Just yesterday I discussed the firing of Marty Schottenheimer by the Chargers. At the time, the most interesting aspect of the firing to me was the sequence of events and how it would result in the futures of the Chargers, Cowboys, and Dolphins (Cowboys hired Wade Phillips, Dolphins hired Cam Cameron) being forever intertwined. Now however, a more interesting twist to this saga is unfolding.
From watching and listening to sports talk shows, and reading various articles, I have mercilessly seen Schottenheimer treated as a victim. The same people who have called Schottenheimer a choke for losing to the Patriots and for “never being able to win in the playoffs” are now taking Marty’s side. I have constantly heard the same two argument over the last 24 hours
- How can you fire someone who went 14-2?
- How can you do this to Marty after all the jobs have been filled?
To give you an example of argument one, over at ESPN.com they have a little sidebar graphic saying the last time a 14-win coach didn’t return to the team the following year was 80 years ago. If that’s not designed to illicit sympathy then I don’t know what is.
Well, to answer question #1, if you feel that you have the most talented team in the league and that your head coach is holding you back from attaining higher levels, then you have the right to fire him free of criticism (regardless of Schottenheimer’s less than stellar playoff record of 5-13). Dean Spanos (according to his statement) felt that the Chargers could not achieve the levels he hoped for
Events of the last month have now convinced me that it is not possible for our organization to function at a championship level under the current structure.
So that answers media plea for Marty as the victim #1.
As for media plea for Marty as the victim #2, the San Diego Union-Tribune points out what it heard was the reason for the firing (which both Foxsports.com and ESPN.com also report)
According to sources, the final straw occurred yesterday when Schottenheimer wanted to interview his brother Kurt for the defensive coordinator position. Spanos and Smith did not approve, but Schottenheimer held firm in asserting that he had the right to hire his own staff.
From what these reports tell us, Schottenheimer did this to himself by trying to get his brother in as a coach. Additionally, it does not help that Marty did not sign a contract extension when it was presented to him in January. Put those two incidents together and Marty sealed his own fate.
That’s why it annoys me when I read an article by a writer I usually agree with (and hold in high respect) Jason Whitlock, describes Marty’s dismissal as “unfair.”
Peter King in SI titled his column “Chargers mishandled entire Schottenheimer situation.” He wrote,
That’s the way this relationship [hopelessly severed] was a month ago. And Spanos should have made the decision then, when his staff wouldn’t yet have been in tatters.
Jay Glazer on Foxsports.com asked:
The only thing that should come as a shock here in the timing. Why now?
While I respect all three journalists in the highest degree, I must maintain that Schottenheimer did it to himself, not the other way around. Again, if Schottenheimer hadn’t apparently tried to bring his brother in, this probably wouldn’t have happened now.
For the record, I am very impressed by Marty Schottenheimer’s parting comments and the “high road” that he has taken. Additionally, given the fact that he says he has a desire to continue coaching, I think he would have been a great fit for teams stuck in a culture of losing recently, such as the Cardinals and Dolphins. However, I won’t feel bad for Schottenheimer because he did it to himself.