Marty Ball
Translation: "Run, run, pass, punt!"

Marty Ball (mart'-e bahl) noun. A highly conservative offensive methodology that emphasizes clock control by focusing on a power running game and limiting the quarterback to small number of high-percentage/short-yardage passes. A typical Marty Ball possession can be broken down like so: Run, run, pass, punt.

Usage example: When the Eagles were up 17 points in the 4th quarter, they backed off and started playing Marty Ball. Sure enough, the Giants came back and won the game.

Word history: The term was coined in the late 90s as a means of describing the slow, plodding, mechanical brand of football orchestrated by the former Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Redskins and San Diego Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer. According to Wikipedia: "After going from 13-3 in 1997 and losing the playoff game to the Denver Broncos (10-14), the Chiefs fell to 7-9 in 1998. Marty Schottenheimer took much of the blame for his failed attempts at clock control (also nicknamed Martyball by his critics)." According to Schottenheimer himself: "Throwing 18 times, running for 228 yards, making 'em kick field goals. That's Martyball."

It should be noted that, as a conservative system that limits turnovers and other serious mistakes, playing Marty Ball is a great way to accumulate a large number of regular season wins (as evidenced by Schottenheimer's 200-126-1 record in regular season games). However, this strategy often backfires in close games against good teams, and therefore Marty Ball often fails in the playoffs (which probably explains Schottenheimer's 5-13 record in playoff games).

The dark side of Marty Ball was confirmed by the way he mishandled his last few seasons with the Chargers. During the 2004 season, the Chargers accumulated a 12-4 thanks to All-Pro seasons from quarterback Drew Brees and running back LaDainian Tomlinson. However, in the wildcard round game, the Chargers lost a 4th quarter lead and were upset by the underdog New York Jets 20-17 after going into sudden death overtime.

Expectations were high going into the 2005 season, but the team stumbled its way to a 9-7 record and missed the playoffs. Most disappointing was the fact that the team gave up double-digit 4th quarter leads in four of its seven losses (against Dallas, Denver, Pittsburg, and Philidelphia). In each of these losses, the Chargers rocketed out to a big lead and then tried to control the clock, which provided an opening for the opposing team to get back into a game...and win it.

But the worst of the worst came during the 2007 playoffs. The Chargers entered the postseason with a best-in-the-league 14-2 record. Incredibly, the team had an excellent chance to take out the defending champion New England Patriots, but Shottenheimer, incredibly, chose this one occasion to play anti-Marty Ball. In the first quarter, he opted to go for it on fourth-and-11 on the New England 30-yard line instead of kicking a field goal. Said Shottenheimer: "I thought we had a play that we could use that would make the yardage. The intention was to be very aggressive. I thought we had a play that would get it and Cam Cameron said, 'I've got one' and we went ahead and did it."

Still, the Chargers played well and led most of the game...and well into the fourth quarter. Amazingly, though, Tomlinson -- who ran for 123 yards and two TDs -- didn't see the ball much during that final stanza, as Shottenheimer got ultra-aggressive, calling for Phillip Rivers to throw the ball almost exclusively. Instead of nursing the lead and chewing up the clock, his typical strategy, Shottenheimer's aggressiveness opened the door for a Patriots comeback. Which is exactly what happened.

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Blogger Victor said...
Great in the regular season, horrible in the playoffs? So the football version of the Pheonix Suns?