I had been meaning to go back and reread one of my NFL books to refresh myself for a proper review, but when I was going through the sports page of the Kansas City Star a couple days ago I noticed there was an interview with author Jeffrey Flanagan for a recently published book titled Martyball! Instantly my heart shot through the roof, because that could only mean that he had written a book on one of my favorite coaches of all time and favorite coach of the Chiefs! I instantly went and downloaded a digital copy of the book and laid waste to it in a matter of hours. What I read is not only a fascinating look at one of the most successful coaches in NFL history, but also a must-read for any prospective coaches or teachers who could use a little inspiration to apply in their own endeavors.
There are many NFL buffs who hear the term “Martyball” and instantly think it applies to Marty Schottenheimers conservative game plan of running the football on first and second down, passing only when absolutely necessary, and playing tough defense. In other words, playing not to lose. In reality, the book reveals that Martyball is really about doing whatever it takes to win, whether it was by the run or the pass, playing to your teams strength. It means playing smart football, eliminating mental mistakes and penalties, and taking care of the football. When he was the head coach of the Browns and Bernie Kosar was his quarterback, it meant passing the ball more. When he was in Kansas City and he had Christian Okoye and Barry Word on the roster, it meant running the ball more. It just depended on the talents of the roster.
This might surprise a lot of people, but Marty is the sixth winningest coach in NFL history with 200 wins, 126 losses and 1 tie. The only coaches with more wins are Don Shula, George Halas, Tom Landry, Curly Lambeau, and Paul Brown. That is pretty amazing company to be in, but what might be even more impressive, is that in his 21 years of coaching for four different teams, he only had a losing record twice. The book details his journey to the NFL from his playing days as a linebacker in the AFL with the Buffalo Bills, to his first coaching gig as a linebackers coach with the New York Giants, and finally his big break as head coach with the Cleveland Browns. The author reveals that it was Marty Schottenheimer that coined the phrase “one play at a time” after dwelling on a missed tackle on Joe Namath during his playing days (who also happened to be a close friend of his), and that his wife Pat invented the “Midnight Rule” where the team could only dwell on a loss or celebrate a win until midnight of that day, and afterward they had to turn their attention to the next game. Another interesting thing the book brought to light was his relationship with Dan Synder and why he wasn’t angry for being fired after only one year as coach of the Redskins where he managed to win 8 of the last 11 games of the 2001 season, and how he was able to take the high road after being fired from the San Diego Chargers after finishing 14-2 in 2006.
There are many who will admit that Marty Schottenheimer was a great coach during the regular season but will point to his lack of post-season success and failure to win a Super Bowl as a major blemish on his resumé, and Marty is ok with that. He feels like he accomplished everything he set out to accomplish, and while never winning a Super Bowl was disappointing, the most important thing was being able to teach so many people and influencing their lives in a positive way. Even though he never won the big one, he had assistant coaches and players go on to win after he left, coaches like Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy, and Mike McCarthy, all who worked under him in Kansas City. Drew Bree’s also credits Marty’s coaching to being the reason he went from being an “ok” quarterback to a successful one, and he too won a Super Bowl in New Orleans. Its kind of interesting to note, that he turned every team he coached from a loser and turned them into a winner while he was there, and every team hasn’t really had any success since he left….
This book was a great trip down memory lane for me, as I had followed Marty’s career for many years growing up as a Chiefs fan, up until his last job in San Diego. It checks in at about 320 pages, but it went by too fast for me. Overall if you like modern day NFL history or are interested in coaching, you would be doing yourself a disservice by not checking out this book. One negative thing I noticed was the amount of grammatical errors (misspelled words, incorrect capitalization), but I read a digital copy and am not sure if that would translate to print. It didn’t really detract anything from the book, it was just a little distracting. 5/5 stars