Mort: Coaching speculation galore

Chris Mortensen Archive
Sources: Schottenheimer to be fired Sunday night

Jan. 13
Washington Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer was summoned back to Redskins Park on Sunday night, where it is expected he will be fired. Sources close to the Redskins say that owner Daniel Snyder "basically has a deal done" with ex-Florida coach Steve Spurrier to become Washington's next coach (for five years and $25 million).

Schottenheimer met with his representatives and Snyder at noon Sunday, primarily about legal issues related to his contract, for which he would be owed $7.5 million over three years. Snyder and Schottenheimer had planned to meet again at 10 a.m. Monday.

Put Schottenheimer with a proven football man in the front office, and I know this much -- he'll win.
But late Sunday afternoon Schottenheimer was called back to Redskins Park for another meeting with Snyder, in which the coach was expected to be fired, according to sources. Whether the dismissal will be announced Sunday is touch-and-go in deference to the NFL's desire to keep the focus on playoff games this weekend. Meanwhile, Snyder's efforts to hire Bobby Beathard as general manager appear to have failed, sources said.

It's ironic how Snyder has cost himself about $10 million to $15 million by hiring and now (likely) firing Schottenheimer and his staff.

The only way Snyder could talk Schottenheimer into coaching his Redskins was to give Marty control over personnel decisions. Now he wants to fire Schottenheimer because of that control. It's crazy. Why do you think Marty insisted upon it in the first place? Because he's not crazy, that's why.

One of the most telling signs that Schottenheimer is a goner is that Snyder got word to the league office that the Redskins' coaching staff would be unable to coach in the Senior Bowl, as awarded to the team with the best non-playoff record in its conference. The ability to coach college senior All-Stars is invaluable to the scouting process for the April draft. Snyder just robbed his organization of an edge.

If Schottenheimer is fired as expected, other owners and executives may want to respond quickly. Schottenheimer might have done the best coaching job of his life this season, and sources close to him say he has fallen in love again with being a coach.

So what's Snyder's problem with Schottenheimer? As Snyder has told confidants, and finally his coach this past week, he did not have fun this year -- primarily because he wasn't allowed to play with his $800 million toy. Consequently, he wants to be more involved in the football operation via hiring his own general manager and a new coach.

Sources have described Schottenheimer as respectful and conciliatory in last Monday's meeting with Snyder. That is Marty. He does hold ownership in great respect, especially any man who made an $800 million investment in an NFL franchise such as Snyder has done with the Redskins. Yet the sources say Schottenheimer primarily asked questions to find common ground and also to comprehend the issues in order to measure his owner's intent and vision. There were no fireworks.

In the meantime, Snyder pursued Spurrier, who at first held him off to weigh other options. Snyder had been scheduled to meet Friday with Schottenheimer, but when the coach brought his attorney with him, a surprised Snyder excused them until later. Shortly thereafter, the owner sent a message to Schottenheimer that he was not prepared to meet at this time. So the meeting was pushed to Sunday.

Sundays are normally game days in the NFL. Snyder isn't the only owner who can't sit in his suite and simply enjoy his team. No news there. That takes us back to last January when these two men came together.

At the recommendation of Dick Vermeil, Snyder contacted Schottenheimer, who had been critical as an ESPN analyst of Snyder's meddling during the latter two years of the Norv Turner era. Snyder wanted a proven coach. Schottenheimer was proven. Vermeil convinced Schottenheimer to listen (nice friend, Dick).

Schottenheimer was reluctant, but he had only one safeguard to satisfy his desire to coach again. He had to protect himself from Snyder's meddlesome ways by insisting that he would be director of all football operations with bottom-line power on all personnel decisions. Otherwise, Marty would continue to enjoy another lifestyle until a better job came around. Snyder gave it up.

Schottenheimer inherited the salary-cap mess Snyder created, not to mention Snyder's quarterback, Jeff George. He tried to make it work. But the transition took its toll and Schottenheimer jettisoned George two games into the season. Incredibly, sources say Snyder is blaming Schottenheimer for keeping George in the first place!

The Redskins started 0-5. They finished 8-8, meaning Schottenheimer went 8-3 in the last 11 games. Only eight teams did equal or better -- and they're all in the playoffs. Folks, Marty Schottenheimer went 8-3 in those 11 games with Tony Banks as his starting quarterback. Think about that.

Schottenheimer never blinked through early season rumors that his job was in jeopardy. As the saying goes, Marty just kept on sawing wood. Kept on coaching. In the end, initially leery players were willing to be led by Schottenheimer.

As an ESPN analyst, Schottenheimer had been critical of Snyder's meddling during the latter two years of the Norv Turner era.
The best example we have of that is the final regular-season game between the Redskins and Cardinals at Fed Ex Field. The Redskins were trailing 17-6 on a cold, wet day. In the locker room, Schottenheimer kicked a chair that almost struck right tackle Jon Jansen. He yelled. He got emotional. He made an impassioned plea for the players to show some pride. He's not the first coach to ask his team to do that in a final regular-season game when everyone knows the U-Hauls are packed.

These pleas usually fall on deaf ears, but that wasn't the case with the Redskins this time. They played a hard-nosed half of football to shut out the Cardinals, who were desperately trying to finish with their own .500 record. The Redskins won 20-17.

I have heard and read a lot about how people suspected Marty Schottenheimer came back to coach for only the money. I privately wondered myself, seeing how Schottenheimer compromised himself by going to work for a man like Snyder.

Let us not wonder anymore. Schottenheimer is still a heck of a coach, one of the best in the NFL. He is a fine man. If I were a general manager, I would not hesitate to hire him. He is not a power-tripper. Every coach wants a say in personnel. That say doesn't have to result in a power struggle; in fact, most organizations come to a consensus between the personnel people and coaching staff.

Put Schottenheimer with a proven football man in the front office, and I know this much -- he'll win. As for Snyder, I laugh at all these stories of how he wants Spurrier or Jon Gruden or Steve Mariucci. These guys haven't gotten successful by being dumb.

That's the final thought I have on Schottenheimer. He was dumb to believe Snyder would honor his word, but he was smart enough to protect himself.

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