- The Washington Times - Monday, January 7, 2002

The iron facade of Marty Schottenheimer cracked yesterday in the wake of his team's season-ending 20-17 victory over the Arizona Cardinals and the ongoing rumors about his job security as the Washington Redskins' coach and director of football operations.
Redskins owner Dan Snyder apparently is trying to replace Schottenheimer with the duo of former University of Florida coach Steve Spurrier and Bobby Beathard, the general manager of the Redskins' three Super Bowl teams from 1982 to 1987. Yesterday, Schottenheimer was defiant about his coaching ability and tearful about the effort his players gave in turning an 0-5 start into an 8-8 finish.
"Would I like to come back," Schottenheimer said rhetorically after one of many questions about his future. "You bet your tail. I love coaching. And you know what, if this is arrogance so be it: I'm pretty [darn] good at it."
Schottenheimer certainly has the track record. He reached the playoffs in 11 of his 14 full seasons with Cleveland and Kansas City. His .622 regular season winning percentage is the highest of any coach who has not reached the Super Bowl. And this year's recovery from the brink of disaster to second place in the NFC East was impressive.
"As I told [the players] in the locker room, the one thing that they have demonstrated throughout the season is a tremendous amount of heart," Schottenheimer said. "No group that I've ever been associated with has more heart than this group. All of us have the same sense that, though not a championship team, we are truly a team."
The Redskins showed that in spades with their 40-10 victory last week in New Orleans, after they were eliminated from playoff contention, and again yesterday when they rallied from a 17-6 deficit in a cold, driving rain after Schottenheimer made a heartfelt halftime plea.
"Maybe guys were thinking this was the last game, 'I don't want to be out here, I don't want to get hurt,'" said safety Sam Shade, one of many players who publicly endorsed the coach's return. "[But Schottenheimer] wasn't going to let us come out here, just show up and get this thing over with. His words were, 'We fought too hard, we've come too far to let this get away from us like this at home.' It was pretty emotional."
After the Redskins bounced back to win in the fourth quarter, Schottenheimer spoke like a proud father about his standouts, running back Stephen Davis and linebacker LaVar Arrington. Davis carried a career-high 38 times for 148 yards and the winning touchdown to break his team season rushing record. And Arrington, who is heading to his first Pro Bowl, was knocked out of the game with a sprained knee. It was the fourth time that an injury has sidelined the hard-driving defensive force.
"Stephen is a warrior," Schottenheimer said. "I go back to the game in Dallas. He came to me on the sidelines and said, 'Coach. Give me the ball. I can win the game.' He got us back there to where we had a chance to win and he fumbled. It broke his heart and my heart because I like people who say, 'Give me the ball. I can win the game.'"
And Schottenheimer choked up when he was asked about the severity of Arrington's injury.
"That's a special player and a special person," Schottenheimer said. "LaVar can be a treasure of this organization and this community because there are not many [like him]."
Schottenheimer doesn't know if he'll be back for a second season in Washington, but he's very optimistic about the Redskins' future.
"We have the key ingredients," Schottenheimer said. "We need a player here and a player there. We're a good team. The last 12 or 13 weeks, we played pretty good football."
And the always confident Schottenheimer admitted he placed unrealistic expectations on a team with a new coaching staff, eight new starters and lost six of its last eight games last season to finish out of the playoffs for the seventh time in eight years.
"I'm never going into a season with anything other than a single goal and that is to win the world's championship," Schottenheimer said. "Maybe what I did create an added burden on our team."
The question is whether the Redskins will be Schottenheimer's burden in 2002.


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