View Full Version : Covitz: Four former Chiefs coaches look for playoff success

01-06-2005, 02:17 AM
Playoff payoff

Long hours spent with Chiefs prove worthwhile for four postseason coaches

By RANDY COVITZ The Kansas City Star

At one time, they all sat around the same conference table, pored over the same game films, coached the same defenses and roamed the same sideline at Arrowhead Stadium.

And they got very little sleep.

Marty Schottenheimer. Bill Cowher. Tony Dungy. Herman Edwards.

They were at the forefront of the Chiefs' revival of the early 1990s.

Schottenheimer was the emotional head coach; Cowher, the fiery defensive coordinator; Dungy, the cerebral secondary coach; and Edwards, a sharp-eyed scout/assistant and, later, secondary coach.

Today, as the 2004 Chiefs sit at home for the sixth time in seven years, these four former Kansas City coaches will be competing in the AFC playoffs as head coaches with other teams.

Schottenheimer, in his third season at San Diego, will face Edwards' New York Jets in a first-round game on Saturday. Cowher, who guided Pittsburgh to a remarkable 15-1 record, and Dungy, who led Indianapolis to the AFC South title, have first-round byes.

“It's terrific to see those guys do so well,” Schottenheimer said. “They're not only great coaches, but they're terrific people.”

The four coaches owe much of their success to those long nights and early mornings at Arrowhead, where the videotape machines and coffee pots hummed until midnight as Schottenheimer watched every bit of tape from every practice with his assistants on both sides of the ball.

“I wasn't awake very much,” Dungy said, smiling. “I was trying to catch up on my sleep all the time when I was there. We worked some long hours. We were well-prepared. We had a lot of good players, and it was a fun staff.

“You were just trying to make it through and hoping that you can win enough games to get to the playoffs and enjoy the situation that you were in. We were all pretty young. You feel like you couldn't have a better job than you had.”

After three years that included playoff seasons in 1990 and 1991, Cowher left the Chiefs for Pittsburgh, where he is the longest-tenured head coach with one team in the NFL. Dungy left in 1992 for Minnesota, where he served four years as Dennis Green's defensive coordinator before taking the Tampa Bay head coaching job in 1996. Edwards left the scouting department and replaced Dungy as the Chiefs' secondary coach in 1992 and joined him in Tampa as assistant head coach.

And Schottenheimer, after winning 101 regular-season games and making the playoffs seven times during 1989-98, stepped down as the Chiefs head coach and took a two-year sabbatical before returning to the NFL.

Besides their time in Kansas City, this foursome of coaches who have a combined 430-279-2 regular-season record in 44 years of coaching share three other common threads. They are among the 10 head coaches who played in the league, and all have defensive backgrounds — Schottenheimer and Cowher as backup linebackers/special teamers and Dungy and Edwards as defensive backs.

And all four are still searching for their first Super Bowl ring. Schottenheimer's 5-11 playoff record (3-7 in Kansas City) is well-documented and has been punctuated by three losses in AFC championship games, including two heart-breaking defeats with Cleveland.

Cowher has made it to a Super Bowl, losing to Dallas in Super Bowl XXX, and also has lost three AFC championship games, all at home. Dungy lost an NFC championship game with the Buccaneers and an AFC championship game last year with the Colts. Edwards is 1-2 as a playoff coach, his win a 41-0 thumping of Dungy's Colts in 2002.

“It is a matter of fact,” Schottenheimer said of his playoff disappointments. “You can't hide from it, you can't run from it. It is what it is. In looking back over the years, we had a number of opportunities to win some games that we failed to win because we didn't make enough plays. I think a lot of times those kinds of games come down to a handful of plays, and we just didn't make enough of them.”


Schottenheimer's influence is evident on all three branches of his coaching tree. It begins with the ability to teach.

“They have a great ability to communicate with their players,” said Jets President Terry Bradway, who spent 1992-2000 in the Chiefs' scouting and personnel departments and nearly took a job with the Cowher and the Steelers before going to New York.

“Every day they have to get up in front of that room, and whether you win or lose, get that team ready to meet, practice and play games. That is extremely important, but so difficult for a guy to do day in and day out. They're cut from the same cloth.

“They have the pulse of the team, and they gain the respect of their team, but it's a two-way street.”

Chiefs offensive coordinator Al Saunders, who served as assistant head coach/wide-receivers coach during Schottenheimer's 10 seasons in Kansas City, asked him one day what he looks for in a coach.

“Marty said, ‘The most successful coaches I have been around, and the coaches I choose to have around me, are those who possess two qualities: No. 1, they are great teachers, and No. 2, they are very demanding.'

“In their own way, all three of those coaches, plus Marty, possess those qualities. Bill Cowher is totally different in personality than Tony Dungy. Herman is totally different than Bill or Tony. But all three are very good teachers and very demanding in their own right. All three are defensive coaches, so they are conservative in their ways.

“Marty was a great organizer and problem-solver. Tony, Bill and Herman, in their own ways, don't shy from problems. They will attack problems. None of them are ‘Yes' men. They stand for what they believe in. Herm has had some run-ins with the media in New York, which is a tough deal, but he will stand firm in what he believes in.”


All four coaches believe in the tenets of Martyball, which means taking care of the football and minimizing penalties. It's no accident the Colts (plus-19), Jets (plus-17) and Chargers (plus-15) rank 1-2-3 in turnover margin this season, while the Steelers (plus-11) are tied for fifth. And all four teams have been called for fewer penalties than the NFL average of 111.

“Those are the little things that you can control by not turning the ball over and committing silly fouls,” Edwards said. “You can control those things because it doesn't matter what type of athletes you have if they can be mentally tough and are not going to allow themselves to self-destruct. Those are all things that Marty preaches, Bill preaches, Tony does and I certainly do. That's something that we all strongly believe in.”

Martyball also stresses running the football and stopping the run. Pittsburgh ranked second in the NFL in rushing and first in run defense. The Jets, behind NFL rushing champion Curtis Martin, ranked third in rushing and fifth in run defense. The Chargers ranked sixth in rushing and third in run defense.

The Colts … oh, with Peyton Manning, they're a different story on offense with the NFL's highest-scoring and top-ranked passing game. But showing that Martyball can change with the times, the Chargers ranked second in scoring to the Colts, as quarterback Drew Brees had a breakout year and finished second to Manning in the AFC in passing efficiency.

“Dungy has this extraordinary offense, so he's probably the one who stands out a little different,” said Jets offensive coordinator Paul Hackett, who was Schottenheimer's offensive coordinator in Kansas City during a 1993-97 run that included four playoff seasons.

“San Diego's offense right now is something special. But for all of us, it starts with defense, and having been an offensive coach (in Kansas City), it's still what I took away and learned.”


Maybe this will be the year for Schottenheimer, Cowher, Dungy or Edwards to break through and win a Super Bowl.

Schottenheimer has lost his last four playoff games, including 1995 and 1997 when the Chiefs wasted home-field advantage throughout the playoffs in gut-wrenching losses to Indianapolis and Denver.

“Sometimes you get there, and it comes down to a break here and a break there,” Cowher said. “But I think you better look at the overall picture in terms of the amount of wins (Schottenheimer) has had and the amount of winning seasons he has had. You better look and see who he went there with.

“Sometimes they say you can't win 'em, but sometimes that team had no business being there to begin with. We're all going to be judged on our last game, that's just the way it is. But I'm not sure it's an accurate portrayal of the job that's done.”

Lack of playoff success should not be the measure of a coach, said Bradway, who is aware of the heat that Edwards will face if the Jets lose at San Diego or if Cowher again fritters away home-field advantage.

“When you look at these guys and look at the kind of programs they run … ” Bradway said, “any owner in the league would want any one of these guys running their organization.

“Pittsburgh is a model organization. They believe in stability, they believe in continuity. They'll go through a 6-10 season, but they believe in what they believe in, they keep working at it. Look what they did. They reversed it … they really reversed it this year. They may be the best team in the league right now.”

Which would make a playoff loss all the more heartbreaking for Cowher.

“We're all measured by getting to the Super Bowl,” Bradway said. “Unfortunately, only one of 32 teams wins it. Do I think 31 teams are failures?

“When you're in this league long enough, you're going to have heartbreak.”

Marty Schottenheimer (center, front row) came to the Chiefs in 1989 and assembled a staff that included future NFL head coaches Bill Cowher (far right, front row) and Tony Dungy (second from right, back row).

01-06-2005, 02:22 AM
I knew all of these coaches had a common thread but I didn't put it together that they are all competeing in the playoffs this year.

Out of all of them I would like to see Cowher and the Steelers win it.

Spicy McHaggis
01-06-2005, 02:37 AM
If you could have any one of these coaches be the next HC of the Chiefs who would you go with. I'd say Cowher or Dungy.