- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 15, 2002

He stood there at the podium and answered all the questions from reporters who were packed into the small press room at Redskin Park. He insisted on it.

Marty Schottenheimer talked about the circumstances that led to owner Dan Snyder firing him after just one season.

"I have great respect for the privilege of ownership," Schottenheimer said. "However, the opportunity to determine the composition of the Washington Redskins roster was the single most important element in my decision to accept this position as head coach of the Washington Redskins. Make no mistake about it Dan Snyder and I shared the same purpose, to return the Washington Redskins to their position as a pre-eminent franchise in the National Football League. Our only difference was the means by which we would achieve it."

That's not the only difference. Here's another one: Dan Snyder is made of money. Marty Schottenheimer is carved out of granite, and he was rock-solid yesterday in his farewell statement, refusing to take a shot at the owner who begged him to come coach his team, promised him total control, and then, after just one season, changed his mind.

"I appreciate the opportunity that Dan gave me, and I recognize the fact that he feels differently now than he did a year ago," Marty said.

He could have taken his shots. He would have been within his rights. After all, it was Snyder, not Marty, who looked like a fool for hiring Marty, giving him total control, and then backing out of the deal, as if it was a surprise that Marty would take a conservative approach to everything. It's not as if he didn't live up to his reputation. He was totally Marty, from day one, through and through.

But he went out of his way to be gracious to the owner. "In this business there are two roads, and the only one I know is the high road," Marty said.

That's good, because the low roads are usually jammed with traffic at Redskin Park.

Some might say that the $7.5million Marty will be paid by Snyder for not coaching the team for the next three years made it easy to be gracious. I don't know. I don't think any outside forces including money affect the way Marty Schottenheimer behaves.

He is the most single-minded person I've ever come across. When Marty says he is focused on one thing, you can believe it. He is like a ninja coach. The CIA should study Marty's tunnel vision.

When asked how the chaos that surrounded the franchise and his future in the past two weeks affected him, Marty said it was no big deal. "I think I manage situations like this reasonably well," he said. "It's kind of my nature."

In a way, the team took over Marty's personality. The 0-5 start became oblivious to them, and at one point in the season, the Redskins played like Marty coached with a single-minded focus on winning. They finished the season going 8-3 over the final 11 games.

Anyone who doesn't think this team underwent a significant change for the better during this process not just better than last year's team, but better than anything we have seen here since Joe Gibbs left is suffering from a lack of focus. There was always something missing through the Norv Turner years heart. You could always count on the Redskins folding when things got tough. They rarely won games they were supposed to lose, and more often than not lost games they should have won. They were soft.

This Redskins squad the one that finished out the season showed us something different. They were tough. They refused to quit. Like Marty pointed out yesterday, they learned how to win.

"I was particularly proud that we were able to come back and win five after losing five in a row, and maybe more significant than that, in two meaningless games in terms of playoff implications at the end of the season, our football team showed their commitment to our program and our purpose, and that is you work hard, you prepare, and ultimately you will find a way to win football games," Marty said. "That is what our football team learned over the course of training camp and the early part of the season. They ultimately learned how to win."

That was the foundation that Marty planted this year, the beginning of what he thought would be a long-term program to restore the Washington Redskins to the success that the owner supposedly longs for, the sort of success that would allow Dan Snyder to wear his old Redskin belt buckle with pride.

If Marty had the chance, he would have done it. He may yet do it someplace else, perhaps in Charlotte with Carolina.

"I certainly want to coach again, and am hopeful that I will be able to do so," Marty said. "We're disappointed. We had hoped to do better, but as I said the privilege of ownership in my mind is very significant, so I can't take issue with the decision."

Steve Spurrier has a tough act to follow when he is fired.

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