VIRGINIA BEACH — The chair never stood a chance.
“You see, it’s like this,” Marty Schottenheimer said as he sprang to his feet in his office and grabbed the unsuspecting furniture. “If you turn this way, you lose leverage and this defensive lineman’s got the advantage. But if you take a step back you see? Now you’ve got position.”
The question that brought on this demonstration had nothing to do with blocking technique.
It did to Schottenheimer.
He’s an even better coach with human beings than with office furniture. In fact, in the history of the National Football League, just five men have registered more coaching victories than Schottenheimer, whose teams went a combined 200-126-1 during his 26 seasons - including 8-8 with the Washington Redskins in 2001.
So what’s a guy like this doing toiling in the cash-poor, on-again-off-again United Football League, which barely registers as a rival to the vaunted NFL?
Well, winning, for one thing. Schottenheimer’s Virginia Destroyers won the right to host the fledgling UFL’s title game Friday against the Las Vegas Locomotives, coached by fellow NFL alum Jim Fassel of New York Giants fame, at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex.
Schottenheimer also seems to be getting a genuine kick out of this. After one recent victory, he was asked to speak to a local high school team assembled in a receiving line behind one of the end zones. As the coach was making his way through the line, several of the players - remember, these are teenage boys - wandered off in the direction of the cheerleaders. Before long, three players were with Schottenheimer; the rest were setting up a group photo with the young women.
Recognizing the situation, Schottenheimer, 68, sprinted over to the group, barrel-rolled into the middle of the frame, propped himself up on his elbows and flashed a huge smile for the camera.
“I’m having a ball,” the coach said.
The league itself has had considerably less to celebrate. The first-year Destroyers, for example, already have run through three coaches, three ownership arrangements and two general managers (the first was ex-Redskins quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams), and this was before they ever played a game.
Friday’s championship game was supposed to be played two weeks hence, but on Monday, the UFL announced that it was halting the regular season at four games. The four UFL teams were supposed to play six games; actually, five UFL teams were supposed to play eight games. But in July, with players already in training camp, the league suspended operations for 30 days. Just four teams returned when practices resumed.
The only thing saving the UFL from national ridicule is national anonymity. The league no longer has a national television deal, and even game results - forget highlights - barely show up on ESPN’s omnipresent radar.
“People love it in the cities where we have teams,” said UFL consultant Jerry Glanville, yet another former NFL coaching veteran who has hooked up with the upstart league. “But the rest of the country doesn’t even know we exist.”
The UFL has acknowledged losses in excess of $100 million over its first two seasons. Still, league Commissioner Michael Huyghue wasn’t afraid to inquire last winter about the retired Schottenheimer signing on. After all, Fassel and Glanville had bought in. So did Dennis Green, onetime coach of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals, who heads up the Sacramento franchise.