Schottenheimer is man with plan

Coach: Marty Schottenheimer's formula for success, which worked so well in Cleveland and Kansas City, will be severely tested on a Redskins team that's a bit short on talent and depth.

September 07, 2001|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. - Marty Schottenheimer believes in "The Plan."

In the flies-in-the-face-of-convention stance that every NFL coach carries into a new job, Schottenheimer, the new boss of the Washington Redskins, has a plan that he knows will work.

And the plan? Simply to work his team as hard as any other team in the NFL.

In spite of evidence that suggests otherwise - namely a suspect offensive line, a pair of quarterbacks, Jeff George and Tony Banks, who have never fulfilled their promise, and a talented but potentially brittle defense - Schottenheimer says that, with a little hard work and some faith, the Redskins will be better than the 8-8 record their star-studded, big-money roster produced last season.

And why does Schottenheimer, returning to the sideline after two years away as an ESPN analyst, believe so strongly in his formula?

Because it has worked before - in Cleveland, where he guided the Browns to playoff appearances in each of his four full seasons there, including two trips to the AFC championship game, and in Kansas City, where the Chiefs advanced to the postseason seven times in his 10 years there, including another title game appearance.

"When you have a plan and you have confidence in the plan and it's worked before, then you don't worry about things," Schottenheimer said after the Redskins' 33-13 loss to the New England Patriots in last week's preseason finale.

The loss to the Patriots re-opened questions about Washington's offensive line, which was rebuilt after last season. The line has suffered preseason injuries to left tackle Chris Samuels and at both guard positions, leaving the Redskins without a settled quintet of starters.

Schottenheimer was asked if he had gone into a season faced with a similar situation. His quick reply was yes, when he entered his first full seasons with the Browns and Chiefs. After taking over the Browns at midseason in 1984, Schottenheimer won the AFC Central in 1985, and he guided the Chiefs to an 8-7-1 mark in 1989, the precursor to an 11-5 mark and playoff berth the next season.

In other words, Schottenheimer, armed with a three-year, $10 million contract and complete control of personnel from heretofore-meddlesome Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, isn't pressed, and his players tend not to worry either.

"He's always had a plan. He's really consistent about his convictions," said guard David Szott, who played for Schottenheimer in Kansas City and was signed as a free agent during training camp. "It's the same system and plan he's had for years, and he's not going to vary from it."

Schottenheimer's decision to "kick it old school" during training camp this summer ruffled a few feathers, to be sure.

The coach set a curfew and installed alarms on the dormitory doors at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., the team's training camp site. In addition, Schottenheimer had the Redskins in pads and hitting in two-a-days from the first day of camp, including opening the proceedings with the "Oklahoma drill," a raw exhibition of power in which a defender goes head-to-head with an offensive lineman to tackle a runner.

Schottenheimer also sent a message that no one would get favored treatment when he dared to suggest that 19-year veteran cornerback Darrell Green, as much a Redskins staple as Hall of Fame quarterback Sonny Jurgenson, would have to play more bump-and-run and rely a little less on his great speed.

In other places, say, up the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, some might say Schottenheimer's supreme confidence in "The Plan" borders on arrogance, but that's just the way he is, and some things will never change.

"He's what you'd call a stickler," said wide receiver Kevin Lockett, who also played for Schottenheimer in Kansas City and followed him to Washington. "He's got a designated way to do it. He's going to do it that way, and those who don't want to do it that way, he'll weed them out. That's just the way he's always been, and he'll tell you that in a heartbeat.

"I'm not sure if there's an arrogance. I know he believes in his way, and everything is going to be done his way. Whether that's right or wrong, it will play out at the end of the 16 games and the end of the playoffs. Marty has a plan and he sticks to it and it's been successful, so I guess that's why it hasn't changed."

So far, the returning veterans, who may grumble privately, are buying into the plan.

"We're blue-collar. Bring your hard hat out with your lunch box and come to work," said Kennard Lang, whom Schottenheimer converted from defensive end to tackle. "If you're not going to come to work, Coach Schottenheimer says you might as well stay in [the locker] room and go home. That's the mentality around here. Everybody's trying to work hard and get better."

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