Marty Schottenheimer Will Never Be in the Hall of Fame, Tom Coughlin Will, Because of Fumbles

By Jason Lisk
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Marty Schottenheimer is one of the best coaches of all-time. It is doubtful, though, that he will ever be selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Tom Coughlin may have very well cemented his position in the Hall of Fame some day (though Tom Flores would like a word) with his second run to a Super Bowl title.

If you look at their regular season records, it’s not particularly close, and that’s no slight against Coughlin, who ranks 19th all-time in wins. Marty Schottenheimer is at 6th on the list, sandwiched between Hall of Fame coaches. Schottenheimer is 200-126-1; Coughlin is 142-114.

Of course, then there are the playoffs. Both men have now coached in exactly 18 postseason games after last season. Schottenheimer is a dreadful 5-13, while Tom Coughlin has two magical runs to Super Bowl titles out of the wildcard round, and is 11-7. It’s easy then, to look at those 18 games and wipe everything else away. What are the chances, though, that they are really more similar, and any judgments are based on luck factors?

Marty Schottenheimer is known for Marty Ball, hard-nosed defensive football, kicking field goals, and creating turnovers. That settling for field goals thing is what most would point to. You might be surprised to learn, then, that Coughlin’s teams have attempted slightly more field goals per game than Schottenheimer’s in the postseason. Schottenheimer’s opponents also had slightly more than him (36 to 35). The difference, of course, was the percentage of makes. Marty’s kickers missed 14 of their 35 playoff kicks, so that his opponents, despite basically the same number of attempts, made 8 more.

Then there are the fumbles. Forcing fumbles (or not fumbling on offense) is a skill. Recovering a forced fumble and having it bounce the right way is not. Schottenheimer’s teams actually forced more fumbles in the postseason than their opponents. They recovered fewer. In three different playoff games–three different gut punch games that would qualify as the worst for most coaches–Schottenheimer’s opponents went a perfect 5 for 5 in recovering every fumble. Those are huge swings if the recovery luck is merely average, and all of them were decided late.

Those games were the ridiculous loss to New England in 2006, where the last lost fumble was after an interception of Tom Brady on fourth down; the loss by Kansas City to the Colts in 1995, where the Colts fumbled four times but recovered all of them, while Lin Elliott missed three field goals; and the infamous “The Fumble” Game in 1987. Earnest Byner’s goal line fumble was merely the fifth of the day, all recovered by the Broncos.

As much as we don’t like to contemplate the role of old fashioned luck, it plays a huge role. A catch off a helmet here, a fumble in overtime by a punt returner there, a goal line fumble somewhere else, or a fumble after a game saving interception, and perception is vastly different. I would like to think we can strip those things away, but I doubt it.

[photo via US Presswire]

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