With an NFL best record of 14-2 and a bruising ground game led by League MVP LaDainian Tomlinson, this appeared to be the San Diego Chargers year. Having earned home field advantage throughout the playoffs, there were no worries of nasty weather or not being able to hear the Quarterback over the crowd. Everything seemed to be set up for the Chargers. Except for one small detail. Their Coach, Marty Schottenheimer’s habit of finding ways to lose in the postseason.
It happened twice when he coached in Cleveland, and more than that in Kansas City. Schottenheimer’s team earned home field in the playoffs, only to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. 2 years ago, the Chargers lost to the New York Jets after Schottenheimer went Jesse Helms-conservative at Qualcomm in San Diego.
This time, at least Schottenheimer varied his routine a little. If anything, he could have been a little more conservative. With a kicker who hadn’t missed a field goal at home in 2 years, Marty passed on a 47 yard attempt to go on 4th and 1. Didn’t make it, either.
In his biggest bonehead move, Schottenheimer decied to throw the challenge flag, when everyone could see the call would not be overturned. Following the interception by San Diego safety Marlon McCree and subsequent fumble back to New England for a first down, ther was no doubt about the call whatsoever. The officials need irrefutable evidence to overturn a call on the field. There was nothing remotely questionable about the ruling.
By calling for a review, Schottenheimer cost his team a precious time out, which came into play later. On the Chargers’ last possession, that time out would have been invaluable in getting in better field goal range than 54 yards. As it was, the attempt came up a few yards short. Any stoppage of play by san Diego could have conserved time on the clock, allowing them to get closer.
Like the field goal attempt, once again Marty Schottenheimer came up a little short in the playoffs. With six straight playoff losses, Schottenheimer’s playoff record now stands at 5-13. At 63 years of age with his best player going into his 7th year in the League, time is running out if Schottenheimer is ever going to get to the Super Bowl, let alone win one. His best chance yet slipped away last Sunday.
With the Chargers’ announcement that Marty Schottenheimer will be back next season, there will probably be another chance to choke in the playoffs. No matter how many regular season games he wins, unless he wins in the postseason, that will always be the Schottenheimer legacy. Like it used to be said that Dean Smith was the only guy who could hold Michael Jordan below 20 points a game, Schottenheimer was the only guy who could keep San Diego out of the Super Bowl this year, in my opinion.
Like Dean Smith, Schottenheimer has an outstanding regular season record with a history of failure in the postseason. Smith finally got a National Championship in 1982 after years of coming up short, thanks to Michael Jordan. He managed another in 1993, thanks to Chris Webber of Michigan. If Schottenheimer is ever to get a ring, the next 2 years are critical. LaDainian is 28, not yet old for a running back, but close. The window of opportunity is closing.