Why Marty Schottenheimer belongs in the Hall of Fame


The Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2014 will be enshrined on Saturday. Each day this week, the Around The League crew will pick a player who we believe is also deserving of enshrinement.

If induction into the Hall of Fame boils down to Super Bowl wins alone, Marty Schottenheimer is out of luck.

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The former coach of the Browns, Chiefs, Redskins and Chargers never won a title, but a more nuanced look at Schottenheimer's career has me convinced that he's Canton-worthy.

Only four coaches -- Don Shula, George Halas, Tom Landry and Curly Lambeau -- have won more regular-season games than Schottenheimer. His 200 career victories make up a .613 winning percentage that tops Landry, Bill Walsh, Bill Parcells and Marv Levy, all members of the Hall.

Schottenheimer suffered just two losing seasons over 21 campaigns and developed a reputation for lifting moribund programs out of the ashes.

He guided a losing Browns team from relative obscurity to back-to-back AFC title games in the late-1980s before turning the Chiefs into an annual contender. Kansas City had just two winning seasons in 15 years before Marty arrived in 1989: Nine straight winning seasons and seven playoff appearances followed.

After an unusual stopover in Washington that saw Schottenheimer guide an 0-5 Redskins team to an 8-8 finish, he helped turn San Diego into a force before the owner fired him on the heels of a 14-2 season.

The counter argument is obvious: His Chargers squad couldn't get out of the AFC, just like his Chiefs and Browns teams.

Schottenheimer's reputation as a snakebit figurehead was sowed early on with the Browns, where fate handed Cleveland two of the most painful playoff losses in NFL history in the form of "The Drive" and "The Fumble" against John Elway's Broncos.

Plenty of Browns fans will tell you that Earnest Byner's fumble was tougher to swallow, squelching a wild comeback for a team desperate to reach the promised land.

"Byner, to me, was as good a player as any player could be," Schottenheimer once told The Plain Dealer. "I've always said Earnest got more out of his skill set than any player I ever coached, and that was because he understood the game and, to this day, it breaks my heart, not for me or not for our team, for Earnest, he has to endure 'The Fumble.'"

"Not for me" is a fitting response from a man who took so many young players under his wing; players who remember him as much more than a coach.

"Marty was a man who knew what he wanted out of his players and knew how to get it," Byner told Around The League on Thursday. "His approach to the game helped me flourish as a leader. During our time together and he assisted me in my later years as a coach. He gave me a solid foundation for life and the game. He's a father figure for me."

Schottenheimer's inability to win a title is something voters can't get past -- but they should. George Allen made it into the Hall despite 84 fewer career victories. Was Allen's loss in Super Bowl VII the difference?

It shouldn't be.

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