Archive for Friday, October 5, 2007

Schottenheimer missed in San Diego

Former Chargers’ coach enjoying free time in North Carolina, in no hurry to return to NFL

October 5, 2007

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Marty Schottenheimer heard the call. He's just not in a hurry to answer it.

He didn't even tune in Sunday when the San Diego Chargers played the Kansas City Chiefs - two of the teams he used to coach - and frustrated Chargers fans began their chant: Mart-ty, Mar-ty, Mar-ty.

Instead of watching that game, Schottenheimer spent the afternoon at another. He was in Charlotte, N.C., where he and his wife now live, watching his 6-year-old grandson, Brandon, play soccer.

Only when he returned home and checked his messages did he learn the Chargers - who unceremoniously dumped him in February despite an NFL-best 14-2 record in the 2006 regular season - had stumbled to their third consecutive defeat. Friends from all over the country had called to tell him about the crowd's response.

Was it flattering? Of course. Just four games into the season, after the franchise had replaced him, fans were already longing for the good old days.

But if Schottenheimer derives any told-you-so satisfaction from that, he doesn't show it. Overriding temptation to gloat are the lingering feelings he has for San Diego players, most of whom still speak highly of him.

"They're great kids and they worked their tails off for what we achieved," he said. "And I'm proud of what we achieved. Are you kidding me? That franchise was in the dumps!"

The interview took place this week in Los Angeles. Schottenheimer was in town to shoot a commercial, and he was with his agent, former NFL defensive lineman Trace Armstrong, who is in the fledgling stages of representing coaches for Creative Artists Agency.

There has been a steady buzz in NFL circles that Schottenheimer, 64, will return to coaching. But it doesn't seem as though he's in a rush to do so. He doesn't need the money - the Chargers had to pay him $4 million for the remainder of his contract - and he enjoys the freedom to play golf, spend time with his wife, Pat, and their four grandchildren, and fly up to New York to watch the Jets play. His son, Brian, is their offensive coordinator.

That's not to say he's completely at peace with the way things ended in San Diego. He agrees that his relationship with general manager A.J. Smith was "dysfunctional" - a word Chargers owner Dean Spanos used in explaining the firing - but scoffs at the suggestion that his record in the playoffs had anything to do with it.

"That, in my mind, was stated as a matter of convenience," he said.

Schottenheimer said Smith "didn't want me there, which is fine. Dean made the ultimate choice, I'm quite sure. ... It was just a circumstance that was untenable, and Dean solved it."

The Chargers play at Denver on Sunday, which is always a difficult game for them.

"I honestly in my heart of hearts believe they'll be OK this year," Schottenheimer said. "They'll be solid. They're good players, and most of those good players are good people. They've got some issues, but hell, who other than New England and maybe Dallas doesn't have issues?"

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