Some days he is a teacher, and his classroom measures 120 yards x 53 1/3 yards. Some days he is a youngster again, carrying a football on the slanted field next to the golf course near his western Pennsylvania home.
On his best days he is both, when the older man's knowledge and experience transfer to the younger man playing the game.
Those are the moments for which Marty Schottenheimer lives. That's the reason one of the most successful head coaches in NFL history stowed his golf clubs and shelved a perfectly good retirement to lead an embryonic professional football franchise in an infant league.
"What I brought to the table, in my view, was my ability to teach," Schottenheimer said recently. "To take a young man with far more skills than I ever had when I was trying to play the game, and creating an environment in which he could learn the details and specifics of what it took for him to succeed.
"In doing that, when he was successful, it was like it was me out there doing it, and I live vicariously through the fact that, hey, I gave him this knowledge. He bought it, learned it, applied it, and all of a sudden it's like it's me out there playing."
Schottenheimer, 67, is the face and voice of the Virginia Destroyers, the United Football League start-up, relocation team scheduled to play its first season in September.
He is a shot of credibility for a franchise that saw an owner, two head coaches and a general manager depart before the first football was purchased. He is also a recruiting coup for the financially troubled league entering its third season.
"We want proven teachers and proven leaders and proven winners," UFL commissioner Michael Huyghue said. "It just so happens that the flavor-of-the-month with NFL coaches now is the younger guys. … Because of the fact that there's more of an emphasis on younger guys, that's the opportunity that's opened the door for us.
"To have a guy who's seen it, been through it and done it all, and have to put an organization together in three weeks, and look kids in the eye and have them believe he can get them there, you can't do that with a young coach. You have a much greater chance with a guy with Marty's pedigree."
The Destroyers, as well as the other four league teams, were scheduled to begin training camp earlier this month in advance of a mid-August start. However, the season was delayed a month due to financial issues.
There's plenty of skepticism about whether the Destroyers and the league will kick off in September, but Schottenheimer remains optimistic and committed.
"I just think that the league has a good purpose," he said, "and I think the template for it is there. There can be, ultimately, a connection between our league and the NFL — the conduit of which I don't know what that might be. I think ultimately not only will the players benefit, but I think the fans will benefit."
Schottenheimer was 200-126-1 in 20-plus seasons as a head coach at four stops: Cleveland, Kansas City, Washington and San Diego. His teams won eight division titles, made 13 playoff appearances and logged only two losing seasons.
Though he jokes about being "on the north side of 65," he is clearly energized by the opportunity to get back onto the field and to work with a blank slate.
"What I have to be careful of, in my career, over the last several years of it, I would get upset about things," Schottenheimer said. "My wife and I have worked diligently about keeping my foot halfway down on the accelerator and not all the way to the floor."
Son Brian, the New York Jets' offensive coordinator, said that he was in bed on vacation recently when Dad called from the office at 7 a.m., just to run a couple of ideas past him.
"His energy level is still there," Brian Schottenheimer said. "If anything, I think having been retired for a few years, there's an energy and enthusiasm he has that's regenerated."
Indeed, Marty Schottenheimer was contentedly retired, splitting time between homes in Palm Springs and Charlotte, where his daughter and her family live. He played golf, had a part-time satellite radio gig and doted on his four grandkids whenever possible.
Huyghue approached him several months back about the UFL and the Destroyers' opening. Schottenheimer had rejected UFL overtures a couple of years ago to serve as commissioner or in some other senior capacity.
But timing, location and the opportunity to coach again prevailed this time.
"In my opinion, it's all about the people," Schottenheimer said. "Do you have an opportunity to go to work with a group of people you respect? You look at it and say, does this look like it fits? That's basically what it came down to. I said, yes, I believe this fits me."
Schottenheimer assembled a veteran staff, several of which he's worked through the years.
Assistant general manager John Wuehrmann has 25 years of NFL front office experience and has worked with Schottenheimer everywhere he's been a head coach, in addition to working for Bill Belichick, Mike Ditka and Gunther Cunningham at other stops.
"The reason I keep ending up with Marty," Wuehrmann said, "I guess the simplest answer is I have a lot of respect for him. Not just the process or how he does things, but the kind of person he is. And the proven results. The man knows how to win football games. That's why we're in this business."
Defensive assistant coach Kurt Schottenheimer, Marty's younger brother, coached in the NFL for 24 years, most recently as special teams coordinator in San Francisco last season.
"Marty's a very intellectual, intelligent man that thinks things through," Kurt said. "He doesn't make any quick or rash decisions. He always weighs the positives and negatives. He's very, very organized, very astute that way.
"He's the kind of person who's deep in thought. You've got to make sure you have his attention when you're talking to him. If he's on something else, it's not a good time to talk to him."
Gracious in person, thoughtful and deliberate in conversation, Schottenheimer is tough and demanding on the field — though no more on others than he is on himself. His ego fits easily in a desk drawer, with room left over for a playbook and maybe some game and player DVDs.
"He's always been one that talked about we and not me, us and not I," said former Chiefs' president and general manager Carl Peterson, who hired Schottenheimer. "It's, 'Gentlemen, collectively, we'll get this accomplished. Individually, we'll never get it done. So let's not worry about who gets credit for it. Let's just do it the right way and we'll be successful.'
"I think that's one of the reasons he's been so successful over the years at so many places."
Peterson, now the chairman of USA Football, the national governing body for amateur and youth football, recalled that a number of Cleveland reporters predicted a short and stormy relationship when he hired Schottenheimer in 1989.
"Marty was a stubborn German who did things his way, and I was a pretty stubborn Swede who had always been able to do it my way," he said. "But we both went into it with the same goal in mind: Win a championship for Lamar Hunt and put a quality product on the field. We put together a pretty good run."
Schottenheimer's career gave rise to the term "Martyball" — shorthand for stout defense and conservative, run-oriented offense.
"That's never been my philosophy," he said. "My philosophy has always been to find out what your players do best and don't ask them to do something else just because you think it's a great idea. You'll succeed, and you'll succeed much more quickly if the things you're doing are compatible with the skill set that those players have."
Schottenheimer's playoff record is often mentioned just before or just after his outsized overall record. His teams never made a Super Bowl, coming agonizingly close on several occasions.
He interrupted a question about his postseason disappointments and recited his playoff record: "Five-and-13."
He chuckled and added, "The truth sets you free."
Reverse those two numbers, or even get it close to .500, and he's likely still coaching in the NFL, with a bust for Canton on order.
Schottenheimer's teams famously, or infamously, fell short in postseason. In Cleveland, he twice lost to Denver and John Elway in AFC title games. Twice in three years in Kansas City, his teams lost their first playoff game after compiling the best record in the conference.
He was fired in San Diego in 2007 when the Chargers lost their playoff opener after going a league-best 14-2 in the regular season.
Schottenheimer sees no common thread or overarching reason for the playoff failures. Sometimes he was on the wrong end of an historic performance, sometimes there were uncharacteristic turnovers and mistakes.
He talks about "the football gods" giving and taking away, and he says that sometimes it simply isn't your day.
"What people tend to forget," Wuehrmann said, "is that Marty was responsible for winning a lot more games than he lost. He got teams into the playoffs and had better records than a lot of coaches would have done with those same teams."
Brian Schottenheimer, who's been an NFL assistant for 12 years, the past six with the Jets, mentioned the difficulty of getting to the Super Bowl.
"Sure, we all want to get there," he said. "As time passes and he begins to look back on his career and what he did, he realizes that his legacy is much more than wins and losses or Super Bowl trophies or empty trophy cases. His legacy is the people and the men whose lives he's touched."
In Cleveland, Schottenheimer took over at mid-season for Sam Rutigliano in 1984. His last three teams won at least 10 games, but he was let go after the '88 season following a wildcard playoff loss.
During a 10-year run in Kansas City, he helped resurrect the once-proud franchise and made cavernous Arrowhead Stadium, often less than half-filled in the 1980s, a prime ticket and one of the NFL's notable home-field advantages.
Schottenheimer was let go by serially impatient Redskins owner Dan Snyder after just one season in 2001, though the team rebounded from an 0-5 start to win eight of its last 11 games. Those who know him say he did one of his best coaching jobs that season.
His five-year run in San Diego ended because of playoff failures. His teams went 35-13 in the regular season his final three years, but lost both playoff openers.
Schottenheimer's UFL venture isn't about chasing postseason ghosts or burnishing a resume'. Though a fledgling UFL franchise is a world away from an NFL locker room on a playoff Sunday, he said the message and commitment to staff and players and fans are identical.
"My approach hasn't changed from the first day I became a head coach in Cleveland," he said. "I stood in front of our players and I said this: I've always believed you set the goal at its highest point, you set it at the pinnacle; and if you shouldn't arrive there, if you don't reach that point, having set it that high in pursuit of that goal, you will climb far higher than you would have otherwise."
Schottenheimer hopes that once again, this time in Hampton Roads, class is in session.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun