Marty Ball

Marty Ball

Marty Ball is a philosophy of football associated with and named after former NFL head coach Marty Schottenheimer. In simple terms, it means a focus on the running game, with passing used only to further the running game.

Schottenheimer emphasizes offensive attacks that work as follows:

  • First down: a rushing play.
  • Second down: another rushing play.
  • Third down: a pass attempt.
  • Fourth down: punt (or field goal, if within range).

Fans (and critics) refer to this scheme as "Run, Run, Pass, Punt" (R2P2). Schottenheimer is considered to be a conservatively-minded coach with a majority of his focus on defense. The term "Marty Ball" is generally considered a pejorative because, at times, Schottenheimer will steadfastly continue to emphasize this form of offensive attack while attempting to hold on to a thin lead or when playing from behind - often with negative results.

In terms of regular season play in the NFL, Schottenheimer has run Marty Ball very successfully. During his coaching career with the Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Redskins and San Diego Chargers, Schottenheimer has compiled an impressive 200-126-1 record. His teams have won 8 division titles (Browns: Thrice. Chiefs: Thrice. Chargers: Twice.), made 13 trips to the NFL Playoffs (Browns: 4 trips. Chiefs: 7 trips. Chargers: Twice.), and have reached the AFC Championship Game 3 times (Browns: Twice. Chiefs: Once.). Unfortunately, he has failed to execute Marty Ball in the postseason, where he has an unimpressive 5-13 record and has never reached the Super Bowl. NFL coach Herm Edwards said that it "probably detracts [from his legacy] in the minds of some people, but I know it doesn’t in the minds of people who have coached against him."[1]

Other coaches

Although Schottenheimer's assistants have gone on to successful head coaching careers--Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy, and Herm Edwards have also employed similar strategies of running the football and having a strong defense (also known as Smash Mouth football) -- none have adopted the Marty Ball approach. Edwards in particular is likely the closest to using the Marty Ball strategy than any other Schottenheimer protege.

Tony Dungy, in particular, employed a run-first offense during his tenure as coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1996-2001. However, he abandoned his conservative philosophy during his coaching tenure with the Indianapolis Colts from 2002-2008. Dungy's Colts teams normally passed the ball more on offense due to Peyton Manning's presence on the team. In addition, Bill Cowher had been known to take more risks (such as making a fourth down conversion) than his mentor during his tenure with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and himself had successful passing offenses with Neil O'Donnell, Ben Roethlisberger, and to a lesser extent Tommy Maddox without abandoning the running game. Unlike Schottenheimer, both Cowher and Dungy have each won a Super Bowl.

Schottenheimer's final game as a head coach came in the 2006 AFC Divisional Playoff, where his 14-2 Chargers were defeated 24-21 by the New England Patriots.


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