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Remembering Marty Schottenheimer
By Bob Moore Feb 09, 2021
Photographs By 65TPT

Every great coach is a great teacher first. And the best coaches never stop being great teachers, even after they are elevated to the top of their profession.

Marty Schottenheimer was one of pro football's best coaches, and remained so throughout his career, a preeminent teacher who loved the curriculum of football, and conveyed that care and passion to his players.

Schottenheimer found success throughout his coaching career – building Cleveland into a perennial power in the mid-'80s and reviving the Chargers' fortunes in San Diego in the early 2000s. But his impact was felt most clearly at the place he stayed the longest, in Kansas City during his 10-year tenure as head coach of the Chiefs.

What he presided over at Arrowhead Stadium, beginning in 1989, was not a mere turnaround; it was a transformation. The Chiefs team that had made one playoff appearance in the previous 17 years and was still searching for an identity found one instantly under Schottenheimer.

"Martyball," as it was called, respected football's eternal verities: it was a sound, tough, intelligent approach to the game, stressing strict adherence to fundamentals and discipline, with a healthy dose of emotion. Don't beat yourself, do the simple things well and consistently, play passionately, and you will prevail often.

One of the most revealing indices of coaches who preach discipline is turnover differential. Schottenheimer's teams in Kansas City had a positive turnover differential, averaging a plus-10.5 per season over his decade in Kansas City, including an astonishingly opportunistic plus-26 in 1990.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Rich Gannon (12) talks to head coach Marty Schottenheimer on the sidelines during a 1998 NFL game.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Rich Gannon (12) talks to head coach Marty Schottenheimer on the sidelines during a 1998 NFL game.

And the teaching never stopped. NFL Films would often catch Schottenheimer on the sidelines during a break in the action, staring straight into the eyes of one of his players, a hand on each shoulder, to command undivided attention. His inspirational speech to lift the spirits of Derrick Thomas, who had made a crucial penalty to force a game into overtime, was captured by NFL Films and remains an enduring moment in the game's long history and is a testament to the relationship between coach and player.

His pregame speeches were also monuments to unified purpose – index finger extended to emphasize the point, eyes intently searching those of his players, Schottenheimer would intone, "There's a gleam, men…." Schottenheimer's Chiefs would take that gleam into action, posting winning records in each of his first nine seasons in Kansas City.

Kansas City Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer leads his team out of the end zone tunnel on to the field before a 1991 NFL game.
Kansas City Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer leads his team out of the end zone tunnel on to the field before a 1991 NFL game.

It was under Schottenheimer that Arrowhead went from being one of the handsomest stadiums in pro football to being something more: a fortress, one of the most difficult places in the league for visiting teams to play. Those on the field and at the stadium on the night of October 7, 1991 still speak of the scene for that Monday Night Football game – the Chiefs' first prime-time national TV appearance in six seasons, as an unforgettable night. It was the coming-out party for a new generation of Chiefs fans, as Derrick Thomas and a relentless pass rush hounded the defending AFC champion Buffalo Bills, 33-6. The stadium that night was a throbbing din, as many of those in attendance remained standing throughout the game. 

"I've never seen anything like that in my life, before or since," said Tony Dungy, now a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but then an assistant coach for the Chiefs.

Kansas City Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer jogs off the field after the Nov. 14 1993 away game against the Los Angeles Raiders. The Chiefs won 31-20.
Kansas City Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer jogs off the field after the Nov. 14 1993 away game against the Los Angeles Raiders. The Chiefs won 31-20.

Nowhere was Schottenheimer's transformative powers more apparent than against the Chiefs' longtime arch-rivals, the Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders. By the end of the 1988 season, the Silver and Black had won 21 of the previous 30 games between the two teams. But as soon as Schottenheimer arrived, "Raider Week" began to take on a different mood. Over the next ten years, Schottenheimer's Chiefs sported an 18-3 record against the Raiders, including a hard-fought win in the 1991 wild-card round, the first post-season game ever played at Arrowhead Stadium.

Many coaches have made a priority out of rivalry games, but Schottenheimer went beyond that. He made a case that despite the Raiders' talent, their undisciplined style would cause them to make mistakes. Then he constructed a team that would capitalize on those inevitable errors.

"This is us!", he said to his team before a home game. "We've got our people." And Schottenheimer believed that his people, his players, were the key to victory,

Schottenheimer's people extended beyond the field of play. With him pacing the Kansas City sidelines, a new generation of fans would become devoted to the Chiefs and the modern incarnation of Arrowhead as the loudest stadium in the world would take shape.

Coaches, Players, Staff, Rivals Remember Marty Schottenheimer

"It was really a blessing to have been able to play the nose tackle position as a [college] senior because then Marty Schottenheimer had the foresight to draft me. I want to thank Marty, because Marty could have drafted anyone. He had the pick in the fourth round. The Giants had two fourth round picks. He could have drafted anyone, but he chose me, a player who had never played a position of linebacker, to draft, and he brought me to camp a month early to teach me how to play middle linebacker. Everything I tried to do, that he tried to get me to do, I did ass backwards, and I got the same or better results.

"Marty is an excellent teacher, excellent coach, and I owe him so much because Marty prepared me for coaches to follow. Marty prepared me for Bill Parcells."

Harry Carson, linebacker, New York Giants (1975-88), member of Pro Football Hall of Fame



"I had a long-standing personal and professional relationship with coach Schottenheimer and treasured my time with him. Early in my career, Marty was our defensive coordinator and had a challenging job trying to handle the likes of Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield, but did it with grit and grace.

"When he became our head coach, he preached toughness and discipline on both sides of the ball. Though he was an old-school, tough coach, he was also adaptable, as he hired Lindy Infante to run our offense, which helped us to become a complete team.

"Marty got us to the brink of the Super Bowl, and unfortunately we as players didn't deliver, which is something that we all regret because of our affection for him.

"I want to extend my heartfelt condolences to the entire Schottenheimer family."

Ozzie Newsom, Jr., tight end, Cleveland Browns (1978-1990), team executive (1991-present), Baltimore Ravens, member of Pro Football Hall of Fame

Kansas City Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer talks to general manager Carl Peterson on the sideline before a 1995 home game.
Kansas City Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer talks to general manager Carl Peterson on the sideline before a 1995 home game.

"It's hard to put into words what Marty Schottenheimer meant to me. I played for him, I coached for him. He mentored me at such a young age. He was an amazing coach, teacher and leader. I will always be indebted to the guidance and support he gave me. To Pat, Kristen and Brian, the NFL lost a legend but the good Lord has gained a leader. Marty, you say, "There's a gleam, men," there is and it was always "YOU." RIP Coach. Love you and thank you."

Bill Cowher, linebacker, Cleveland Browns (1980-82), special teams coach, defensive backs coach, Cleveland Browns (1985-88), defensive coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs (1989-91), head coach, Pittsburgh Steelers (1992-2006), member of Pro Football Hall of Fame

"I first met Marty Schottenheimer when he was coaching linebackers for the New York Giants, and I was coaching tight ends, and was Dick Vermeil's administrative assistant for the Philadelphia Eagles. Naturally we faced each other twice a year, and I knew then that Marty was an exceptional coach.

"I followed his coaching career, and in mid-January of 1989, Marty called me to let me know that he had been fired as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. He knew that I was looking for a head coach for the Kansas City Chiefs. I hired Marty after his second interview, and some said at the time that the 'relationship between Peterson and Schottenheimer would never last.' Well, it lasted 10 years! Marty was exactly what I was looking for in the next head coach for the Chiefs and Lamar Hunt, our owner, concurred. Perhaps Marty's greatest asset was his ability to meticulously put together ever facet of the game, and get his players to trust him, and buy into what he and his coaches were trying to accomplish.

"Marty Schottenheimer was a superb football coach and was a major cornerstone in our efforts to rebuild an NFL franchise in the 'middle of America.' I shall personally miss him, and Lori and I send our sincerest condolences to Marty's wife, Pat, daughter Kristen, son Brian, brother, Kurt, and the entire Schottenheimer family. May he rest in peace."

Carl D. Peterson, president and general manager, Kansas City Chiefs (1989-2008)

Kansas City Chiefs defensive backs coach Tony Dungy warms his players up before a 1991 NFL game.
Kansas City Chiefs defensive backs coach Tony Dungy warms his players up before a 1991 NFL game.

"I have great memories of the three years I spent in Kansas City working for Marty Schottenheimer. That was an awesome time for me and my family. It speaks to the type of atmosphere we had working under Marty. I learned a lot and certainly grew as a football coach working under him. He put together an outstanding staff and I saw how he used input from everyone to formulate his vision for the team. I also saw what great attention to detail Marty had and how that showed up in our results on the field. It was a real joy to get to know him and his family, and to learn football from him. I would not have developed into the type of head coach that I became without those three years we had together."

Tony Dungy, defensive backs coach, Kansas City Chiefs (1989-91), head coach, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1996-2001), Indianapolis Colts (2002-08), member of Pro Football Hall of Fame



"If it wasn't for Marty Schottenheimer, I wouldn't be writing this – because I wouldn't be where I am today. Marty gave me my first NFL opportunity in 1993, but it was so much more than that, he gave this young coach a roadmap for life. Marty's fingerprints can still be felt all over so many things I do every day as a coach, but it is what he taught me as a man that I'll be forever grateful for. Professionally, Marty was the first man I saw open his heart and emotionally reveal himself. He was 'Pittsburgh Proud' and the definition of authenticity and genuineness.

"The six years I spent with him were the most important and impactful years of my coaching career. He was always teaching and emphasizing – even in my first game as a head coach in 2006 which happened to be against Marty. It was ugly. After the game, when we shook hands, he patted me on the back said, 'Kid, trust me – it'll get better – but don't ever forget, make sure to do it your own way.' Almost 15 years later, I still lean on those words.

"Marty exemplified strength and passion – which wasn't always in your favor. Anyone who worked for Marty will attest, you've never had your ass chewed, until Marty Schottenheimer did it. I've still got the scars to prove it – and for that I am forever thankful. It's impossible to talk about Marty without mentioning his beloved wife of 54 years, Pat. To this day, I can't have a conversation with my family without them asking, "how is Pat Schottenheimer?" She has that effect on everyone.

"Marty, and those piercing eyes that even his glasses couldn't hide, will be profoundly missed. And yet I know the impact he's had on so many of us, and the legacy he leaves behind, will always be felt. My wife, Jessica, and I send our love and deepest condolences to Pat, Brian, Kris and the Schottenheimer family."

Mike McCarthy, offensive quality control, quarterbacks coach, Kansas City Chiefs (1993-98), head coach, Green Bay Packers (2006-18), Dallas Cowboys (2020-present)



"The best coach I ever had. I never went into a game with Marty as coach feeling like I wasn't fully prepared to win. He really wanted you to understand every detail of the game plan. I considered him a true All-American man. He was a great father figure and I was fortunate that my wife and I got to know he and Pat beyond the typical player and coach relationship. He was a well-rounded human being. He cared more about the man than the athlete. I will remember him more for the life lessons that he taught me."

LaDainian Tomlinson, running back, San Diego Chargers (2001-09), New York Jets (2010-11), member of Pro Football Hall of Fame

Quarterback Drew Brees (9) during an NFL Football game against the New Orleans Saints, Sunday December 20, 2020 in New Orleans.
Quarterback Drew Brees (9) during an NFL Football game against the New Orleans Saints, Sunday December 20, 2020 in New Orleans.

"If you look up football coach in the dictionary, it should have a picture of Marty Schottenheimer. An incredible teacher, mentor, and coach. Toughness and discipline were his hallmarks. He cared so much for his players and family and brought out the best in all of us. Marty Schottenheimer was so influential in my career and I am honored to have played for him.

Drew Brees, quarterback, San Diego Chargers (2001-05), New Orleans Saints (2006-present)

Kansas City Chiefs center Tim Grunhard (61) snaps the ball to Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Steve Bono (13) during the Nov. 24 1996 home game against the San Diego Chargers. The Chiefs lost 14-28.
Kansas City Chiefs center Tim Grunhard (61) snaps the ball to Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Steve Bono (13) during the Nov. 24 1996 home game against the San Diego Chargers. The Chiefs lost 14-28.

"Marty was a true leader of men during good times and bad. Both on the field and off you knew that Marty would be there for you. Marty believed in me even when I was a young pup from the south-side of Chicago trying to make a life in the NFL. He will always be in my heart and on my mind as I continue to take on the challenges of everyday life."

Tim Grunhard, center, Kansas City Chiefs (1990-2000)

Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Donnie Edwards (59) stands on the sideline during a 2001 NFL game.
Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Donnie Edwards (59) stands on the sideline during a 2001 NFL game.

"Marty was like a father figure to me. He was a rare coach that had the ability to relate football to the game of life. 'One play at a time' will continue to guide me forever in my life."

Donnie Edwards, linebacker, Kansas City Chiefs (1996-2001) San Diego Chargers (2002-06)

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Steve DeBerg (17) talks to head coach Marty Schottenheimer on the sidelines during a 1991 NFL game.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Steve DeBerg (17) talks to head coach Marty Schottenheimer on the sidelines during a 1991 NFL game.

"I had the pleasure of being coached by some of the best coaches in the game: Tom Landry, Bill Walsh, Dan Reeves, John McKay, Sam Wyche, Don Shula and Marty Schottenheimer to name a few. Many times people have asked me who was the best coach I ever had, and I always say Marty Schottenheimer. He taught me more about the 'entire' game than anyone else as he had the unique ability to coach any position on the team. The man was a football genius! My prayers and condolences to his incredible family."

Steve DeBerg, quarterback, Dallas Cowboys (1977), San Francisco 49ers (1977-80), Denver Broncos (1981-83), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1984-87), Kansas City Chiefs (1988-91), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1992-93), Miami Dolphins (1993), quarterbacks coach, New York Giants (1995-96)



"I am proud to be able to say that Marty Schottenheimer was my head coach. It's not everyday you get to coach for a hall of fame football coach and Marty Schottenheimer is just that. He was also a mentor, friend, golf partner and role model. I consider myself the luckiest guy in the world to have been able to call plays as his offensive coordinator for five years in San Diego. Marty loved to run the football and our teams were build to be physical, tough and smart, all characteristics that embodied who he was, where he was from [Pittsburgh area], what he believed in, and how he believed you win in the NFL, something he did at every stop.

"Marty's favorite play call was 40 or 50 Power. Once we called it 24 times, I think, in a row in a win against the Raiders in Oakland — 18 to the right and six to the left for a total of 28 points just on that play. He couldn't get the smile off his face. I could clinic every detail of the play, the pulling guards' technique as he described it was priceless. The code words for the play were Marty (40 Power) and Steel (50 Power). We named it after him and what his hometown was known for, steel. It was also fitting that the play LT [LaDanian Tomlinson] broke the all-time NFL scoring record came on 'Steel 50 Power.'

"The football memories are priceless and countless but there are other ones that stood out that people might not know. Marty loved the game of golf and was good at it. He was a single handicap golfer and as competitive as anyone I ever played with. We all know how much he loved his family. He adored his wife, Pat, in a way I had never seen a man adore his wife and it had a profound impact on me as a husband. He talked about his kids, Kristen and Brian, every chance he could, and this also had a tremendous impact on me as a father. We talked about our offensive game personnel, game plan and what we needed to do to beat Oakland, then Denver and Kansas City to win the division — two teams that he hated and one that he loved and always would. If you knew Marty, you knew which was which.

"He taught me about being a coach, husband, father, mentor, friend and a man. We'll all miss him and cheers till we meet again."

Cam Cameron offensive coordinator, San Diego Chargers (2002-06), head coach, Miami Dolphins (2007) offensive coordinator, Baltimore Ravens (2008-12)

Assistant general manager Dennis Thum stands on the sideline during a 1994 NFL game.
Assistant general manager Dennis Thum stands on the sideline during a 1994 NFL game.

"Marty Schottenheimer was a true gentleman. He always thought of others before himself. The ultimate teacher, he enriched the play and the lives of players, coaches and staff both on the field and off. There will be a "gleam" from heaven with his passing. Our prayers are with Pat and his entire family. I am so grateful to have been able to share part of my career in Kansas City with Marty."

Denny Thum, president and assistant general manager, Kansas City Chiefs (1989-2010)



"Marty Schottenheimer's attention to detail was legendary, he had no equal. He prepared us for every situation we would face in a game. He was also amazing in his ability to be positive and to move on no matter what happened."

Bernie Kosar, quarterback, Cleveland Browns (1985-1993)

Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Kevin Ross (31) stands on the sideline with his helmet off during a 1985 NFL game.
Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Kevin Ross (31) stands on the sideline with his helmet off during a 1985 NFL game.

"Marty was big on fundamentals. We didn't do a whole lot of schemes. We just did the things we did very well. People knew what we were going to do and how we were gong to do it, but they still had to beat us. He was very organized. Mental toughness, physical toughness he preached that a lot. He changed the atmosphere in Kansas City when I was there."

Kevin Ross, cornerback, Kansas City Chiefs (1984-93, 1997)

Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Greg Manusky (51) before the 1998 AFC Divisional Playoff.
Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Greg Manusky (51) before the 1998 AFC Divisional Playoff.

"A genuine person that has shaped a lot of men in this world to be better fathers, husbands and sons. He was one of the good guys."

Greg Manusky, linebacker, Kansas City Chiefs (1994-99), linebackers coach, Washington Redskins (2001), San Diego Chargers (2002-06), defensive coordinator, San Diego Chargers (2011), Indianapolis Colts (2012-15)

Kansas City Chiefs running back Todd McNair (48) sits on the bench during a 1990 NFL game.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Todd McNair (48) sits on the bench during a 1990 NFL game.

"I respected Marty a lot. He taught us a lot, to be a student of the game, studying and the importance of preparation. He was a great, great teacher. We learned a lot about mental preparation from him."

Todd McNair, running back, Kansas City Chiefs (1984-93, 1997)

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tim Barnett (82) runs with the ball during a 1992 NFL game.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tim Barnett (82) runs with the ball during a 1992 NFL game.

"When I think about Marty, I don't ever remember anyone able to get you up for a game the way he did. He'd get you so fired up, you'd feel like you could go and run through a brick wall. I always remember when something bad happened in the game he was the first to tell you to not worry about it and to go to the next play. I love the guy."

Tim Barnett, wide receiver, Kansas City Chiefs (1991-93)

Mike Davidson walks off the field carrying the field markers during a 2010 practice.
Mike Davidson walks off the field carrying the field markers during a 2010 practice.

"If it was important to you, it was important to him. That's how I felt about Marty Schottenheimer. He made you feel included. He always wanted to know what you needed to get your job done. And he was always a teacher: on the practice field, game day and even on the golf course. He believed in me before I even believed in myself."

Mike Davidson, assistant equipment manager, Cleveland Browns (1984-89), head equipment manager, Kansas City Chiefs (1989-2011), assistant historian, Kansas City Chiefs (2016-present)

Kansas City Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer talks to head athletic trainer Dave Kendall during a 1997 NFL game.
Kansas City Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer talks to head athletic trainer Dave Kendall during a 1997 NFL game.

"I was able to enjoy my best 10 professional years as trainer with the Chiefs when Marty Schottenheimer was coaching there. The relationship I enjoyed with him will never be forgotten. His professionalism and attention to detail made me an improved athletic trainer, but also my working relationship with him was more of a friendship, I felt, than a boss. His relationship with his players was as a true father figure, as well as a coach. I was able to continue our relationship following is departure from Kansas City and my wife and I continued to be part of his and Pat's circle of friends. Their graciousness will always be cherished by us."

Dave Kendall, head trainer, Kansas City Chiefs (1976-2006)



"I was privileged to work alongside Marty at each of his head coaching stops, including the Virginia Destroyers of the UFL, where he finally won his championship. It may not have been the Lombardi Trophy, but the joy on his face as he hoisted it in the air was priceless. The man was a champion in so many ways. I loved him like a brother, and I know that love was returned. Marty welcomed me into his family and to all of them I am forever grateful. What a wonderful life we have shared."

John Wuehrman, video director, Cleveland Browns (1985-95), Kansas City Chiefs (1996-2001), administrative assistant, Washington Redskins (2001), San Diego Chargers (2002-06) director of football operations, Virginia Destroyers (2011)



"It has been well said by the noted flyer Beryl Markham that 'if a man has any greatness in him it comes to light, not in one flamboyant hour, but in the ledger of his daily work.' Marty Schottenheimer had his share of flamboyant hours, but it was the ledger of his daily work as a coach and leader of men, and in the quality and depth of those relationships that was long and honorable. The bottom line on what he meant to professional football and to the people he coached or worked with has now been written in an outpouring of sentiment that few men who coached anything could command."

Bob Moore, director of public relations, Kansas City Chiefs (1989-2010), chief historian, Kansas City Chiefs (2010-present)

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