Marty Schottenheimer, the head coach who led the Browns, Chiefs and Chargers to the playoffs, died Monday at 77.
His NFL coaching career, which lasted longer than 30 years, began with the Giants in 1975.
“Without Marty Schottenheimer, there would be no Harry Carson in the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” Carson told NY Sports Day.
The team struggled during Schottenheimer’s three seasons on the staff but he helped lay the foundation for the Big Blue Wrecking Crew defense of the 1980s when he selected Carson.
Schottenheimer, a former linebacker with the Bills and Patriots, had coached with the Portland Storm of the World Football League in 1974.
Giants head coach Bill Arnsparger offered him a job after a chance meeting.
“And that’s how it started,” an emotional Schottenheimer recalled in an NFL Films documentary on his life, who recalled struggling financially at the time. “We were that far from the bottom.
Meanwhile, Carson was playing at South Carolina State University, a primarily black school. He became the first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference player to win consecutive defensive player of the year honors.
In the 1976 draft, Schottenheimer was allowed to make the pick for the second of the team’s fourth round picks. He chose Carson, a defensive end and nose tackle, and put him at middle linebacker.
The new linebacker said he didn’t think about it at the time but the position was mainly for white players, considered a thinking man’s position.
“What Marty did was bold,” Carson said. “It must have been tremendous pressure on him.”
While most teams were looking at Carson as a Lee Roy Selmon type player who could rush the passer, Schottenheimer looked at him as more of an interior run defender.
Coach and player became friends with Carson admiring how Schottenheimer stood before everyone when he was allowed to make a pick, meaning the onus would be on him.
“Of all the players he could have chosen, he chose me,” Carson said.
Carson acknowledged that he was a project.
“He had the patience to watch me make mistakes,” he said.
Carson said during drills, he would sometimes do it his own way with the same, or sometimes better, results.
“He was astute enough to know he needed to let me do my thing and not be so critical,” Carson said.
Schottenheimer went on to win 200 games as a head coach and make 13 playoff appearances. Carson became a nine-time Pro Bowler and helped the Giants win Super Bowl XXI.
Carson visited Schottenheimer at his home several years ago.
The retired coach, battling Alzheimer’s, asked Carson how his family was a half-dozen times. When Carson drove away, Schottenheimer watched and put his right hand up to his heart.
“It was sort of like the last time I saw my father,” Carson said.