When Marty Schottenheimer was fired in February of 2007, he had just finished a year where he led the San Diego Chargers to a 14-2 record, an automatic bid into the divisional playoff round, and had many predicting a Super Bowl Championship. Unfortunately, the Chargers lost in the divisional round to the Patriots, and Schottenheimer was fired a month later. Team president Dean Spanos cited that the termination was based on a "dysfunctional situation" between Marty and general manager A.J. Smith.
Upon Marty Schottenheimer being fired, it became the second NFL termination after a coach had gone 14-2 in a season. You have to go back 80 years to find the only head coach in NFL history to win 14 (or more) games in a season and not return to that team the next year. Hall of Famer Guy Chamberlin led the 1926 Frankford Yellow Jackets to a 14-1-2 record as a player-coach, then moved on to coach and play in 1927 for the Chicago Cardinals. When the news reached the public, about Schottenheimer being fired, many probably speculated that the reason was Schottenheimer's record in the playoffs.
There is no doubt that he has had little success when the post-season hits. For comparison, his win rate as a coach is 63% (200-126-1), but his playoff percentage is much lower 38% (5-13). His 5-13 playoff record has taken on a life of its own. The 2006 loss to the Patriots was his sixth straight in the postseason dating to 1993, and the ninth time a Schottenheimer-coached team lost its opening playoff game. His teams have failed four times to capitalize on the home-field advantage, and has been on the losing end on several "Historic playoff games."
John Elway's "The Drive" and Ernest Byner's "The Fumble" were all under Schottenheimer. He took the Browns into the playoffs in the 1985-86 season, and had a 21-3 lead over the Miami Dolphins part way through the third quarter, but Dan Marino led Miami back for a 24-21 victory. In 1986-87 season, featured "The Drive" and the 1987-88 season was Byner's fumble. The 1998-99 post-season, Marty Schottenheimer's Browns, lost in the opening round to the Houston Oilers, mostly due to the fact, that Mike Pagel, the third-string quarterback was in, after Bernie Kosar was ruled out prior to the game, and back-up Don Strock was injured early in the first quarter.
After the loss, Schottenheimer moved on to the Kansas City Chiefs, and after missing the playoffs in his first year there, he led them to a 11-5 record only to lose in the opening round. This time, the Chiefs were winning 16-3 going into the fourth quarter against Miami, and again Dan Marino brought them back to win 17-16. In 1993, The Chiefs got to the AFC Championship game, but loss in a blow-out to the Buffalo Bills. After losing in the first round of the 1994 season, the Chiefs returned back to the playoffs for the 1995 season, this time with the number one seed. Not only were they the number one seed, but also held the best record in football (13-3). Unfortunately, they ran into the fifth seeded Colts, in the divisional match-up, and lost 10-7. Lin Elliot's three-missed field goals, contributed heavily to the loss. After missing the playoffs in 1996, the Chiefs returned in 1997, with again a 13-3 record, and the number one seed in the AFC, but again lost in divisional round, this time to the Denver Broncos, in which they had the lead, going into the fourth quarter. Marty then took some time away from the NFL and returned in 2001 with the Washington Redskins. He was fired after only one season and a 8-8 record.
In 2002, he was hired by San Diego. It wasn't an easy beginning as Schottenheimer compiled a 12-20 record in his first two seasons there. However, in 2004, the Chargers went 12-4 and made the playoffs, but lost in the wild card round to the New York Jets in overtime 20-17. San Diego missed the 2005 playoffs, but in 2006, the Chargers went 14-2, but lost to New England. Again, it was an ugly loss for Schottenheimer and San Diego. The Chargers had a 21-13 lead late into the fourth quarter, when Marlon McCree intercepted a Tom Brady pass, which would have sealed the victory, instead, McCree fumbled and the ball was recovered by wide receiver Reche Caldwell. Brady, then threw a touchdown pass to Caldwell four plays later. New England then converted a two-point conversion to tie the game. The Patriots then forced the Chargers to punt, and with 1:10 left, Gostkowski connected for the game winning margin. Three days after the 24-21 playoff loss to New England, Schottenheimer declined the team's offer of a $4.5 million, one-year extension through 2008, which came with a club-option $1 million buyout. Spanos and Smith seemed visibly angry that the coach turned them down. A month later, Marty was fired.
"This decision was so hard because Marty has been both a friend and valued coach of our team," Spanos said in a statement. "But my first obligation is always to do what is in the best interest of our fans and the entire Charger organization. I must take whatever steps are necessary to deliver a Super Bowl trophy to San Diego. Events of the last month have now convinced me that it is not possible for our organization to function at a championship level under the current structure. On the contrary, and in the plainest possible language, we have a dysfunctional situation here. Today I am resolving that situation once and for all." For Schottenheimer's relationship with Smith, Schottenheimer said: "I don't know why it was so bad. Every time I tried to get an explanation of why there was such a bad reaction, he always had the same rebuttal ... he didn't want to talk about it."