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Marty Ball is a philosophy of football associated with and named after former NFL and UFL 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". Schottenheimer is considered to be a conservatively minded coach with the majority of his focus on defense. The term "Marty Ball" is generally considered a pejorative because, at times, Schottenheimer would steadfastly continue to emphasize this form of offensive attack while attempting to hold onto a small lead or when playing from behind—always without success.
In terms of regular season play in the NFL, Schottenheimer often ran Marty Ball successfully. During his coaching career with the Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Redskins and San Diego Chargers, Schottenheimer compiled a 200-126-1 record. His teams won eight division titles, made 13 trips to the NFL playoffs, and reached the AFC Championship Game three times. He failed to successfully execute Marty Ball in the postseason, where he has a 6-13 record and never reached the Super Bowl. Schottenheimer is the only head coach in NFL history with at least 200 wins to have a losing playoff record.
Despite never reaching the Super Bowl in the NFL, Schottenheimer has won a pro football title of sorts as a head coach. In 2011, he guided the United Football League’s Virginia Destroyers to the league championship, defeating the Las Vegas Locomotives in the title game. Schottenheimer’s Destroyers were powered offensively by running back Dominic Rhodes, who was also the UFL Offensive Player of the Year in 2011.
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 protégé.
Tony Dungy, in particular, employed a run-first offense during his tenure as coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1996-2001. He abandoned his conservative philosophy during his coaching tenure with the Indianapolis Colts from 2002–2008, however. 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 attempting fourth down conversions) than his mentor during his tenure with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1992-2006, 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. In 2016, Dungy earned induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his work as a head coach. Mike McCarthy, who is also one of Schottenheimer's former assistants, employed a pass-oriented offense as well, as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers. With the help of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, McCarthy was able to guide the Packers to a Super Bowl win in 2010.