He only coached the Redskins for one year, but Marty Schottenheimer left a big impression. 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.
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.
SERIES HISTORY: Redskins lead 6-1, but Chargers won the last meeting 30-3 on Sept. 9, 2001, at Qualcomm Stadium. Coincidentally, that was the Washington debut of current San Diego coach Marty Schottenheimer and the debut as Chargers offensive coordinator of Norv Turner, who had coached the Redskins the previous seven years and who beat them last week as Oakland's coach. It was also the NFL debut of Chargers standout running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries.
Quotes and Notes
Friedman, a seven-year veteran who started the last eight games of 2003 and the first two of 2004 at center, was deemed expendable even though he had been active each week while Cory Raymer, who started the last 14 games of 2004, had been inactive the past three weeks.
--The 5-foot-8, 175-pound Brown scooted 66 yards on his lone kickoff return and dashed 39 yards on one of his 10 punt returns after being signed last Nov. 11, but he had a poor preseason and was cut after losing a fumble that set up Chicago's only score in the season opener.
"I didn't have any hard feelings," Brown said. "I congratulated the coaches for giving me the opportunity, and if the opportunity presented itself again, I was going to be ready."
Brown, whose previous NFL experience came with Buffalo in 2003 under current Redskins special teams coach Danny Smith, hadn't worked out for any other team in the 10 weeks he was out of football.
Brown said he loves Smith's "hit it and go" mentality. Smith jokingly responded, "He loves my system, I'm the only guy giving him work. ... We're happy to have him back. I like the guy and trust the guy."
Washington was in desperate need of a return man with Thrash sidelined with a pulled hamstring and with Ladell Betts almost certain to miss a second straight game with a sprained knee.
Santana Moss returned punts when Thrash went down last Sunday against Oakland, but the Redskins would rather not use their top receiver regularly in that role. Rookie Nehemiah Broughton and Rich Parson, who had been activated from the practice squad two days earlier, returned kickoffs in the absence of Betts and Thrash against the Raiders.
Receiver Carl Kearney was signed to the practice squad Tuesday, leaving Parson out of work.
Brown and Broughton, who has returned one kickoff for 5 yards, likely will replace Thrash and Betts as the kickoff return duo on Sunday against San Diego. Betts is averaging 25.7 yards per return - third-best in the NFC - including a 94-yard touchdown on Nov. 13 at Tampa Bay. Thrash is averaging 24.3 yards.
--Special teams leader Mike Sellers suffered a hairline fracture of a rib on an illegal block by Oakland's Isaiah Ekejiuba. Sellers got flagged when he retaliated on the next special teams play.
"It scared the heck out of me," Sellers said of the injury which will keep him out at least this week. "At one point, I couldn't even breathe. I'm sore. ... He wasn't man enough to hit me straight up so he hit me from behind. I let my anger get the best of me. I just snapped. I'm not proud of it. I wanted to get out there and get him, but I really didn't want to get a penalty."
BY THE NUMBERS: 13 - Turnovers the Redskins are on pace to force, with eight through 10 games. 15 - NFL record for fewest turnovers forced in a non-strike season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "More than any coach I've ever been around, Marty meets issues head-on. He lets you know what he (thinks). I enjoyed playing for Marty, but a lot of guys didn't." - Linebacker LaVar Arrington, one of just five Redskins who played for San Diego coach Marty Schottenheimer in Washington in 2001.
Player Personnel Notes
--RB/KR Ladell Betts hasn't been on the field since spraining his knee at Tampa Bay on Nov. 13. Betts didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday and isn't expected to play on Sunday against San Diego.
--LDT Cornelius Griffin, out since re-straining a hip flexor on the first series of the 36-0 loss to the Giants on Oct. 30, practiced Thursday and could return against the Chargers. Otherwise, Demetric Evans would start a fourth straight game in his place.
--OLB LaVar Arrington returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday with a pulled thigh muscle. He'll play on Sunday.
--OLT Chris Samuels returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday with the knee he sprained against the Giants. Samuels hasn't missed a game, and he will play against San Diego.
--FS Sean Taylor returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday with the sprained ankle that kept him out at Tampa Bay. Taylor will play Sunday.
--SS Ryan Clark returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday with the sprained knee he suffered against Oakland. Clark is expected to play Sunday.
--RB Clinton Portis was ill and didn't miss practice Thursday but should be ready for the Chargers.
--DE Nic Clemons didn't practice Thursday because of an ailing knee but should be ready for Sunday.
--QB Mark Brunell took limited work Wednesday because of an ailing groin but should play Sunday.
GAME PLAN: The Redskins will try to establish the run with Clinton Portis against the Chargers' top-ranked run defense. Knowing the Chargers will focus on shutting down receiver Santana Moss, Washington will do its best to find ways to get H-back Chris Cooley the ball before San Diego's sack-happy pass defense gets to quarterback Mark Brunell.
The Redskins have been continually burned for big plays this year, but they've done a fine job against the run the last three weeks, which gives them some hope against LaDainian Tomlinson. They've also done well against tight ends. However, they've mounted virtually no pass rush, so Drew Brees should have plenty of time to pick his best target.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
--Redskins MLB Lemar Marshall vs. Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson. Marshall leads the Redskins with 89 tackles in his first year at middle linebacker. The multitalented Tomlinson presents Marshall and Co. with their biggest challenge in a season in which they've already faced Thomas Jones, Julius Jones, Shaun Alexander, Priest Holmes, Tiki Barber, Brian Westbrook, Cadillac Williams and LaMont Jordan.
--Redskins RT Jon Jansen vs. Chargers OLB Shawne Merriman. Jansen has done an admirable job of playing all year with a cast on at least one thumb (he shed one cast a couple of weeks back), but his wiles and strength might not leave him well-equipped for a duel with swift pass-rushing rookie Merriman, who's looking to have a big day in his return to his native Prince George's County (Maryland).
--Redskins OLB Marcus Washington vs. Chargers TE Antonio Gates. Washington, who has won battles with Jason Witten, Tony Gonzalez and L.J. Smith this year, gets an even bigger test from Gates, who's questionable after hurting a foot last Sunday but should play.
The injuries to David Patten (season-ending knee surgery last Friday) and James Thrash leave the Redskins with only Taylor Jacobs, Jimmy Farris and Antonio Brown beyond Santana Moss at receiver. The Chargers will likely double-team Moss all day, leaving Mark Brunell to hope H-back Chris Cooley and running back Clinton Portis can get open underneath. It could get ugly.