- The Washington Times - Monday, January 7, 2002

If, indeed, Marty Schottenheimer coached his last game with the Redskins yesterday, give the man his due. He remained Marty to the bitter end. Forever Marty. Eternally Marty. He was still calling running plays on third-and-8 in the red zone and throwing five-yard passes on third-and-6 and punting on fourth-and-less-than-1 near midfield (after crossing everybody up by going deep on the previous play).
Even in a game that meant nothing except as far as next year's schedule is concerned Schottenheimer was unable to loosen up, unable to break out of his Marty mold. He stuck with what, for him, has been the tried and true; only this season as in 1998, his last year on the sideline it left him short of the playoffs.
We'll overlook the atrocious non-call near the end the one where Keith Lyle should have been flagged for pass interference on David Boston in Washington territory and applaud the Redskins for rallying to beat the Cardinals, 20-17, in the Battle for Second Place in the NFC East.
Clap, clap, clap, clap.
OK, that's enough. Because an 8-8 record against a weak schedule and with very few injuries of consequence doesn't seem like much cause for celebration, even if the team did win eight of its last 11.
There certainly was no discernible joy in the Redskins locker room. Relief, maybe. Relief that an 0-5 start hadn't led to something worse. Relief that no one drowned yesterday or got swallowed up by the mud. But the happiness gauge was definitely pointing to E.
"There's a lot of uncertainty around here," Tony Banks said. And he's right, of course. Uncertainty about whether he'll be back next season. (He's a free agent.) Uncertainty about whether Schottenheimer will be back. Uncertainty about the whole direction of the franchise.
In recent days there have been reports that Dan Snyder might want to hire Steve Spurrier to replace Marty the Coach or Bobby Beathard to replace Marty the General Manager or perhaps both. And the players, at this point, don't know what to believe, what's in store for them in the days and weeks ahead.
"Obviously, it's tough," said Banks. "We've got enough to worry about without a college coach [Spurrier] upheaving virtually every team in the league that isn't going to the Super Bowl. But at least we aren't the only team going through this."
Hardly. The Panthers, Bucs, Chargers and any number of other clubs are also wondering who's going to win the Great Spurrier Sweepstakes. It's a riveting story, real stop-the-presses stuff Coveted College Coach Suddenly and Unexpectedly Decides to Entertain NFL Offers but it isn't very conducive to focusing on football games.
It also, as was clear yesterday, creates a certain amount of confusion for the players. If a Redskin, for instance, comes out too strongly in his support of Schottenheimer and Marty winds up getting axed the player might be perceived as bucking the ownership. And if a Redskin issues a lukewarm endorsement of Schottenheimer and the coach returns for a second season well, you can understand the hazards there, too.
So what do you think about all this, Darrell Green?
"I'm not the one to say. … I'll submit to whatever leadership is here as I have for 19 years."
And you, Stephen Davis. After Norv Turner was fired and Schottenheimer was brought in, didn't you expect things to kind of settle down for a while, coaching-wise?
"The NFL means Not For Long. You never know what's going to happen, whether [a change] is going to be for a short period or a long period of time."
Bruce Smith was about the only guy willing to stand up and be counted and that may be because he doesn't expect to be around next season. He could only have been talking about the coaching staff when he said, "Believe me, we have some [talented] ballplayers in this locker room, and things just didn't happen the way they should have happened this year."
No, they didn't. Dan Snyder paid top dollar for the most accomplished coach out there, and what he got was another 8-8 team and a rather dreary one at that. And soon enough, word began filtering out that Dan was dissatisfied with his "first real stamp" on the club and was considering either (a) taking the GM duties away from him or (b) dumping him altogether.
Here's the problem, though: Once you allow such information to become public knowledge and rest assured Snyder wanted it to become public knowledge you've already undercut the coach's authority. Why should the players buy into Schottenheimer's program if the owner himself isn't sold on it?
You have to wonder if all this "uncertainty" hasn't irreparably damaged Marty's ability to lead the team. You have to wonder if the speculation about Spurrier and whispers about Beathard haven't, essentially, neutered him in the eyes of the players. You have to wonder if Snyder shouldn't just write Schottenheimer a check, painfully expensive though it may be, and move on.

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