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Schottenheimer brings fun in sun

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Jan 11, 2007.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    Source: <a target="_blank" href="http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/sports/16431589.htm">The Kansas City Star</a>

    <img width="337" height="223" alt="Marty Schottenheimer JIM BAIRD / Union-Tribune" title="Marty Schottenheimer JIM BAIRD / Union-Tribune" src="http://photos.signonsandiego.com/gallery1.5/albums/060917titans/JBchgTen17sep2h261951x036.jpg" />

    By Randy Covitz

    During warm-ups before every game, San Diego Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer ambles up to quarterback Philip Rivers and voices the same question.

    "Do you like football?" Schottenheimer asks.

    "Just a little bit," Rivers, son of a high school coach, replies in a huge understatement.

    Rivers, smiling as he related his weekly ritual with Schottenheimer, said, "He's fun to play for, and it's fun to be the quarterback of the team he's coaching."

    The 2006 season has been nothing but fun for Schottenheimer, Rivers and the Chargers. They had the AFC's best record at 14-2. They're sending an NFL-most nine players to the Pro Bowl. They've won 10 straight and have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, starting with Sunday's second-round game against New England.

    But here is where the fun stops and the pressure builds. Schottenheimer, 63, became the fifth coach in NFL history to win 200 career regular-season games this year, joining Hall of Famers Don Shula, George Halas, Tom Landry and Curly Lambeau.

    But his postseason record of 5-12 might be the most quoted statistic of the NFL playoffs. And judging from what his players are saying, it sounds as if they want to win the Super Bowl for Schottenheimer as much as they do for themselves.

    "I've thought about it, and I think it will be more special for us to be able to be the team to finally bring him that championship," said running back LaDainian Tomlinson, the NFL's leading rusher and most valuable player. "It will be a moment that he's been waiting for for a long time, but so deserving of the moment.

    "For whatever reason it hasn't happened for him. Just some tough breaks. He's probably come as close as a man can come. You're talking about a yard - hopefully it's not a yard this time that denies him."

    Indeed, Schottenheimer has come excruciatingly close to the Super Bowl. Denver's John Elway orchestrated The Drive that denied Schottenheimer's 1986 Cleveland team; and Browns running back Earnest Byner lost The Fumble at the goal line in the 1987 AFC championship game in Denver.

    With the Chiefs, Schottenheimer reached the 1993 AFC championship game at Buffalo, but a dropped pass by Kimble Anders and concussion to Joe Montana derailed that effort. He was cursed by Chiefs kicker Lin Elliot in the 1995 playoffs and quarterback Elvis Grbac's panic attack in 1997.

    In Schottenheimer's only playoff appearance with the Chargers, at home in 2004 against the New York Jets, he went conservative at the end and placed the game on the foot of rookie kicker Nate Kaeding, who missed a 40-yard field goal attempt in overtime. The Jets then won it 20-17.

    "I think in '04 it was more about ‘We're happy to get in the playoffs and we've had a great season,' " Tomlinson said. "It was the first time we had been in the playoffs in such-and-such years. Now, it's more like we expect it. It's more of a ‘What are you going to do now?' "

    The Chargers haven't lost since a 30-27 loss at Kansas City on Oct. 22, but Schottenheimer's seminal moment of the season came after a 16-13 loss at Baltimore when Rivers threw the ball just eight times in the second half.

    Since that time, he took the wraps off Rivers, who is in his first season as a starter, and the Chargers scored 32 or more points six times in an eight-game stretch, including 49 at Cincinnati and 48 against Denver.

    The old system of Martyball, good enough to get in the playoffs but too conservative to advance in the postseason, is a thing of the past. The Chargers are the NFL's highest-scoring team, averaging 30.75 points per game, and rank fourth on offense.

    "We're as wide open and diverse as any team in the league," Rivers said. "We feel we can go out and outscore anybody if we need to, and we can get in a field position, ball-possession game if we have to.

    "This team is about now. This team had never won in Denver. It's a new day, a new game, a new season every year, and I don't get caught up buying into history."

    The Chargers cannot rewrite history, but they can pen a happy ending to Schottenheimer's coaching legacy. Schottenheimer, an avid golfer, once sought the advice of Shula, his close friend and two-time Super Bowl champion, on how to come to grips with his postseason frustrations.

    "I asked Don, "If you had the opportunity to have the same success in golf as you had in professional football, would you take it?' " Schottenheimer recalled. "He said, ‘No, I wouldn't, but you would.'

    "I didn't acknowledge one way or another. (I've won) a lot of tournaments but no majors."

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