Schottenheimer ignores heat


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Jan 22, 2006
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Schottenheimer ignores heat

He knows winning barometer of success
By Kevin Acee
July 25, 2006

First, let's get this out of the way:
“I don't think I'm on the hot seat,” Marty Schottenheimer said yesterday. “But I don't approach things that way.”

As he navigates what might be the decisive stage of an NFL coaching career that has spanned four decades, Schottenheimer believes he knows what he is and what he isn't.

The Chargers' head coach is fine with all that means, and he doesn't have time for, well, whatever else.

“I've got a job to do,” Schottenheimer said. “I'm not trying to do anything other than make every decision I can to give us a chance to win. Everything I'm doing is to win, because that's all that matters. Everything else is verbal diarrhea.”

He does measure himself that way – by wins and losses – same as fans and the media and his boss.

But the 62-year-old man who has coached in the NFL since 1975, 20 seasons as a head coach, speaks most often of being a teacher and a friend.

“The thing I will (cherish) most when I look back at the end of my career – whenever I am finished – is the relationship with the players and the coaches,” Schottenheimer said. “You can look in a book and see how many you won and how many you lost. You have to look inside a heart to appreciate the value of what a player (accomplished) and what you may have done to enable that.”

That said, Schottenheimer knows how much winning matters to a legacy and to employment.

And while he declines to address it publicly any more – after spectacularly doing so a few months back – he remains aware that Chargers General Manager A.J. Smith is not a member of his fan club.

Ultimately – whatever degree of input Smith has – it will be team President Dean Spanos' call as to when Schottenheimer, whose contract runs through 2007, has coached his final game in San Diego.

But following last year's 9-7 season, in which the Chargers' first five losses were by a combined 14 points and they did not make the playoffs, Spanos said he found fault in some of the in-game decisions made by Schottenheimer and his staff.

Spanos has said he expects to go to the playoffs this season and advance beyond the first round once there. Spanos has declined to specifically put Schottenheimer on notice, but his talking about the playoffs in an interview earlier this year was in response to a question about Schottenheimer's job status.

“I feel very confident going into next year,” Spanos said that day. “I know we're going to win. . . . I don't think anyone in the organization expects anything less than to win next year – the playoffs and to succeed in the playoffs.”

So, Spanos and Smith are on the record talking about expecting to get to the playoffs.

Yet even going forward with a new quarterback in Philip Rivers, Schottenheimer says he feels no more pressure going into this season than any other.

“My expectations far surpass any that anybody has around here,” he said. “It's always been that way. The measure of success I've had – whatever that might be – has been the product of one thing. I only care about one thing, and that's winning. Winning is what this business is all about. I have no concerns whatsoever, because my expectations remain very, very high.”

Schottenheimer is 33-31 in four seasons in San Diego, a decent tenure considering the Chargers were 19-45 in the four seasons before his arrival.

But the tenor of last season, with those close losses and questionable use of some offensive weapons, has left him once again open to widespread criticism. There was also the one horrific playoff loss following the 2004 season, a 20-17 overtime defeat at home to the Jets that many feel defines Schottenheimer's stay here more than the fact he was that season's NFL Coach of the Year.

Schottenheimer's 186 career regular-season coaching wins are tied for seventh-most on the all-time list. The six men ahead of him are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The man he is tied with is not.

He and Chuck Knox share more than just the same number of regular-season victories. Neither has been to a Super Bowl.

Schottenheimer, who is 5-12 in the playoffs, knows his accomplishments are not Hall of Fame worthy. But he will keep trying.

“The measure by which we are evaluated as head coaches in this league must include championships,” he said. “I'm very comfortable with that, because every time you open a season, that's the goal. You just don't always talk about it that way in public.”
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