A decade long tenure of competing and disappointment with the Chiefs ended abruptly for both sides.
Once his linebacker career was over, Schottenheimer wanted to keep a spot in the game of football. That’s when he began his career in coaching.
Eventually, he was given the opportunity to become the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Schottenheimer was a linebacker coach or defensive coordinator in several places for the previous 10 years, according to Pro Football History.
Every complete season he was head coach, the Browns made the playoffs. Schottenheimer went to the playoffs four times in Cleveland, with a combined record of 2-4, according to Pro Football Reference.
In 1989, The Chiefs hired Schottenheimer to be their next head coach. The Chiefs hadn’t made the postseason since 1986 and needed to get back into the mix.
There was no better option for the Chiefs at that moment, and it paid off. The Chiefs improved to an 8-7-1 record in 1989. Then the team would have arguably the most impactful run in shaping the modern Chiefs culture.
With a 22-year-old defensive end Derrick Thomas (yes, his tribute is coming soon), and running back Christian Okoye, the Chiefs had a few great pieces. Schottenheimer was able to build off those two to create a really competitive team.
The 1990 season saw the Chiefs improve to an 11-5 record along with a playoff berth, according to Pro Football Reference. The team lost a nail-biter to the Dan Marino led Miami Dolphins 17-16.
The team would return to the playoffs the next season. Their first opponent was the division-rival Los Angeles Raiders. The Chiefs would then gett pummeled by the Jim Kelly led Buffalo Bills 37-14.
These playoff losses were another reminder that the Chiefs lost out on two great quarterbacks in the 1983 NFL Draft. Where the Chiefs selected quarterback Todd Blackledge… with Kelly and Marino still available.
In Schottenheimer’s third season in Kansas City, the team clinched a Wild Card spot for the third straight season at 10-6. Which ended there when they got shutout by the San Diego Chargers. The Chiefs were now 1-3 in the playoffs with Schottenheimer.
But still, this is a really good football team. In four seasons, going to the playoffs three times and having a combined record of 39-30-1 is respectable. Certainly with a better draft in 1983 could have improved their chance at playoff success early on.
The 1993 offseason saw quarterback Joe Montana and running back Marcus Allen sign with the Chiefs to help with their playoff woes. The team went 11-5 and won the AFC West for the first time since 1971, according to Pro Football Reference.
The Chiefs made it to the AFC Championship Game in a rematch against the Bills and Kelly. Despite adding Montana and Allen, the Chiefs got blown out 31-10.
The next season saw another Wild Card loss for the Chiefs against the Miami Dolphins in Montana’s last season. The Chiefs decided on quarterback Steve Bono to take lead for the Chiefs in their newest chapter.
The Chiefs went 13-3 and looked poised to make a legitimate run at the Lamar Hunt trophy. But the Chiefs lost their first playoff game yet again in the Schottenheimer tenure. Bono threw three interceptions in the 10-7 loss in freezing conditions.
Despite going 9-7 in the 1996 season, the Chiefs missed the playoffs. That was the first time they had missed the playoffs since 1989, Schottenheimer’s first season with the team.
The team came back motivated and went 13-3 in 1997. The team got a matchup against the division-rival Denver Broncos. The Chiefs yet again fell short in the postseason to 1983 quarterback draftee in a narrow 14-10 loss. The Broncos would go on to win the Super Bowl that season.
Schottenheimer would go 7-9 the next season and then resign. It was that sudden, and Schottenheimer explained on ‘A Football Life‘ that resigning from the Chiefs was something he regretted.
Looking back on it, Chiefs Kingdom should see those teams as successful, especially after losing out on all the great quarterbacks in the 1983 draft. That is the underlining story of his career.
It is much easier to win with an incredible quarterback on your side. And the Chiefs just did not have that, even with Montana, he was aged and out of his prime.
The Chiefs were 3-7 in the playoffs with Schottenheimer, which made the fanbase have serious doubts on if they will ever win a championship again. He did finish with a record of 101-58-1, ranking him second only behind Hank Stram.
The legacy of Schottenheimer should be that he was a winning and successful coach in Kansas City. Despite the playoff troubles, he did a lot without a real quarterback to lean on. He also was a huge contributor in the culture as a whole for the Chiefs, especially with the Raiders-Chiefs rivalry.