- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2001

On his first day as Redskins coach, Marty Schottenheimer posed a chicken vs. egg question. "Which comes first," he asked playfully, knowing there was no real answer, "confidence or success?"

One media type voted for confidence, reasoning that without it you can't have success. Others in the audience seconded the motion. But Schottenheimer looked at it the other way. "If your football team goes out and wins five games in a row," he said, "it becomes confident and has [more] success."

If your team goes out and wins five games in a row. Funny he should use that as an example. Because the Redskins won five games in a row this season and did not become confident and have more success. They lost six of their next seven, got their coach fired and finished as the most expensive 8-8 team in NFL history.

A seven-game winning streak in '96 didn't breed confidence and more success either. They went 2-6 the rest of the way and missed the playoffs. I mention this not to debunk Schottenheimer's theory, but to point out what a team of head cases he has just taken on. The Redskins under Norv Turner were always a fragile bunch, even when they were reeling off victories. It didn't take much to send them into a downward spiral which they would never pull out of.

This is probably the biggest challenge facing Schottenheimer: To get inside the Redskins' craniums and find out why winning hasn't led to confidence and more success. Maybe, like his original question, there's no real answer. Or maybe he can unlock the secret and take the team places it hasn't been.

At $10 million over four years, he'd better.

His last season in Kansas City tells you a lot about how his teams play or how he gets them to play. The Chiefs lost six in a row in October and November to fall out of playoff contention, but they didn't pack it in the way the Redskins did after Turner was fired this year. They went to Denver and almost knocked off the Super Bowl champion Broncos. They beat the Dallas Cowboys, the NFC East titlist, at Arrowhead. Then they went to Oakland, spotted the Raiders a 14-0 lead and came back to win.

"That [last game] is one of the things I'm most proud of in my career," Schottenheimer said. "[It] gave me a sense of satisfaction that these guys are still busting their tails to get something done."

When Schottenheimer walked away from football after that season, he was emotionally spent. But now he oozes energy and enthusiasm. It's amazing what two years away from the game will do for a coach. The job takes its toll, it really does. You look at the "before" and "after" pictures of a football coach, and they're like the "before" and "after" pictures of a U.S. president. It's as if the guy went through four years (or in Marty's case, 10) of chemotherapy.

Schottenheimer's new boss called the hiring "the first official stamp that Dan Snyder is putting on this football team." There Dan goes again, rewriting history. Actually, the Redskins owner has put a lot of stamps on this football team. There was the force Charley Casserly out the door stamp. There was the sign Deion Sanders and every other big name available stamp. There was the hold training camp in Ashburn and charge admission stamp. There was the fire Norv Turner with a 7-6 record and three games to go stamp. There was the Pepper Rodgers as vice president/football operations stamp. When it comes to stamps, Snyder has been a regular Postmaster Dan.

The significance of this particular stamp is that it might be the last one he puts on the Redskins for a while assuming, that is, he can restrain himself. Schottenheimer has been given the authority to reshape the team, the scouting department, indeed, the entire football operation as he sees fit. And if he's allowed to do this, without interference from above, it will benefit the organization immensely and improve the owner's image as a busybody to boot.

Right now, the Dan Snyder Redskins have a very slapped-together look; they aren't the smooth-running machine of the Cooke years. There's no general manager, no long-term planning. (Check out their salary cap mess if you don't believe me.) It will be up to Schottenheimer to change that and in his spare time, to coach the football team, too. Not the easiest of assignments, admittedly. But Marty will tackle it in his usual way: First comes success then comes confidence. (Translation: Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing.

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