Rocky's Football Corner #19

by Rick Rockwell

The sports pundits have decided it is time for Marty Schottenheimer to go.

What has Schottenheimer done? Just win 14 games in a 16-game schedule.

Oh, but it is not what Coach Schottenheimer has done in San Diego this season, it is what the pundits expect him to do in the playoffs.

They expect him to lose.

And then they expect the Chargers to fire him.

At least that’s the speculation that Peter King started on HBO’s Inside the NFL this week. King as you might know is a journalistic impresario: he is a featured columnist and writer for Sports Illustrated; he is the managing editor of HBO’s weekly football program; he is a special analyst on NBC’s Football Night in America and he is a prominent author. He is a one-man media empire and when he speaks and leaks information from teams, the entire sports world is listening.

You have to wonder if Coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots didn’t find a way to get this rumor to King. What better way to put more pressure on their opponents this weekend than to increase the pressure in an already stress-filled playoff scenario. Get the message Chargers: if you lose your coach goes to the guillotine.

This is the real problem with plenty of what passes for sports journalism. It all turns on rumors and speculation. For instance, there’s the story that Cowboys Coach Bill “The Big Tuna” Parcells will head back to the New York Giants as general manager. At least, King put a spike in that rumor on HBO by noting he checked with Parcells and the coach said that story was a complete fabrication.

But instead of doing the journalistic service of spiking more rumors, King starts spinning his own. In King’s scenario, if Schottenheimer loses in the playoffs (and that is quite a possibility given his 5-12 career playoff record) he’ll be fired by the Chargers, because he has repeatedly clashed with general manager A.J. Smith. Smith and Schottenheimer feuded over keeping Drew Brees at quarterback last year after Brees hurt his arm. Smith wanted Philip Rivers starting at quarterback. In one of those rare incidences where both teams benefit, Rivers had an all-pro year for the Chargers, and Brees had a career year in New Orleans. To King’s credit, he isn’t the only reporter writing about the poor relationship between Smith and Schottenheimer. (See Tim Sullivan’s column in the San Diego Union-Tribune for more.)

What makes King’s speculation credible is that if Schottenheimer loses with all the talent he has (Rivers, LaDainian Tomlinson at running back, and Shawne Merriman at linebacker, just to name a few of the Chargers’ all-pros) on this team, then perhaps something is wrong.

To go further, King believes if the Chargers dump Schottenheimer that the Miami Dolphins would like to interview him and perhaps hire him, even though they have interviewed the coach’s son Brian (who is the offensive coordinator for the Jets) for their head coaching job.

Schottenheimer has compiled a great record in his time in the National Football League (NFL), winning 200 regular season games. Only four other coaches have won as many games. His regular season record is why he got hired in Kansas City, Washington, and San Diego. And that is why Miami would crave him. But the knock on Schottenheimer is he can’t win the big game. Chuck Noll, the legendary Pittsburgh Steelers coach never won 200 games, but he did win four Super Bowls. Schottenheimer has never brought his team to the big game. And there’s the rub.

Coaching Roulette Update: Think the Falcons weren’t looking to get rid of Jim Mora for weeks before they fired him? Notice how they found a new coach within a week?

As expected, Bill Cowher decided to sit down for at least a year and the Steelers are looking. And so are the lowly Raiders who wrongly canned Art Shell. It seems poor Art was hired to take the fall for the worst Raiders year ever.

Super Bowl Watch: My two teams, the Saints and the Chargers meet their big tests this weekend. Considering the Saints have won in the playoffs only once, one of my friends asked me how much I was willing to give him, because the Saints losing before they get to the Super Bowl is one of the safest bets ever. We will see.

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