Postgame Spread
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Thursday, January 18, 2007

...And Boom Goes The Chargers.    

First, apropos of nothing, the photo here made my day.

Second, I couldn't disagree more with the previous post.  I'd have left the following as a comment in that thread, but it got too long.  So sue me.  Anyway, here's why Marty Schottenheimer must be fired, and never re-hired again by anyone to do anything, ever.

Chas, Alex... I was once like you.  I once believed, once had faith in the better side of weaker men.  After watching Grady Little completely botch Game 7 against the Yankees in 2003, I laughed off the calls for his head, and was subsequently floored by his eventual firing.  I found his firing rash, stupid, and entirely political in nature.  Wild horses couldn't have convinced me it was about anything but appeasing Red Sox fans.

Well, guess what.  I was completely wrong.  The fact that the Sox had won X number of games under Little had zero to do with whether he was a good manager.  He had a track record of decisions just like the Pedro decision.  Game 7 wasn't an isolated incident... it was proof that the Red Sox should have known better than to hold onto him in the first place.

What happened after his departure isn't nearly as important as the fact that Little's maneuvers did cost them dearly, and he could be counted on to repeat those mistakes in the future.  Firing him was less about improvement, and more about knowing that they wouldn't win with him under any circumstances.  If you know for a fact that someone will ruin any chance of a championship, how can you keep him?

If Schottenheimer doesn't fit that description, I don't know who else does.

After a loss like that, with a history like his, there is no tomorrow for Marty.  He should have been fired on the field, immediately after the missed field goal, during the Pats' now-infamous Logo Dance.  Alex Spanos should have run onto the field with a microphone, called timeout, and announced Marty's firing to the crowd right then and there.  That's how badly Marty screwed it all up.  Motherfucker's dead to me.

In isolation, keeping a 14-3 coach after a playoff choke is the right move.  If this were a guy with a minor reputation for mismanagement in the playoffs, like Tony Dungy or Wade Phillips or something, then of course you don't fire the guy.  You take him down a peg or two, but you don't fire him.  After all, why send the message to your players that they aren't responsible for their actions?  They played a role in the loss, they need to understand that it's on them, and so forth.  A perfectly understandable approach, in general.

But this is Marty Schottenheimer.  Keeping him despite a loss like that is like letting Jeffrey Dahmer back onto the street because he probably won't eat anyone this time.  It's just completely, completely, completely dumb.  After Sunday, the fact that he won 14 games is totally irrelevant.  He is 100% at fault for Sunday's fiasco.  We now know, conclusively, that if you put him in that situation, he will lose every time.  If it was bad luck at first, it sure isn't anymore.  It's in the guy's head.  Anyone who thinks he can still win a Super Bowl at this point should be arrested for being so stupid.

It's not just that Schottenheimer has a track record for failure, it's that those losses are always chokes.  The typical Schottenheimer playoff game is a cavalcade of boners, and in that sense this was the ultimate Marty loss.  He's blown home playoff games before, but never with such a great team, never with the very best player in football at his disposal, and rarely with so many explicit, obvious mistakes on his part.  This team was a can't-miss Super Bowl champion, even with the resurgent Patriots and Colts in their path.  For him to lose, again, in such a predictable manner, wasn't just the last nail in the coffin... it was the nail, a gallon of super-glue, and a 16-ton weight.

In a lifetime of screw-ups, this was his masterpiece.  The granddaddy of them all.  His legacy has been stained permanently.  There's no coming back from this... I can say that because I know with all certainty that he won't win a Super Bowl.  The man's career is over.

5 Comments:

  • This was the Chargers best chance, and they've already blown it in mindblowingly spectacular fashion. It was singularly the worst-coached game I have ever seen, to the point I had trouble believing that what I was watching was actually happening throughout the entire game. And I still have trouble believing that it happened the way I know it did.

    But isn't, in a way, that exactly why Schottenheimer could finally wake up from his idiotic slumber? Sports old-timers and insiders are notoriously single-minded. I know if this were Mike Hargrove we were talking about, for example, I would be foaming at the mouth talking about how entirely impossible it is he would ever change his stripes or learn from his mistakes. But with no emotional attachment here, I find it a little strange to assume that just because this kind of thing has happened x number of times before, we should assume it will continue. I don't think we should bet against it; like I said, I would have fired him. But I think there's something a little iffy about saying any human being is totally incapable of changing, even in something as inane as this.

    So anyway, I am in 95% agreement. It was spectacularly awful in-game management. Chas and Lehr are downplaying how disastrous that game was. And they're downplaying the chance that a team that's pretty dominant on both sides of the ball could win the Superbowl just by playing "by the book" for an entire playoffs, which any coach could do.

    But I'd be surprised if Grady Little sits around and thinks to himself that he was right to leave the ball in Pedro's hands that night and pats himself on the back, while sticking needles in the throwing shoulder of his Pedro voodoo doll. And I'd be surprised if Schottenheimer isn't doing a little soul-searching over what went wrong in that game. Maybe if the Colts win the Superbowl this year, we can name some part of this after Manning. Sure, we can say definitively that he's been a huge choker his entire career up to this point. But everything about that is always evolving, even if that one thing never changes. He's not the same choker every year. Even if he only finds new and more incomprehensible ways of choking, which we may yet find out, he's not the same player every year, and we can't ever be 100% sure of the same result. Of course that doesn't mean we should bet against it...

    I think if the management brought in the right people to have sustained dialogue with the coaching staff during this offseason about what needs to change to make sure this doesn't happen again, it could actually pay some dividends. I wouldn't bet on it, but I'm not sure I want to bet on some college coach either. Bring in some consultants, some fresh minds, and talk about what the team philosophy is going into the next year. See what you can do. But do not, do not, do not, let the team be Schottenheimer's show. Be active about making sure that the organization is on the same page about how the team is run and how the in-game management is going.

    I wonder if it will make sense in the near future to separate the jobs of coach and in-game manager. Schottenheimer is clearly very good at many parts of his job--motivation, organization, defensive strategy maybe. But he should have no part in managing a game that is actually happening. I think one thing this conversation does, and most football analysis probably, is runs the danger of over-valuing in-game management as the key feature of a coach's job. It seems to me that's probably not true. It won’t happen next year, and it would be too controversial for a lot of teams. But I think that it could be an important innovation down the road. In a way, you could say that’s what happens with offensive and defensive coordinators, but they’re so wrapped up together that I’m not really sure it’s the same thing. We’ll see though, I’m probably talking out of my ass.

    By Blogger Jesse, at 11:59 AM  

  • Jesse, he has soul-searching to do after every single season. Because he chokes in the playoffs after every single season. At what point is this guy going to get it? THIS was his chance. It's over.

    Besides, I think the more soul-searching he does, the worse it gets. I'd put money on the following:

    1) John Elway disasters were absolutely no fault of his
    2) In their aftermath he let it get into his head
    3) Viva el Generalissimo Chokemaster Spectacular-r-r-r-r-r!

    Tragic, but irreversible. The guy's never gonna do it. The guy got outcoached by Herm Edwards last year, for fuck's sake. COME ON!!!

    By Blogger Jeff, at 12:19 PM  

  • You're right, I'm full of it. I'm letting my nonbelief in absolute certainty spill over into inappropriate areas. But I still think it's possible the Chargers could run away with some playoffs one year without giving him the chance to screw it up. And I think it's worth considering that maybe that's more likely than the chances of them getting back to the playoffs and winning with a coach that's bad at the other parts of the game as well.

    So, if I have to face the Chargers next year in the playoffs, I'll be glad that Schottenheimer's still the coach. Absolutely. But I won't count the Chargers out because of it. He could manage moronically and still have those horrible choices work out. It's happened to...well, I was going to write bigger idiots, but I'm not sure that's true. It's happened in similarly unlikely circumstances? Or circumstances that are only slightly less unlikely?

    By Blogger Jesse, at 12:27 PM  

  • It has happened to bigger idiots. I count Bill Cowher as a bigger idiot than Schottenheimer. (Hey, guess who Cowher learned his trade from.) I never in a million years thought he'd win the friggin Super Bowl. And he did. The main reason that I thought Marty had a chance was Cowher's success last year.

    But the main difference is that Cowher's failures were the result of preparation, not game management. He's far from a genius, but he at least knew enough to not, say, go for it on 4th and 11 in field goal range... just to prove he's serious. As I said on the other trhead, there's a difference between "not winning" and "going out of your way to ensure a loss."

    By Blogger Jeff, at 12:40 PM  

  • I'd say Schottenheimer's previous problem was that he DID go by the book. This time, he went away from that too much. And yes, I know that's an understatement.

    Also, I agree that the GM or owners should have a talk with him (although I think they already did when they were deciding whether to rehire him), taking away some of his authority ("do not let the team be Schottenheimer's show") and bringing in some consultants, combined with this being the last year on his deal undermines him to the point where it could wreck the season. If you're going to do that, I think you might as well fire him.

    Also, I think there is some delegation regarding in-game management. Different coaching staffs spread practice and coaching responsibilities differently (I think the offense was basically Cam Cameron's show), teams employ people to review challenges, decide whether to go for 2-point conversions, etc. So while I don't think you'll see "Head Coach: Practice, Head Coach: Game" or "Grand Strategistician", I can imagine we'll see different kinds of power-sharing.

    By Blogger chas, at 1:04 PM  

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