A Surprising Return … Thursday Cup O’Chiefs

Today’s epistle begins with a question about the following quote:

“I promise you that’s my goal, that’s my objective. I may from time to time fail in certain areas but I promise you this, Marty Schottenheimer is here for one reason, and that’s to take this group of young men, this organization and more importantly this community to the championship.”

Here’s the question – When did Marty Schottenheimer speak the above quote?

  1. The day he was introduced as head coach of the Washington Redskins.
  2. The day he was introduced as head coach of the San Diego Chargers.
  3. The day he was introduced as head coach of the Chiefs.
  4. The day he was introduced as head coach of the Virginia Destroyers.
  5. All of the above.

If you are a Marty watcher from years past you know that the correct answer is e, all of the above. Those words were some of the first that came out of his mouth on Wednesday, when the surprising news was confirmed – Marty Ball is back, as general manager/head coach of the Virginia Destroyers of the United Football League.

Those that know him and those that have talked with him over the last few months could have been knocked over with a baby’s breath upon hearing the news. It sounds like a fortnight ago Schottenheimer would have said the same thing.

“If you had asked me, a little over two weeks ago, if I would have entertained returning to coaching, I’d have said no,” he said. “You look at the upside, you look at the downside. The only way to go is up from a personal standpoint.

“To me, I feel kind of like it’s a win-win situation for me. I’m back on the field again, and I just think that we are what we are. I just felt like it was the right time and the right place.”

Once a coach, always a coach … especially for a man like Schottenheimer who loved the game, loved the job and reveled in trying to put a successful product on the field every year.

He did that the last time he was the head coach, when he directed the San Diego Chargers to a 14-2 record in the 2006 season, only to lose in the playoffs and then get the pink slip because of differences with snarly GM A.J. Smith. Ownership sided with Smith and Marty and Pat Schottenheimer went back to their home on Lake Norman, N.C. and got down to the business of being parents, grandparents and retirement.

Four years out of the game and Marty seemed content with the notion that he’s coaching career was over.

“I’m not sitting around pining for another job,” Schottenheimer said in early January when he was in Kansas City for his induction ceremonies to the Chiefs Hall of Fame. He went on to say that at that point in time, he wasn’t sure he would even consider another position in the NFL.

Then, near the beginning of March came the offer from the UFL, a struggling minor-league operation going into its third season of play. The league has been hit with a load of bad publicity in the first months of this season because they failed to meet their payroll and were late in paying vendors.

All that had to sound familiar to Schottenheimer, who began his coaching career as a player/coach with the Portland Storm of the World Football League in 1974. The WFL still owes him money from that season, one of two the league played before folding.

“This league has managed to survive,” he said. “In talking with people around the country who have been in that group, they think that it’s very, very competitive football and basically, that’s what you have to have to have a success.”

Still, it took something else to help convince him. That’s where his daughter Kristen stepped in. As Marty considered the possibilities, Kristen recalled a January 2nd visit to Kansas City when the Schottenheimers all gathered on the field at Arrowhead Stadium for the half-time ceremony honoring her father’s induction into the Chiefs Hall of Fame.

On the field that day with Marty and Pat were their four grandchildren – Brandon, Catherine, Sutton and Savannah, sons and daughters of Kristen and Brian. The oldest is 10, the youngest is five and there are not memories of Grampy on the sidelines, leading the Browns, Chiefs, Redskins or Chargers.

“You ought to do it for the grandkids,” is what Kristen told her father. “You ought to do it so they can be a part of what was your life.”

“That was a powerful thought for me,” Marty said.

So over a three-week period, he was offered the job, he considered the possibilities, talked with Pat and the rest of the family and last Monday said yes.

“Somewhere in the back of your mind or in your heart, (you think) I can still do that, and we all like to do things we’re successful doing,” he said. “In my opinion, it’s all about the people. What I mean by that is, when you have an opportunity to go to work with a group and you look at it and say, ‘Does this look like it fits?’ And that’s basically what it came down to. I said, ‘Yes, I believe this fits’.”

Schottenheimer joins other former NFL head coaches in the league like Jim Fassel (Las Vegas), Dennis Green (Sacramento) and Jerry Glanville (Hartford). The Destroyers are the remnants of the Florida Tuskers franchise that played in Orlando the last two seasons.

The Destroyers will play in the Virginia Beach Sportsplex, a 6,000-seat stadium where another 12,000 seats will be added to lift the capacity to 18,000. Depending on the support of the fans in Newport News-Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Suffolk–Hampton-Portsmouth-Chesapeake, another 5,000 seats could be added in the end zones.

The Norfolk-Hampton metro area has 1.6 million people, ranking it 36th in the country. It’s the third largest market in the UFL – behind Sacramento and Las Vegas and ahead of Hartford and Omaha – and it’s bigger than five markets that have NFL franchises – Nashville, Jacksonville, New Orleans, Buffalo and Green Bay. It’s similar in size to Indianapolis and Charlotte, both with NFL teams.

Whether the Destroyers will develop enough of a following to fill the seats and the UFL can survive while continuing to lose millions of dollars, remains to be seen.

But Martin Edward Schottenheimer was willing to take the gamble.

“I checked with a couple of people who had been around the league; I nosed around to see what the quality of play was and the handful of people I talked to, they thought it was pretty competitive,” Schottenheimer said. “I looked at it, and I said, ‘What is the downside of it?’ There is no downside of it, in my point of view.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am for this opportunity. I think it’s a terrific situation. The only game we have to win is the opener. After that, you just have to win one game. This is so much fun.

“I can’t remember a Christmas that was better than this.”

5 Responses to “A Surprising Return … Thursday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • March 24, 2011  - Chiefs fan in VA Beach says:

    I live in the area and knowing there may not be any Chiefs football this fall, the next best thing would have to be a Marty Schottenheimer-coached team right in my backyard. Right on…

  • March 24, 2011  - Mike says:

    Good luck, Marty. You’re the man!!!

  • March 24, 2011  - Free Boone County MO says:

    Good news! I wish Marty the best. It actually sounds like a good situation — get back to the roots of what you really enjoy without the tremendous pressure & time constraints (although I’m sure Marty will tell you that he’ll work just as hard…he always knows what to say!!!).

  • March 24, 2011  - Chiefs1799 says:

    Can we get a ufl team in Kc

  • March 24, 2011  - Kenneth says:

    Pony up the $$$, supposedly all it takes is $10M to buy a UFL franchise.

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