Longtime NFL coach, Canonsburg native and Pitt alum Marty Schottenheimer died on Monday at the age of 77, according to his family.
Schottenheimer was most well known as the defensive coordinator and head coach of the Cleveland Browns and head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. He also coached the Washington Redskins and San Diego Chargers for a 200-126-1 overall record, the most wins of any coach not enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Born in Canonsburg, Schottenheimer graduated from Fort Cherry High School in nearby McDonald, Pa. He matriculated to the University of Pittsburgh, where he was a linebacker and center from 1961-64, and was a three-time letterman. The 1963 team went 9-1, Pitt’s best record in over a 30-year span. He was a second-team All-American linebacker selection as a senior in 1964.
“What I remember most about Marty was that studious look he had with those glasses,” former Pitt sports information director Beano Cook said in Schottenheimer’s 2012 autobiography Martyball. “He looked more like a college professor than a linebacker. And he was so well spoken and literate. But let me tell you, he was a damn good football player, too. Don’t let him or anyone else kid you. I sent out letters to every sportswriter in the country trying to get him first team All-American his senior year. He deserved it. He was that good. He wound up second team All-American but he should have been first team.”
Schottenheimer was selected in the fourth round of the 1965 NDL Draft by the Baltimore Colts, but instead signed with the Buffalo Bills of the AFL, who had selected him in the seventh round.
He made the AFL All-Star team as a rookie in 1965 as the Bills went on to win an AFLChampionship. Schottenheimer spent four seasons in Buffalo, and with the Boston Patriots. After the AFL-NFL merger, he was traded to his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers and then again to the Indianapolis Colts, but never played for either team.
Schottenheimer began his lengthy coaching career as a player-coach for the Portland Storm of the World Football League in 1974. After a pre-season shoulder injury prevented him from playing, he stayed on as a full-time coach in the fledgling league. The next season, Bill Arsnparger hired him onto the New York Giants staff, where he was linebackers coach for two seasons and defensive coordinator for one season.
After two seasons in Detroit as the Lions’ linebackers coach, Schottenheimer started his nine-year run in Cleveland. He started with the Browns in 1980 as defensive coordinator under Sam Rutigliano, helping the Kardiac Kids to a division title and a pair of playoff berths as a coordinator.
Schottenheimer took over for the fired Rutigliano mid-season in 1984. In his first four full seasons as Browns head coach, Cleveland won the AFC Central Division three times and qualified for the postseason four times, one of only two-such stretches in Browns history. In 1986, the Schottenheimer led the Browns to their first postseason victory in 17 years. But a pair of losses to the Denver Broncos in the 1986 and 1987 AFC Championship Games soured owner Art Modell on Schottenheimer, and he left the team by mutual separation.
It was in Cleveland that Schottenheimer first led fellow Pittsburgh-area native Bill Cowher, who spent three seasons as a linebacker for Schottenheimer from 1980-1982 and then returned to coach for him as special teams coach and defensive coordinator from 1985-88.
He also helped inspire future Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi, who grew up a Browns fan in Northeast Ohio.
“Coach Schottenheimer made it fun to be a Browns fan again in the 1980s,” Narduzzi said in a press release. “He really revitalized that team and made them an annual Super Bowl contender. He was a tremendous coach, but an even better leader. I think that’s why he raised the level of every organization he ever joined. We are proud to call him a Pitt Man and our entire program extends its deepest sympathies to the Schottenheimer family.”
Schottenheimer quickly landed in Kansas City, where he led the Chiefs to the postseason in seven of his 10 seasons and had a winning record in nine of 10. His 101-58-1 record with Kansas City gave him a .635 regular-season winning percentage with the Chiefs and cemented his status as one of the greatest regular-season coaches in NFL history.
But success in the postseason was once again difficult to grasp, as the Chiefs won just three playoffs games with seven losses in Schottenheimer’s tenure. He resigned after the 1998 season.
After one mediocre season in Washington, Schottenheimer led the San Diego Chargers to two more division titles in 2004 and 2006, but once again lost in each postseason game. He retired after the 2006 season.
Schottenheimer’s most lasting legacy may be his extensive coaching tree, as NFL head coaches Bruce Arians, Cam Cameron, Cowher, Gunther Cunningham, Tony Dungy, Herm Edwards, Lindy Infante, Mike McCarthy and Tony Sparano all served under Schottenheimer.
Schottenheimer is survived by his wife Pat and children Kristen and Brian, who coached under his father with the Chiefs and Chargers and is now the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach fo the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Schottenheimer was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2011, with the family publicly acknowledging his illness in 2016. His family announced earlier this month that the legendary coach had been placed on hospice care.