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'Skins face another ghost of their coaching past

November 27, 2005|By JOSEPH WHITE

LANDOVER, Md. - Asked to impersonate Marty Schottenheimer's pregame speech, LaVar Arrington wrinkled his nose, put a little nasal tone in his voice and raised a slightly crooked right index finger.

"We will not," said Arrington, who then paused for dramatic emphasis. "Guys, we will not play that way. If you play with a lot of heart, if you give everything you've got, we will win the game."

The only thing Arrington didn't do was cry.

"I would say the odds of Coach Schottenheimer shedding a tear or two in that speech is probably 99.99 percent," Arrington said. "He's an emotional guy, man. He really gets into it, and you can't hate that. You best believe, though, right after those tears, he's going to pull that face together and get real tough with his speech. There's not going to be a lot of play, I'll tell you that."

For the second straight week, the Washington Redskins have a ghost in the locker room in the form of an ex-coach who was run out of town by Dan Snyder. Norv Turner returned last week with the Oakland Raiders to put a thumb in the eye of the Redskins owner, and now Schottenheimer is paying his first return visit with the San Diego Chargers today.

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"How about that?" Arrington said. "Two ex-Redskins coaches back to back. And I played for both of them, so it tells you about my journey."

Schottenheimer was in Washington for only the 2001 season, but what an odyssey it was. Snyder gave the coach total control over roster decisions, then watched in dismay as the team started 0-5.

Schottenheimer's authoritarian style alienated several veterans - including Snyder favorites Bruce Smith and Darrell Green - so the very strong finish that got the record to 8-8 wasn't enough. Snyder wanted some of his authority back, and he fired Schottenheimer when the coach wouldn't relent.

"It might well have been as good a coaching job as our staff and I have done in my career," Schottenheimer said this week. "When you go 0-5, you find out a lot about people. And they stepped up and they went out and they played every week like it was the most important game of the year, and we ended up 8-3 in those last 11, and I'm very proud of it."

Smith and Green are long gone, and many of the remaining Redskins remember Schottenheimer fondly.

"That year, we had a lot of older veterans that really wanted things done a different way other than what our head coach wanted," right tackle Jon Jansen said. "And he was stubborn enough to wait them out, and they were stubborn enough for a while to wait him out, too. Obviously, when you have that going on, it doesn't give you an advantage on Sunday.

"After 0-5, 8-8 was pretty darn good. And given the chance I think we would have had a heck of a team coming back the next year. I was shocked (when he was fired). To win eight of your last 11, to not get a shot after that was surprising."

Jansen's words were echoed by Arrington, center Cory Raymer and Schottenheimer himself. In hindsight, firing Schottenheimer looks like one of Snyder's biggest gaffes, especially considering the success the coach has enjoyed in San Diego - and the losing seasons the Redskins endured under coaches Steve Spurrier and Joe Gibbs.

The teams enter Sunday's game headed in opposite directions. The Chargers (6-4) are playoff contenders on a three-game winning streak, while the Redskins (5-5) have lost five of seven.

"More so than any other coach I've ever been around, I think Marty Schottenheimer meets issues head on," Arrington said. "Whether it be a player or whether it be a beef among the whole team, Marty Schottenheimer never leaves issues out there to be interpreted. He lets you know what's what. I enjoyed playing for him. A lot of guys didn't. He brought a certain type of toughness and discipline that we needed."

Turner was emotional after beating Washington on Sunday, and Arrington said he similarly expects Schottenheimer to be "coming in here with a burr on." But Schottenheimer, like Turner before him, downplayed the return trip ahead of the game.

"I spent nine years in Cleveland. I spent 10 years in Kansas City," Schottenheimer said. "I only spent one year in Washington, so I'd be less than honest if I said that it was going to be something different than most any other game."

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