Last off-season, Daniel Snyder wanted to sign only big names. This year, with Marty Schottenheimer calling all the shots, big names are out. Preference instead goes to prospects with a long name.
So long as that name is Schottenheimer. Having “Kansas City” on your résumé will also get you a cleat in the new sheriff’s door.
The signing on June 1 of John Schneider, who formerly worked for Schottenheimer with the Chiefs, as the Redskins’ new player-personnel executive was just the latest evidence thereof. Schneider got the top talent-searching job only after Mark Hatley, who also worked for Schottenheimer with the Chiefs, turned it down.
What started out as a cutesy episode of family ties has become rather ridiculous. When it comes to recruiting staff and players, the new Skins sagamore appears to be merely dusting off old time sheets from his days at Arrowhead Stadium.
Sure, he inherited a fixer-upper of a team, so Schottenheimer’s decimation of the front office and roster is no great shock. But his methods, to paraphrase what was said of Col. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, sure seem unsound.
The big problem with his Kansas City fixation is that Schottenheimer isn’t reassembling the Ming Dynasty. He’s resurrecting his own Titanic: Schottenheimer’s 1998 squad, his last in Kansas City, was favored to win a conference championship and go to the Super Bowl. Instead, that team never played anywhere close to expectations, ended up 7-9, and was soon coachless.
Sound familiar? Well, there are parallels to what Washington went through last season. Except the Skins had a better record: 8-8.
The first sign of the shape of things to come came after Schottenheimer jettisoned essentially the entire Redskins coaching staff (somebody named Mike Trgovac was the only assistant given a life raft) and launched a search for a defensive coordinator. Amazingly, that search ended with the hiring of Kurt Schottenheimer, a younger sibling of the head coach. The post had been held by Ray Rhodes, who had become quite popular with fans and players here while improving the Redskins defense from a Bottom 5 to a Top 5 ranking in just one season.
When giving away Rhodes’ job, Big Brother downplayed the siblingness of their relationship, except to say that the hiring would have been made sooner if there had been no blood ties. (He probably said the same thing when he hired Kurt to be on his previous staffs in Cleveland and then Kansas City.) The only memorable moments provided by the Kansas City defense in 1998, when the brothers last worked together, came during a Monday Night Football appearance against the Broncos, while the Chiefs committed five personal foulson a single drive. After the nationally televised blowout loss, owner Lamar Hunt termed the team’s actions a disgrace to the city.
Losing ugly, it turns out, came as easily to Schottenheimer’s last squad as it did to the 2000 Redskins: The 1998 Chiefs ended the season as the most penalized team in the league.
The old boys’ network really opened up after Kurt’s hiring: Next on the list was Marty’s 27-year-old son, Brian Schottenheimer, hired in January as the new Redskins quarterback coach. The previous highlight of Brian’s résumé came with his tenure as “offensive quality control assistant coach” for the Chiefs while Dad roamed the sidelines. Not to overplay the nepotistic tones of that title, but the Redskins have apparently never had an offensive quality control coach. According to the Washington Times, young Schottenheimer is under orders to call the head coach “Marty,” not “Dad.”
Then came Jimmy Raye, hired as the offensive coordinator, the top coaching job on offense. Raye held that same title with the 1998 Chiefs. And then followed wide-receivers coach Richard Mann, offensive line coach Joe Pendry, strength and conditioning coach Dave Redding, and special teams coach Mike Stock. All are ex-Chiefs.
After filling out the coaching vacancies, Marty Schottenheimer quite considerately surrounded his friends and family with faces they were familiar with. The veterans he’s brought in have been ex-Chiefs to a laughable degree.
Schottenheimer cut Larry Centers, as hard a worker as the Skins have had on game days in recent seasons, for allegedly not hitting the weights hard enough. Then he filled Centers’ spot in the backfield with Donnell Bennett, whom he remembered from the Chiefs. There’s no statistical basis for the swap: Last year, Bennett gained 24 yards on 27 rushing attempts. It’s not easy to stay in the NFL averaging less than a yard per carry. He also had two receptions for 17 yards. Centers, by comparison, averaged better than 5 yards a carry last year and made a team-high 80 catches. Skins fans can rest assured that Bennett will be a monster in the weight room.
The new Skins head coach also cut second-string running back Skip Hicks. It’s expected that Hicks’ place will soon be taken by Greg Hill. The former Chiefs tailback hasn’t gained a yard in the past two seasons, but he clearly feels welcomed by the new leadership here: Hill, who played with Schottenheimer from 1994 to 1997, doesn’t yet have a contract with the team, but he attended the recent minicamp at Redskin Park anyway.
Skins ball carriers might have trouble finding holes next season, what with the team’s top offensive lineman, guard Tre’ Johnson, having been cut by Schottenheimer for being injury-prone. So the ex-Chief runners will instead be running behind their ex-teammate, 33-year-old guard Dave Szott, who has had two of his last three seasons in Kansas City ended by injury on opening day. In late April, Szott said he planned to retire, but he then inked a deal with his ex-coach, Schottenheimer, a week later.
The Skins’ top free-agent signing thus far has been wide receiver Kevin Lockett, who got a $2 million deal from Schottenheimer. The coach expects Lockett to be the No. 2 receiver next season. Lockett’s numbers in his four years withyou guessed itthe Kansas City Chiefs: 87 catches and 0 touchdowns.
Assuming these acquisitions put up the same numbers under Schottenheimer in D.C. that they did under Schottenheimer in Kansas City, the Skins are going to need a decent punter next season. To that end, the boss brought in free agent Bryan Barker. He’s a former Chief.
The head coach’s powers extend to putting together the preseason schedule. A tilt with the nearby Baltimore Ravens had been discussed in recent years in the interest of fomenting a rivalry, but Schottenheimer has decided to take another path. So, instead, his new-look Redskins will debut with an Aug. 12 exhibition on the road. In Kansas City. Dave McKenna