Schottenheimer may be right man for Bucs job

Schottenheimer may be right man for Bucs job

Published Jan. 12, 2012 2:47 p.m. ET

The arrow on the "Wow-o-meter" hasn't budged much as the Glazer family's search for a new Bucs head coach rolls into its second week.

The unfolding interview parade of older, seasoned candidates has been sedate and excitement-free, largely like the candidates themselves.

Following the recent "youngry" debacle that undid Raheem Morris, the quest for age and experience has produced such non-scintillating names as 50-something, ex-head coaches Mike Sherman, Brad Childress and Wade Phillips — not to mention a secondary wave of venerable yet widely unknown NFL assistants.

But in the older pool of possible successors, one man does stand out as at least intriguing — the oldest guy of the bunch, 68-year-old Marty Schottenheimer.

With Jeff Fisher reportedly close to a deal with the Dolphins, no Brian Billick blips on the radar and Bill Cowher staying put at CBS, Schottenheimer suddenly looks like the best option for a team in turmoil.

For one thing, it's hard to argue with his regular-season resume: 200-126-1 in an NFL head-coaching career spanning 1984 to 2006.

Schottenheimer's shortcomings in the post-season have been well-documented, with a 5-13 record and those heartbreaking, back-to-back losses to John Elway and the Denver Broncos in the 1986 and 1987 AFC Championship Games.

But as a coach who can build winning teams and get them to the playoffs, Schottenheimer has proven he's got the right stuff. He has this double-edged claim to fame: more wins than any other NFL head coach since 1966 without ever leading a team the Super Bowl.

Then again, the Bucs would consider it a whopping success just to get back to the playoffs, where they haven't competed since a 24-14 first-round loss to the Giants four years ago.

Judging from his track record, Schott would give them a shot.

His last two forays as an NFL head coach have been nothing to sneeze at, either. Schottenheimer finished 14-2 roaming the sidelines of the San Diego Chargers in 2006, before losing in the second round of the playoffs and getting fired soon after due to increasingly strained relationship with general manager A.J. Smith and team president Dean Spanos.

His four seasons in San Diego produced a 47-33 record, an NFL Coach of the Year nod in 2004 and two playoff appearances, both of which ended in losses.

Prior to joining the Chargers, Schottenheimer experienced a one-season rollercoaster ride with the Washington Redskins. He started out 0-5, coached the Skins back into contention at 5-5 (the first time an NFL team lost its first five games and won its next five), and went 8-3 in his final 11 games to finish 8-8.

But flighty owner Dan Snyder was bent on hiring Steve Spurrier and dumped Schottenheimer to make room for the ill-fated Spurrier regime.

Clearly, he's had some bad fortune with his strong-willed bosses. But the Glazers don't have that kind of hands-on style. They'd be more likely to give Schottenheimer the room he needs to engineer a turnaround and impose some discipline and structure on a young group that fell was sorely lacking in both areas.

He's known as a stern, no-nonsense disciplinarian, but Schottenheimer said earlier this week that he enjoys working with young players and thrives on teaching. It would no doubt be an adjustment for relative newcomers accustomed to the looser style of 35-year-old Morris. But it would hard for any player not to instantly respect Schottenheimer's impressive body of work.

Whether an older coach like Schottenheimer could connect with a mostly young group of players remains to be seen. But if he's the head coach, it will be the players' job to connect with him — and be accountable.  Besides, Schottenheimer could easily hire younger assistants on his coaching staff to facilitate communication.

Speaking of assistants, it would be interesting to see if one of them was also named Schottenheimer — as in son Brian, who quit as Jets offensive coordinator on Monday, only to be replaced by former Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano.

His name has been linked to various head coaching openings, but his departure certainly raises the possibility of a Schottenheimer reunion in Tampa Bay. Brian served as quarterbacks coach at the Chargers when his dad was in charge, and who knows — maybe he'd be the next Bucs offensive coordinator, the guy in charge of getting Josh Freeman and the lagging unit back on track.

It's worth noting that an honor roll of NFL assistants have coached under Schottenheimer over the years and gone on to become head coaches — a list that includes Cowher, Tony Dungy, Lindy Infante, Mike McCarthy, Herm Edwards, Cam Cameron and Phillips.

That kind of gravitas would also serve as an important counter-weight to general manager Mark Dominik. It's hard to picture the young GM, who somehow survived the disastrous season and no doubt would like to maintain his power base, calling the shots over Schottenheimer as opposed to a coach with lesser credentials.

In fact, amid all the rubble, Schottenheimer could be the right guy to set a new tone for the organization, with Dominik stepping into a lesser role or stepping aside altogether.

Maybe he's not the coach who'd ultimately lead the Bucs to a Super Bowl, judging from his postseason failings.

But he could be just the right guy to get them back on their feet and to the party. Right now, that would rate a wow in itself.