If you have ever felt any sense of disappointment in your life at any point of time, today you have to feel sorry for San Diego Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer. Marty and his high powered group of Chargers were defeated on Sunday 24-21 by the New England Patriots, knocking the number one seed in the AFC out of the playoffs. Many, including myself, felt this was Marty’s year. He had the NFL’s MVP at running back, a Pro-Bowl QB, and a defense that was in the top 10 in most categories most of the season. Then again, when you think about the man who stood on the sidelines, there was really only one way for this game Sunday to end – and that is with Marty on the short end of the stick once again.
Many in San Diego will call for Marty’s head today, and no one would be shocked with after this latest loss if the former Browns and Chiefs coach is let go with one year left on his deal. Consider the playoff record of Schottenheimer, and you might think that this likeable, players coach is indeed, cursed, when it comes to the NFL’s second season. Schottenheimer is 5-13 in playoff games, losing the first game for the 9th time. He also suffered his fourth loss with the top seeded team.
Sunday was typical Marty, making the same type of mistakes in playoff games that have haunted him his entire coaching career. First in the first half he passed up a field goal attempt to go for it on 4th-and-11 from the Pats 30. A mistake. Then there was the mismanagement of timeouts in the second half that led to the Chargers not having any while trying to drive for the game-tying field goal. Instead of having one or two timeouts left to move closer for kicker Nate Kaeding, he was forced to try a 54-yard field goal that fell short to secure the win for New England. Two mistakes that will haunt Schottenheimer and may seal his fate for the Chargers.
His players did stick up for him after the game, but what else could you expect? To his defense, it wasn’t Schottenheimer who fumbled a punt in the third quarter that the Pats were able to fall on, it was Eric Parker. It wasn’t Schottenheimer who picked off a Tom Brady pass, then gave it right back on a fumble, it was Marlon McCree. It wasn’t Schottenheimer on defense that couldn’t hold a 14-3 lead with just over two minutes left in the first half.
Sure you have to give all the credit in the world to Brady, Pats coach Bill Belichick, and the resolve of the Pats as they rallied back in a hostile stadium and stole a win that puts them in the AFC Title game in Indy on Sunday. They played a great game, and even after trailing by 11 didn’t panic, but got back in the game and by halftime were down just 14-10. Once the Pats got back in it 14-10, you sensed that Marty and the Chargers would find a way to choke it away.
While you can credit the Pats, there is no doubt that the Chargers are the ones that lost their poise and could not seal the deal. They had everything in front of them as they looked like a team that was set for a February trip to Miami to play for the NFL Title. They had the best record in football at 14-2, and had dynamic players that made them tough to beat week in and week out. Sunday down the stretch when they needed those players to make plays, they got tight, and the Pats sensed it and took advantage of it.
So what’s next for Marty and his group of bolts? You can bet that it won’t be long before the Chargers management takes a hard look if Schottenheimer should stay on as the coach of the team. Something tells me the way they lost, and the fact that they lost on Sunday will end his tenure as coach in San Diego. A sorry fate for a nice coach who’s legacy will truly be that he could never win the big game.