- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 23, 2005

He coached the Washington Redskins for only one season, but Marty Schottenheimer left a big impression.

Schottenheimer’s strict ways were a tonic or toxic, depending on one’s point of view, after seven undisciplined seasons under Norv Turner and interim coach Terry Robiskie.

Those reactions add a bit of spice to the return of Schottenheimer to FedEx Field on Sunday as coach of the defending AFC West champion San Diego Chargers.

Turner, whose Oakland Raiders played at FedEx Field last week, was fired by Redskins owner Dan Snyder after a 1-4 slide in 2000. Schottenheimer was axed the following season despite an 8-3 finish.

“The thing I liked the most about Marty was that he was honest,” offensive tackle Jon Jansen said. “Whether you wanted to hear it or not, he told you the way he saw it and that’s how it was. Marty didn’t put up with anybody’s [stuff]. It didn’t matter who you were.”

Superstar cornerback Deion Sanders bailed out of Washington almost as soon as Schottenheimer was hired, knowing the grueling work ahead under the new coach. Defensive end Bruce Smith and quarterback Jeff George, two more of Snyder’s fantasy football free agents of 2000, made it known they weren’t pleased with the hiring of Schottenheimer.

“More than any coach I’ve ever been around, Marty meets issues head-on,” linebacker LaVar Arrington said. “He lets you know what he [thinks]. I enjoyed playing for Marty, but a lot of guys didn’t.”

The transition from Nice Guy Norv — Robiskie’s brief regime aside — to General Marty was a disaster at first.

The Redskins lost their first five games — the first three by 27, 37 and 32 points. It was quite a comedown for a team that won the NFC East in 1999 and started the next season 6-2 before dropping to 8-8.

“We were kind of tired because Marty had overworked us a little during training camp,” offensive tackle Chris Samuels said. “Marty was a little bit too tough on us at times. Nobody really had a voice.”

Nobody except “One Voice” Schottenheimer, a self-assured coach who took the Cleveland Browns (1984-88) and Kansas City Chiefs (1989-98) to the playoffs in 11 of his 14 previous full seasons.

After George was cut, a 14-point road loss to the defending NFC champion New York Giants and a subsequent near-victory in Dallas showed progress.

The next week against Carolina, Arrington refused to give in to the 0-5 record, a concussion and a halftime deficit. He returned to the game and took an interception 67 yards for a touchdown, a play that turned the game and the season around.

“Marty represented change in a positive way where we were building towards something,” Arrington said. “I believed in what Marty was preaching. When guys started buying into it, we started winning.”

And how. The Redskins ran off five consecutive victories, winning in Denver behind backup quarterback Kent Graham, subbing for injured starter Tony Banks, and beating a second straight playoff-bound team in Philadelphia. The Redskins wound up 8-8, a record they have yet to equal since.

“That’s probably the best coaching job we ever did,” said Schottenheimer, who ranks eighth all-time with 188 victories. “That was a huge mountain to climb. You can talk about winning, but until you do, it’s just talk.

“Frankly, I’ve always believed that you don’t really get a feel for a team until you’re eight games into a season. It takes that long for everyone to get on the same page, let alone understands what’s on the page.”

The Redskins’ future looked bright: The vast majority of the starters, including such Pro Bowl picks as Arrington, cornerback Champ Bailey and running back Stephen Davis, were younger than 28 and under contract.

However, the 8-3 close wasn’t good enough for the impatient Snyder, who had been chafing all year at his decision to hand complete control of football operations to the coach.

Snyder wanted to win, but he also craved command. So he fired Schottenheimer, brought back Vinny Cerrato to run the front office and hired NFL neophyte Steve Spurrier as his coach. That brain trust produced just 12 victories in two seasons, the same number that Schottenheimer’s Chargers produced in 2004.

“I really enjoyed my time in Washington,” Schottenheimer said. “In the end, Dan and I just had different viewpoints about the organization, and he made a change. That’s one of the prerogatives of ownership.”

Schottenheimer, 62, is one of just 11 men to have coached 20 seasons in the NFL. He also is one of just three in that group — Dan Reeves and Chuck Knox are the others — not to have won a title.

That last part doesn’t bother him, he says.

“I enjoy coaching as much as I always have,” Schottenheimer said. “I worked in real estate for a while, and there was always something left unfinished. You don’t have that in football. At the end of the week, you always know whether you got the job done or not.

“The Super Bowl is the Holy Grail, but if I never get one, that won’t change my feelings about coaching. The relationships matter more to me than the Ws.”

Note — Down to three healthy receivers, the Redskins worked out four wideouts yesterday but did not make a roster move.

Antonio Brown, who finished last season as the Redskins’ kickoff/punt returner, worked out, as did Kansas State’s Taco Wallace, Georgia Southern’s Carl Kearney and Alabama-Birmingham’s Willie Quinnie.

Following a poor preseason, Brown was released after the Redskins’ season-opening win over Chicago. If signed, he likely would fill in on returns for the injured James Thrash and Ladell Betts.

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