Marty Schottenheimer, who as head coach led the San Diego Chargers to their best record for a regular season and a pair of AFC West titles in his five-year tenure with the team, died Monday night at a hospice in Charlotte, N.C., a family spokesman said. He was 77.
Schottenheimer was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2014. He was moved to a hospice Jan. 30.
Across 21 NFL seasons, Schottenheimer amassed 200 regular-season victories and a .613 winning percentage with four franchises, starting with the Cleveland Browns in 1984. He is the eighth-winningest coach in NFL history.
His final coaching job came with San Diego, where the late John Butler brought him to replace Mike Riley in 2002.
Schottenheimer’s five Chargers teams combined for a .588 win rate and reached two Super Bowl tournaments, losing their opener each time.
Though he was named NFL Coach of the Year for 2004 by the Associated Press after leading the Chargers to their first postseason since 1995, it was the 2006 team that defined Schottenheimer’s San Diego legacy by going 14-2 and earning the AFC’s top playoff seed and a first-round bye.
But the performance didn’t translate into Schottenheimer reaching his first Super Bowl in 13 postseason visits, as San Diego lost to the New England Patriots, 24-21, as a five-point favorite in Mission Valley.
It was Schottenheimer’s final game. A month after the defeat, citing “dysfunction” between Schottenheimer and General Manager A.J. Smith, Chargers boss Dean Spanos fired the coach and replaced him with Norv Turner.
Three years later, after the Jets upset Turner’s third team as a nine-point underdog in a divisional-round playoff game, in the same Mission Valley stadium, the Jets awarded a game ball to offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who forwarded it to his father.
Martin Edward Schottenheimer was born Sept. 23, 1943 in Canonsburg, Pa. In 1965, he went from the University of Pittsburgh to the American Football League where he played six seasons as a linebacker with the Buffalo Bills and Boston Patriots.
His coaching career began in 1974 with the Portland Storm of the World Football League. He went to the NFL the next year as an assistant coach with the New York Giants.
Named head coach of the Browns midway through the 1984 season, he posted a .620 win rate across 4 1/2 seasons and won three AFC Central titles. He led Cleveland to the AFC Championship Game twice, only to suffer heartbreaking defeats to John Elway and the Denver Broncos.
In 1989 Schottenheimer took over the Kansas Chiefs, who won 63.4 of their games in 10 years under his leadership. Again, however, he was unable to reach the Super Bowl, going 3-7 in the postseason, including one defeat in the 1993 AFC title game.
After Schottenheimer worked in TV for two years, Washington owner Daniel Snyder signed him to a multiyear deal, only to fire him after his first team went 8-8.
Including an 0-2 record with the Chargers, Schottenheimer’s teams went 5-13 in the playoffs.
The 2006 Chargers provided one of the more entertaining seasons in the franchise’s history that dates to 1960. Led by Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who set an NFL record with 31 touchdowns and was named league MVP, the Chargers scored an NFL-best 30.8 points per game and got a league-high total of sacks from their defense. It was quarterback Philip Rivers’ first season as a starter in the NFL.
“Coach Schottenheimer got the attention of a room and had a way of delivering the message he wanted received in a way only he could,” Rivers said Tuesday via text message to the Union-Tribune. “I am very thankful I got to play for him my first three seasons in the NFL. Old school, very compassionate, very matter of fact, and just one heck of a coach. I can him him now, ‘One play at a time!!!’ Thoughts and Prayers for Mrs. Pat and Coach B Schotti and the whole family.”
Among the coaches who worked for Schottenheimer through the years were Bill Cowher, Bruce Arians, Tony Dungy, Herm Edwards and Mike McCarthy.