Schottenheimer returns to the scene

He only coached the Redskins for one year, but Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer left a big impression. Free Preview of Premium Content

After seven undisciplined seasons under Norv Turner and interim coach Terry Robiskie, Schottenheimer's strict ways were a tonic or toxic, depending on one's point of view.

Those reactions make Schottenheimer's return to Washinhgton on Sunday as coach of San Diego Chargers more controversial than Turner's last week with the Raiders. Turner was fired by owner Dan Snyder after a 1-4 slide in 2000.

Schottenheimer was axed despite an 8-3 finish in 2001.

"The thing I liked the most about Marty was that he was honest," tackle Jon Jansen said. "Whether you wanted to hear it or not, he told you the way he saw it, and that's how it was. Marty didn't put up with anybody's (stuff). It didn't matter who you were."

Knowing the grueling work to come, superstar cornerback Deion Sanders bailed almost as soon as Schottenheimer was hired. Defensive end Bruce Smith and quarterback Jeff George, two more of Snyder's fantasy football free agents of 2000, made it known that they didn't buy what Schottenheimer was selling.

The transition from Nice Guy Norv - forgetting Robiskie's brief regime - to General Marty was a disaster at first. After winning the NFC East in 1999 and going 8-8 (after a 6-2 start) in 2000, Washington lost its first three games by 27, 37 and 32 points, respectively.

"We were kind of tired because Marty had overworked us a little during training camp," tackle Chris Samuels said. "Marty was a little bit too tough on us at times. Nobody really had a voice."

Nobody except "One Voice" - Schottenheimer, who became even more self-assured after taking Cleveland (1984-88) and Kansas City (1989-98) to the playoffs in 11 of his 14 previous full seasons.

After George was cut, a 14-point road loss to the defending NFC champion New York Giants and a subsequent near-victory in Dallas showed progress. The next week against Carolina, linebacker LaVar Arrington refused to give in to the 0-5 record, a concussion and a halftime deficit. He shook off the cobwebs and returned an interception 67 yards for a touchdown that turned the game, and the season, around.

"Marty represented change in a positive way, where we were building towards something," Arrington said. "I believed in what Marty was preaching. When guys started buying into it, we started winning."

And how. Washington ran off five straight victories, winning in Denver behind backup Kent Graham after quarterback Tony Banks was hurt and beating a second straight playoff-bound team in Philadelphia. The Redskins wound up 8-8, a record they have yet to equal since.

"It was one season," Schottenheimer said of having an emotional attachment in his return. "It was an enjoyable experience. Imagine winning eight out of 11. We stayed the course. We were clearly a better team."

With the vast majority of starters, including such Pro Bowl picks as Arrington, cornerback Champ Bailey and running back Stephen Davis, under 28 and under contract, the Redskins' future looked bright.

However, the 8-3 close wasn't good enough for the impatient Snyder, who had been chafing all year at his decision to hand complete control of the football operation to the coach. Snyder wanted to win, but he also craved command. So he fired Schottenheimer, brought back yes-man Vinny Cerrato to run the front office and hired NFL neophyte Steve Spurrier as his coach.

That braintrust produced just 12 victories in two years, the same number that Schottenheimer's Chargers won in 2004.

"I think the only thing he is concerned with is winning the game," running back LaDainian Tomlinson said. "We realize that this is the next game on our schedule and Marty really doesn't care who the opponent is. He just wants to keep putting wins together for the end of the season."


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