Former New York Giants assistant Marty Schottenheimer passes at 77

Marty Schottenheimer

Best known for his head coaching exploits, Schottenheimer spent three seasons as an assistant with the New York Giants in the 1970s.

Former New York Giants assistant coach Marty Schottenheimer passed away peacefully on Monday, per ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. Schottenheimer was 77 and had been moved into hospice care five days prior.

Schottenheimer is best known for his head coaching exploits, earning 200 regular-season victories over 21 seasons in Cleveland, Kansas City, Washington, and San Diego. He is one of seven coaches to reach the double-century mark. Schottenheimer was renowned for playing “Marty ball” during his time as head coach, often placing an emphasis on the run game. Among the rushers he worked with were Marcus Allen, Stephen Davis, and LaDanian Tomlinson.

Though Schottenheimer fell short of a Super Bowl, he was well respected and beloved by his coaches and players alike.

“Marty and I were close, and what a great person,” current Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said of Schottenheimer, per Brandon Judd of Desert News. “He was great to me as a young football coach. Nobody did it better than he did.”

“Marty is one of the guys who has had the biggest influence on my career, without question,” New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees told Steve Doerschuk of CantonRep.com in September 2018. Schottenheimer had overseen the first years of Brees’ professional career as a second-round pick of the Chargers in 2001. “He coached me for four years in San Diego. I respect him so much.”

Schottenheimer also spent six seasons as a player, as he was chosen in both the AFL and NFL Drafts in 1965. He opted to sign with the former, playing four seasons in Buffalo and two more with the Boston Patriots.

On a local level, Schottenheimer began his NFL coaching career with the New York Giants in 1975 after a single year with the World Football League’s Portland Storm. Schottenheimer served as Big Blue’s linebackers coach for two seasons before becoming the defensive coordinator for a single year in 1977. Linebacker Brad Van Pelt reached the first couple of five Pro Bowls under Schottenheimer’s watch. He moved on to Detroit and later Cleveland afterward, becoming the Browns’ head coach in the middle of the 1984 season. Cleveland reached the playoffs in each of his four full seasons at the helm, including two trips to the AFC title game.

Schottenheimer last appeared in the NFL in 2006, guiding the San Diego Chargers to a franchise-best 14 wins. Though he was controversially let go by the Chargers, Schottenheimer remained active in NFL affairs through a studio analyst role on ESPN. Schottenheimer would later earn an elusive professional championship in the short-lived United Football League as the head coach and general of the Virginia Destroyers in 2011.

The Canonsburg, Pennsylvania native was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2011, but his diagnosis was not announced publicly until five years later. He remained mostly out of the public eye but returned to Arrowhead Stadium in December 2018 to watch Reid attempt to pass him on the all-time coaching wins list. Schottenheimer remains the all-time leader in victories as the Chiefs’ head coach with 104, with Reid currently one behind at 103.

Schottenheimer is survived by his wife Pat, to whom he married since 1968, and their children Brian and Kristen. Brian previously served as the New York Jets’ offensive coordinator (2006-11) and recently took on quarterbacks coaching duties in Jacksonville.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: 9 quotes from Robert Saleh (and what they could mean)

New York Jets, Robert Saleh

Robert Saleh made his first appearance as the New York Jets’ head coach on Thursday. ESM has the big takeaways.

A new era officially dawned for the New York Jets on Thursday, as Robert Saleh made his first public appearance as the head coach of the New York Jets. Saleh appeared alongside Jets CEO and chairman Christopher Johnson and general manager Joe Douglas to make his first statements as New York’s green football boss.

“When we met with Robert (Saleh), I was struck by his presence,” Johnson said, per video provided by the Jets. “He displayed an ability to engage with us in a virtual interview. He also clearly communicated a vision of this team that aligns with ours. When we met in person, it validated everything we believed following our initial meeting. Robert has shown through his journey here that he is a leader, one that will engage the entire team and will partner with Joe (Douglas) to continue building the culture of a winning organization.”

What can we gather and glean from Saleh’s first statements at the helm? ESM has the big takeaways from his first showing under the New York spotlight…

“For our organization, get used to the mantra, “All gas, no brake.” When we talk about, “All gas, no break,” we’re not talking about effort on the field, we’re talking about the process at which we do things. We’re talking about the way we prepare, the way we wake up every single morning, the way we rehab, the way we communicate, the way we speak to one another. 

What It Could Mean: Had it not been for Dan Campbell’s propensity for devouring kneecaps in Detroit, Saleh’s “All gas no brake” mantra could’ve been the quote of the day. These words from Saleh show he has little interest in a lengthy rebuild. It’s a tough love mindset that exudes a sense of intensity without taking to the extreme, almost absurd, lengths Campbell went to in his opening presser with the Lions. Saleh appears to be searching for intense competitors high in character and intensity, but without the baggage of say, a Gregg Williams. That process has begun with surrounding himself with familiar faces from his days in San Francisco, including Mike LaFleur and Miles Austin, each of whom will help oversee the offense.

To our fans, we embrace your passion, we embrace your expectations. We cannot wait to go on this journey with you. Please understand, we understand that we have a lot of work to do. But make no mistake that our goal is to win championships. And so again, I cannot wait to get through this journey with all of y’all. It’s going to be an exciting time, and I promise that you’re going to love what y’all see.

What It Could Mean: In other words…be patient. We’re only at the start of the NFL offseason…heck, it technically hasn’t begun yet with three games to go on the playoff docket…but it’s difficult to imagine the Jets will be able to make enough changes to re-enter the AFC playoff picture in 2021. Saleh’s gentle welcome back to the fans, however, is a decent sign of goodwill and will likely attract a few who might’ve been on the fence about his hire.

“When you look at the plan and what we have in place with regards to scheme, offense, defense, special teams and the mindset at which we’re going to do it, there’s an investment that’s going to be made to one another – coaches to players, players to coaches, organization to everybody – and there’s an investment that’s going to be reciprocated. But understanding that the all gas, no brake mentality that we’re going to have with how we wake up in the morning, how we rehab, how we prepare for meetings, how we take the practice field, how we’re deliberate in everything we do will lead to the results that you’ll see on Sunday. It will take time, but everything we do is going to be designed to win championships in the future.”

What It Could Mean: The Adam Gase era was likely the furthest thing from Saleh’s mind on Thursday, but it doesn’t take much stretching to see this as a bit of a jab at the environment his predecessor created in New York. Enough has been written about the phenomenon of Gase’s former proteges going on to find success away from his watch, but his negative effects were highlighted with former Jets receiver Robby Anderson admitted he was “was losing (his) love for football” in New York without mentioning Gase’s name. Gase’s strained relationships with Jamal Adams and Le’Veon Bell were also frequent talking points and led to each star’s respective departure. Saleh seems to have relative open-door endeavors in mind, seeking to make sure each player is used to the best of his abilities with a matter of respect involved. The theme of reciprocation was a strong buzzword in Saleh’s debut, as he brought it up in three separate discourses.

“What I can tell you with regards to Sam (Darnold) is that he’s got an unbelievable arm talent. There’s a reason why he was the number three pick in the draft. He’s fearless in the pocket, he’s got a natural throwing motion, he’s mobile, he’s extremely intelligent and he’s tough as nails. His reputation in the locker room is unquestioned, so just that in general, there’s a reason why he was the third pick in the draft and you can see all those qualities on tape and around the building and the way people speak about him.”

What It Could Mean: It was perhaps too much to ask for Saleh to have a concrete answer about Sam Darnold’s future on Thursday, as he said things were “premature” when it came to such an effort. But there seemed to be a hint of moving on to his comments, especially in his references to game-planning for Darnold and hyping his status as the third overall pick of the 2018 draft. It’s early in the process, but the non-commitment, necessary as it may be in a debut press conference, is only going to fuel speculation.

“With regards to a collaboration mindset, with regards to our communication with Joe and his staff – whether or not, who has control, all those different titles, what’s been made clear is that Joe and his staff want to be collaborative and they want to communicate at all levels. So, every conversation that’s had obviously with the staff and with Joe’s staff, there’s going to be a lot of discussions, there’s going to be a lot of different things are talked about. So, obviously Joe will always have final say, but I really see it in the way he’s communicating. I think when you communicate at the level that we have here, who has final say is irrelevant.”

What It Could Mean: In another, likely unintentional, jab at Gase, Saleh has dedicated himself to a working relationship with both Douglas and Johnson. This would contrast the brief, icy relationship Gase had with Mike Maccagnan, as their power struggle led to the latter’s post-draft firing in 2019. It’s safe to say that Saleh is looking for smoother relations this time around. He has also made it clear that while it appears that Douglas will have the final say in roster decisions, a system has been presented to him where having the final say would prove merely symbolic.

“I do believe that there’s a lot of talent on this roster. How those different pieces fit to the schemes that we’re about to deploy is going to be decided here in the coming weeks, but like I said, there’s a collaborative effort being made, obviously starting with Christopher Johnson and how he wants things to be run.”

What It Could Mean: While there’s no doubt that change is coming to the New York Jets, the fact that Saleh pointed out that he likes some of the names on the current ledger is intriguing. After all, one of the most common complaints of the Gase era was that he was unable to help holdovers from Bowles’ tenure reach the next level of their developments. The Jets’ defense is full of strong potential, including safety Marcus Maye, who took on a strong leadership role after Adams was shipped to Seattle. Those seeking to take that next step could be inspired to stay since Saleh appears to allow for some turnover from the team’s prior incarnation.

“I’m not going to be handling play calling duties on defense, got the utmost respect and confidence in Jeff Ulbrich to be able to do that…This is an organization that has to work locked in arms and work together and to ensure that the messaging and the way we want things done all the way across the board is there and maintaining that connection throughout, whether it’s offense, defense, special teams, business to football, somehow, some way, everyone’s got to find their connection to the player and with the mindset that we’re going to get these guys better every single day. And to be able to have that focus and ensure that the entire organization is moving in the direction that we want, I won’t be calling plays.”

What It Could Mean: The Jets announced the hiring of former San Francisco linebacker Jeff Ulbrich as defensive coordinator shortly before Saleh took to the podium. He got one of the brightest burning questions out of the way fast, announcing that Ulbrich will be calling plays on defense. It’s a bit of an early risk…the Atlanta Falcons let up over 398 yards a game in Ulbrich’s first and only seasons as a coordinator…but it shows that Saleh is willing to be hands-on in every facet of the game. That’s especially promising considering the prior season showed that nearly every major position is in desperate need of guidance.

“I’m going to be like me. And that was a challenge that Pete (Carroll) gave us when we were young assistance, was it’s easy to pick from different people and try to emulate what different people are, but in moments of adversity, your true character will always reveal itself. And so, the challenge was to identify with yourself and be who you are first because then when adversity hits, your authenticity will shine. And so, to tell you who you’re going to get, you’re going to get me. And this entire organization and what we’re going to try to get done is to be designed to win championships.”

What It Could Mean: Jets history has maintained an antiquated sense of “finding the next ____________”. They’ve been searching for the next Joe Namath ever since the legendary thrower fulfilled his promise at the Orange Bowl in Super Bowl III. Any slot receiver from a small school blessed with a catch has to endure Wayne Chrebet comparisons. Adams got out of New Jersey just before the Darrelle Revis analogies popped up. Saleh, however, is seeking to start completely fresh. He certainly thanked those that helped him get to where he is now…Carroll, Kyle Shanahan, Kris Richard, among others…but he’s not interested in being a new, say, Bill Parcells or Weeb Eubank. He wants to be the first Robert Saleh, a unique coach that leaves his own mark on New York. Saleh even mentioned in an earlier response that the perception of the Jets was “unfair, clearly”. Time will tell if Saleh can make that mark.

 “Players really want two things from a coach, I’ve always felt this way, one, they want to know that you care about their wellbeing, everyone says it’s a business, I get it, but it’s not, this is a personal investment to people. And the most important people are the ones who strap up on game day and step between the lines. And obviously, can you help them make plays on Sundays so they can get paid as much as possible and that is the goal of every single coach and everybody who has some type of impact on the players or has a connection to the players and that is going to be the goal of this entire organization, is to make sure we do everything we can to connect to their wellbeing and to help them make plays on Sunday so they get paid as much as possible. When you look at the connection part with these players, there’s an investment that has to be made, you got to sell everything you can, you got to give them everything you can and when you do, like I said, the reciprocation happens and when it does, it becomes personal, and that’s all you can ask for, to get this to a personal level where everybody’s has everybody’s back and everybody feels accountable to one another.”

What It Could Mean: The year 2020 was a year of reflection and reckoning, and the sports world was no exception to the phenomenon. Participants made it clear that they were human, not emotionless athletic machines, a realization many should’ve probably realized long ago. It’s great to see that Saleh understand such a concept. This is a coach that appears to truly care for his players in the early going, and that’s only going to make the Jets a better team. New York is a team that desperately needs unity after the Gase era left so many hurt feelings. When Bowles was let go after 2018, there was a true sense that players were not only losing a teacher but a friend as well. When Gase was hired, the strongest cheerleaders were perhaps the hot take artists like Colin Cowherd. But with Saleh, the tones of player appreciation have been on display ever since he was first connected to the Jets. Richard Sherman, one of his pupils in San Francisco, immediately sang his praises, as did Quinnen Williams. Getting these strong vibes of camaraderie back into the organization would go a long way, and it appears Saleh has started that process

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Robert Saleh is a risky, but affordable choice

New York Jets, Robert Saleh

Opting for a defensive-minded boss is risky in today’s NFL landscape, but the New York Jets are in prime position to pull the trigger.

Arguing with Paul “Bear” Bryant might be ground for dismissal from any football-related conversations for the foreseeable future. But his time-honored axiom of “defense wins championships” has been put to the test over recent seasons.

The modern NFL has come to worship a deity known as fantasy football. Scoring is at an all-time high, as the average NFL team scored 24.8 points per game this season. It was a year that teams routinely reach the 20s and 30s in scoring…and still lose. For the Cleveland Browns, 42 points weren’t enough for them to steal a win from Baltimore during Week 14’s action. Penalties against quarterbacks and receivers serve as defensive death sentences. NFL Red Zone was created as a means of informing fans when offensive happenings were occurring or nearby.

So, of course, when searching for the 20th head coach in the franchise history to lead them into the high-voltage 2020s, the New York Jets went out and hired…a defensive guru?

Ten days after Adam Gase’s firing, the Jets have brought in Robert Saleh to oversee the latest chapter of their perpetual rebuild. Saleh’s resume is one of endless defense. All but two of his prior postings have included words “defense” or “defensive”, the exceptions being his role as a linebacker supervisor in Houston (2009-10) and Jacksonville (2014-16). Saleh has overseen the San Francisco 49ers defense for the past four seasons, the penultimate of which ended with an appearance in Super Bowl LIV.

Ironically, Saleh has also earned football’s finest prize at MetLife Stadium of all places, earning a ring with the Seattle Seahawks as a defensive quality control coach during their dismantling of Denver in 2014.

Choosing a defensive guru is risky from a New York standpoint in the sense that the Jets are at a bit of a crossroads with their offense. For the umpteenth time, they may be searching for the long-term franchise quarterback denied to them since Joe Namath disappeared into the Miami night after his legendary victory at the Orange Bowl over a half-century prior. Whether their quarterback come Week 1 is Sam Darnold, Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Deshaun Watson, or an unknown party yet to reveal himself, the Jets also need to surround him with weapons and protection. General manager Joe Douglas appeared to start the process with the respective acquisitions of Mekhi Becton and Denzel Mims. Surely an experienced offensive name…a Greg Roman, Brian Daboll, or Arthur Smith…would’ve been something to kickstart an offense that’s going to have to counter whatever Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs put up in Buffalo for the foreseeable future.

There’s a slight sense of deja vu with the Jets’ attempt to bend the curve, to defy the new football order where offense is king. That’s what made the Adam Gase hire so different: the Jets had been trying to buck a decade-long trend of smashmouth defense-first football that, frankly, had appeared to run its course. Rex Ryan’s bold and brash philosophies netted the Jets consecutive conference title game appearances with Mark Sanchez under center, but his schtick wore thin once his tactic proved unsustainable. Todd Bowles, another accomplished defensive mind, was well-liked by his players but it only translated to the most heartbreaking 10-win season in NFL history. Going the defensive route yet again seems counterproductive, especially with the Jets ill-equipped to handle shootouts. Last season, the Jets failed to break 30 points in any of their 16 contests, one of only two teams reach such dire straits (the other being Philadelphia).

But Saleh is a risk the Jets can well-afford to take.

For one thing, the Jets are a team that can use any form of good vibrations right now. Cleveland and Tampa Bay’s ongoing playoff treks only serve as reminders that New York now owns the longest playoff drought in the league by far at 10 years and their lone winning season in that span was the star-crossed 2015 season that ended in Buffalo heartbreak. Too many coaching candidates would’ve brought unnecessary baggage to let the good times flow. With the team stuck in a perpetual rebuild, they need as little distraction as possible. Gase, with his spotty Miami track record and uncanny clause of having his former pupils rise to stardom elsewhere (Ryan Tannehill, Kenyan Drake) wasn’t going to bring that aura of peace. Doug Pederson had the connections with Douglas but would undoubtedly have to deal with questions about his supposed tossing of the Week 17 contest against Washington during his Philadelphia finale. Smith just had to watch his Tannehill-led offense get stymied by Baltimore in a home playoff game.

Saleh, however, emerges with a mostly clean resume. San Francisco struggled in the final season of his era, but it was little fault of the defense, that ranked fifth in the league in yards surrendered and fourth in first downs allowed. Their spot in the statistical penthouses was secure despite several key defensive contributors (Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, Solomon Thomas, and Jimmie Ward) missing a majority of the season.

The Gase-hire was met with a sense of wariness, his lone endorsement coming from Peyton Manning. While the accomplished Manning posted the best numbers of his career under Gase, there was a general sense that the staff from The Waterboy could’ve handled Manning during his early Denver days. Saleh, ironically one of those who helped solve Gase’s offense during the 43-8 destruction of the Broncos at MetLife Stadium, was endorsed by Richard Sherman himself. Unlike Manning, Sherman was never saddled with high expectations, more or less an afterthought when the Seahawks chose him 154th overall in the 2011 draft. But under Saleh, Sherman not only turned himself into a household name in the NFL but he also recovered from a lull in his career when he joined up with the 49ers in 2018. Sherman took to Twitter to extend his congratulations to the Jets upon learning of Saleh’s hiring.

Long before the Jets’ head coaching slot officially opened, Sherman endorsed Saleh for such a role, namely the one in Detroit after the Lions bid Matt Patricia farewell.

“You’ve got to give Robert Saleh an abundance of credit. You have to give him an unusual amount of credit, and I don’t think he’s getting enough credit not only here but in the league, in general,” Sherman said of Saleh after San Francisco’s 23-20 win over the Los Angeles Rams in November, per video provided by the 49ers. “I expect him to be a head coach next year, because of what he’s able to do,” Sherman said. “He’s able to rally men. He’s a leader of men, and that goes a long way.”

In that game, Sherman’s clutch interception of Jared Goff helped push the 49ers to the first win for a SoFi Stadium history. Los Angeles earned 308 yards and tallied only a dozen first downs in the triumph. Sherman would later tell Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer that Saleh “had” to get the Detroit job.

“He’s a great leader of men. And he’s not stubborn,” Sherman said. “He doesn’t just think he has all the answers. He comes up with a great plan and evolves it with his players.”

Sherman might not have gotten his de facto wish of Saleh in Detroit but he seems happy for him nonetheless. He wasn’t the only one celebrating his New York arrival, with Quinnen Williams likewise joining the chorus. The Gase hire seemed to be appreciated only by the hot take artists like Colin Cowherd (who infamously demanded AFC title game tickets), with players mostly keeping to themselves. Some of Gase’s most vital constituents (i.e. Robby Anderson) wound up fleeing. With Saleh being welcomed with apparent open arms, it’s a swift, welcome departure and change of pace for the organization. From at least the outlook, the Jets are a destination that doesn’t seem so garish in the ultimate long run.

The Jets are in dire need of any positivity flowing in the organization. At least in the infantile going, Saleh is providing the best surge in a long, long time.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags