Despite his many accolades, like Dan Marino, Schottenheimer is as often defined by his major shortcoming: never winning a Super Bowl. Did you know that Schottenheimer ranks 6th with 200 career wins? That places him behind only Don Shula, George Halas, Tom Landry, Curly Lambeau, and Paul Brown. Schottenheimer finished his career 74 games above .500, ranking seventh behind those five coaches and Bill Belichick. But the 5-13 record in the playoffs has become party of his core, and has unfortunately swallowed the rest of his career.
Schottenheimer won fewer games than Shula, but he didn’t have Johnny Unitas, Bob Griese, or Marino. He wasn’t as successful as Landry or Brown or Belichick, but he didn’t have Roger Staubach or Otto Graham or Tom Brady, either.
Schottenheimer and Shula are the only coaches to win 14 games with six different quarterbacks. Marty is the only one to win 13 games with seven different quarterbacks, the only to win 11 games with eight different ones, and the only to win 10 with nine different quarterbacks. He won eight games with ten different quarterbacks and five games with eleven different quarterbacks. In fact, Schottenheimer won games with 18 different starter quarterbacks, easily a record.
Schottenheimer and Shula are the only coaches to win 14 games with six different quarterbacks. Marty is the only one to win 13 games with seven different quarterbacks, the only to win 11 games with eight different ones, and the only to win 10 with nine different quarterbacks. The chart below shows how Marty stacks up to some other great coaches with respect to wins by quarterback (numbers current through week 15 of the 2013 season): the X-axis shows the number of wins, while the stacked graph displays how many wins came from each quarterback for each coach. You can hover your mouse over a section of the graph for the specific number of wins.
Walsh, Lombardi, and Belichick are synonymous with success with one specific quarterback, and that’s well reflected in the chart above. Noll and Dungy both won over half of their games with one superstar quarterback, while Shula coached three Hall of Famers at the position.
Even Gibbs, Landry, and Parcells — the closet comps to Schottenheimer as far as success spread across quarterbacks — don’t quite compare. Two out of every three Parcells wins came with either Phil Simms or Drew Bledsoe, while 100 out of Gibbs’ 171 wins came with either Joe Theismann or Mark Rypien. Schottenheimer won over 100 games after removing all his wins from his top three quarterbacks.
Frankly, the only other coach who comes close to Schottenheimer in this respect is Bill Cowher, a very similar coach in many respects. Both are remembered as emotional defensive leaders who always had well-coached teams. Both also had reputations as playoff chokers, and that only changed for Cowher when Ben Roethlisberger fell into his lap.
Schottenheimer’s playoff woes are real: based on the Las Vegas line, his team underachieved by 4.3 wins in the postseason, the most of any coach when I looked at that issue in January. But most of those losses involved bad luck rather than bad coaching.
The vast majority of Schottenheimer bashing comes from an 0-8 record in games featuring a three-point (or smaller) spread. Both The Drive and The Fumble fall into that category, as does a one-point loss in a game between Mike Pagel, the team’s third-string quarerback, and Warren Moon. He lost another game in Miami when Dan Marino threw two 4th quarter touchdowns to give Miami a 17-16 win.
Schottenheimer lost as the #1 seed in the Lin Elliot game against the Colts and repeated that feat eleven years later in the Marlon McCree game against New England. I don’t know if any coach has been as unlucky in the playoffs as Schottenheimer.
It’s true that some of the wounds were self-inflicted. Schottenheimer was criticized for coaching conservatively, and much of that criticism was appropriate. But some of that conservatism was driven by coaching against teams with better quarterbacks. Ten of his thirteen losses were to Hall of Fame quarterbacks (Tom Brady, John Elway, Jim Kelly, Marino, and Moon), a luxury rarely enjoyed by Schottenheimer.
It’s easy to rip Schottenheimer for his 5-13 record. But no coach in history has been so successful with so many different quarterbacks.