Thomas was held out of nearly half a game in Denver for being late to a team meeting? I wonder what Herm would have done with this? I wonder how Marty would have handled LJ's insubordination? I bet it would be different. Marty would command respect. He would demand a top level effort.
Along the same lines, Marty was known for developing a "theme" in camp every season that he would carry throughout the year. Marty is responsible for creating "Raider Week". Who can forget his impassioned speech to his players about ex-teammates that were now wearing the silver and black: "They aren't your friends, you don't go over and hug them and pat them on the butt before the game". Say what you want, but you never would have seen a Marty Schottenheimer coached Chiefs team put out the pathetic effort they did against the Raiders three weeks ago. Marty knew how to motivate and if you didn't play with passion, guess what? You didn't play for Marty.
It sure seems like the Chiefs could use a little bit of that thinking right now.