Marty Schottenheimer, a McDonald native who coached three teams to AFC Championship games and played on the first state championship basketball team from Washington County, died Monday following a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 77.
Schottenheimer was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2014. He was moved to a hospice facility near his home in Charlotte, N.C., last month.
Schottenheimer spent 21 seasons as an NFL head coach: Five with the Cleveland Browns, 10 with the Kansas City Chiefs, one with the Washington Redskins and five with the San Diego Chargers. His teams made the playoffs 13 times and won eight division titles. He was the 2004 NFL Coach of the Year with San Diego. Schottenheimer’s career head coaching record was 200-126-1, the eighth-most wins in NFL history.
His last head coaching job was in 2011 with the Virginia Destroyers of the short-lived United Football League. He guided the Destroyers to the league championship.
Three times Schottenheimer was on the brink of the Super Bowl. He coached Cleveland to the AFC Championship game in consecutive seasons (1986 and 1987), losing both times to Denver in memorable contests in which “The Drive” and “The Fumble” snatched away victories from the Browns. He was back in the title game with Kansas City in 1993, losing to Buffalo.
“Marty Schottenheimer was a smart guy. He knew the game of football inside and out,” said Perry Kemp, who like Schottenheimer is a Fort Cherry graduate and played wide receiver for the Browns in 1987.
“He knew how to rally the guys and get the most out of them. He did things in Cleveland that they can’t take away from him and still talk about. He did great things in Kansas City, too.”
Schottenheimer was born Sept. 23, 1943, in Canonsburg but he was a McDonald guy at heart.
Schottenheimer was a multi-sport standout at Fort Cherry High School, where he was the starting center on the Rangers’ basketball team that won the 1961 WPIAL and PIAA championships under head coach Ed Hepe. The state title was the first won by a team from Washington County. The Rangers beat St. Clair in the state final.
“He was a kid from McDonald who went on to Pitt and did great things in the NFL, but he never forgot where he was from,” said Terry Holder, a teammate of Schottenheimer’s on Fort Cherry’s championship basketball team.
Though he had many impressive victories and accomplishments in professional sports, Schottenheimer told the Observer-Reporter in 2004 being a part of Fort Cherry’s state championship team was “one of the greatest memories of my life.”
“When I was in training camp with the Browns in ’87, I didn’t have much of an opportunity to really talk with Marty,” Kemp recalled, “but I do remember him telling me about playing on Fort Cherry’s state championship team. You could tell he was really proud of that.”
Schottenheimer was an All-WPIAL linebacker in football under legendary Rangers coach Jim Garry and went on to play at Pitt, where he became an All-American. The hard-hitting linebacker was named to Pitt’s all-time football team.
A fourth-round selection of the Baltimore Colts in the 1965 NFL draft and a seventh-round pick of the AFL’s Buffalo Bills, Schottenheimer signed with the Bills and played three seasons before joining the Boston Patriots in 1969. In 1971, he was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who then dealt him to the Baltimore Colts for a player to be named prior to the start of the season.
Schottenheimer retired after six seasons of professional football. He worked in the real estate business for three years before being hired as linebackers coach for the Portland Storm in the upstart World Football League. He worked his way through the coaching ranks and was hired as head coach of the Browns in 1984.
On Nov. 23, 2003, Schottenheimer’s San Diego team played the visiting Cincinnati Bengals, coached by Fort Cherry graduate Marvin Lewis. According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it was the first NFL game with opposing head coaches who graduated from the same high school.
He is survived by his wife, Pat, two children, Kristin and Brian, and four grandchildren. Brian was recently hired as the Jacksonville Jaguars’ passing-game coordinator after previously serving as offensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks.
Schottenheimer’s brother, Kurt, was a position coach and coordinator at the college and NFL levels for nearly 40 years.
In 2017, Schottenheimer was inducted into the Washington-Greene County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. The Fort Cherry state championship basketball team also was inducted that night as the chapter’s Team of Yesteryear. Though experiencing the early-onset of Alzheimer’s, Schottenheimer attended the induction banquet that was held in Meadow Lands.
“I talked to Pat a few nights ago and she told me that Marty had a setback,” Holder said. “This one hurts. You have someone who you grew up with, who went on to the NFL but never forgot where he was from. He was always a homegrown kid from Southwestern Pennsylvania. He never forgot his roots.”