- The Washington Times - Friday, January 28, 2005

San Diego Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer is partly to blame for the Pittsburgh Steelers losing yet another AFC Championship game at home.

Schottenheimer never has coached the Steelers, but his former defensive coordinator, Bill Cowher, does. And last Sunday against the New England Patriots, Cowher’s 16-1 juggernaut did what Schottenheimer’s teams always do in the biggest games: play it close to the vest and lose.

Cowher was so intent on running the ball that he didn’t open up the offense until it was too late in the Steelers’ 41-27 loss to the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots.

Cowher fell to an ugly 1-4 in AFC title games at home — and he would be 0-5 if Aaron Bailey had held on to a Hail Mary pass from Jim Harbaugh of the Indianapolis Colts in 1995.

Cowher, who has an 8-9 overall postseason record, is repeating the pattern set by his mentor. Schottenheimer’s Cleveland Browns lost the 1986 and 1987 AFC Championship games to the Denver Broncos, and his Kansas City Chiefs lost the 1993 conference title game in Buffalo.

That began a streak of playoff losses for Schottenheimer that has reached five and dropped him to 5-12 in postseason play.

Schottenheimer’s conservative style was pervasive in the AFC playoffs. He played it safe and lost a wild-card game to the New York Jets because of a missed field goal.

Jets coach Herman Edwards, a Schottenheimer protege, followed the same script in an overtime loss to the Steelers the next week in which 11-year veteran Doug Brien missed consecutive field goal tries that would have won the game. Brien hadn’t missed two kicks in any of his previous 33 games as a Jet.

Tony Dungy’s Colts are all about offense, but they managed just 17 points in their playoff losses to the Patriots the last two years. Dungy, another ex-Schottenheimer aide, is 5-7 in the postseason.

Schottenheimer and his disciples have just one Super Bowl appearance — Cowher’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys in the 1995 season — among them in a combined 31 postseasons.

That 1-for-31 ratio is even more pathetic when compared to the record of Bill Parcells and one-time aides Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin (24-12, six Super Bowls in 17 postseasons) or Mike Holmgren and former assistants Andy Reid, Jon Gruden, Steve Mariucci and Mike Sherman (26-22, four Super Bowls in 24 postseasons).

And either the Patriots’ Belichick will provide the Parcells clan with a fifth Lombardi Trophy or Philadelphia’s Reid will give Holmgren’s side a third with a victory in Super Bowl XXXIX on Feb.6.

Moss won’t grow in desert — Don’t look for Randy Moss to land in Arizona. Minnesota might be unhappy with the talented and selfish receiver, but former Vikings coach Dennis Green, now running the Cardinals, isn’t looking for a reunion.

“We wouldn’t be interested because we already have [standout young wideouts] Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald,” Green said.

Passing on history — Colts star Edgerrin James bypassed being on the receiving end of Peyton Manning’s record 48th touchdown pass in Week16. James had been the target each time the Colts had practiced the shovel pass, but when Manning called the play, James switched spots with James Mungro in recognition of all the grunt work that his fellow running back had done for him.

“Nah, James, go and make some history,” James told Mungro as they approached the line of scrimmage. “This one is yours.”

Vermeil stands pat — After a leaky defense cost the Chiefs a playoff victory over the Colts last year, coach Dick Vermeil fired coordinator Greg Robinson.

Kansas City slid from 13-3 to 7-9 this year with a defense that was the worst against the pass and 31st overall, but Vermeil, who turns 69 in October, isn’t making any changes for what will be his 14th, and likely final, NFL season. The Chiefs allowed 103 more points and forced 17 fewer turnovers than in 2003, but Gunther Cunningham and the entire defensive staff will return.

However, three coordinators for playoff teams did lose their jobs: Paul Hackett (offense, Jets); Bob Slowik (Packers, defense) and Mike Stock (Rams, special teams).

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