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CBS Article: Marty Schottenheimer = Alec Baldwin...


Kay's Korner: Martyball goes way of Baldwin's serious side

Oct. 24, 2006
By Eric Kay
SPiN Columnist

It might surprise you who the funniest person on TV is these days. It's not a cartoon character, it's not somebody with a long laughter-inducing history and it's not someone with a sketch-comedy past. Well, sort of.

If you haven't caught 30 Rock, then you'll scoff at the idea of oft-SNL host Alec Baldwin being labeled the funniest guy on the small screen. But there's no better actor when it comes to delivering sharp, acidic lines with the straightest of faces. And the beauty of Baldwin is that underneath it, he knows he's good at it, and that's what makes him believable when he's coming off as the biggest SOB on one of TV's funniest new shows.

The best part about Baldwin being the funniest guy out there is that it was never supposed to be this way. He was bred a leading man and circa 1992 likely thought he'd die one as well. But time hasn't been good to the follically endowed eldest Baldwin, and his aging process seems to be falling somewhere between Treat Williams and Tom Berenger.

So with his leading looks rapidly deteriorating and scripts to Miami Blues 2 seemingly lost in the mail, Baldwin reinvented himself. He became funny in ways Robert DeNiro's forever-trying agent can't seem to fathom. He's not flesh-and-blood cartoon funny like Robin Williams, he's not neurotic funny like Larry David and he's not Red Bull-induced funny like Dane Cook (seriously, how is this guy still around?).

He's funny because he's aware of what he used to be and he has adjusted his demeanor to be a walking, talking, breathing satirical embodiment of it. He has been at the top of the food chain and could probably stay there with the proper plastic surgeon and Pilates regimen, but he shuns it all for the laugh track. And there's inherent humor in that, believe it or not.

And that's where Marty Schottenheimer comes in. For years Schottenheimer has been a leading man of coaches, a straight shooter, a sort-of John Wayne. He stuck by his Martyball -- run, run, run, play great D -- for more than two decades while up-and-comers were innovating the game with sexy terms like West Coast offense, Run 'n' Gun and Randy Ratio. He has seen them all come and go to mixed results. Didn't blink an eye.

But now, like Baldwin, Schottenheimer is evolving. And it's producing some dandy results just south of Hollywood on Ron Burgundy's old turf.

If there's any year that was supposed to be the year of Martyball, this was it. He's breaking in a greenhorn quarterback and has a stout defense. Play calling was supposed to go a little something like: Run LaDainian Tomlinson left, run L.T. right, oh, what the hell, let's run L.T. right again.

And that would have been fine, just like it would be fine if Alec, can we call you Alec? No? (jerk) had kept trying to produce more Mercury Risings.

But the patriarch of the Schottenheimer coaching clan isn't playing by the boring ol' Martyball script. He's turning his team into something dynamic by letting his young quarterback throw the ball more than three times a half. He has taken the elements of his past successes and molded them into what will be a blockbuster hit.

Just how Baldwin, with every biting line he delivers Tina Fey's way, is always one part Joshua Rush, Jack Ryan and Blake (can you name all three shows/movies without going to imdb.com?), Schottenheimer's Chargers are a hodgepodge of his greatest hits.

It's part 1992 Kansas City Chiefs -- Barry Word, Christian Okoye -- with the duo of L.T. and Michael Turner. It's part 2001 Redskins with the suffocating defense and part 1986 Cleveland Browns -- remember ol' Bernard Joseph Kosar? -- with young quarterback Philip Rivers.

And that's why, despite a tough loss to Kansas City on Sunday, an injury to emerging linebacker Shaun Phillips and the loss of Shawne "Lattimer" Merriman, the Chargers will continue to hang tough in the AFC and make the playoffs.

(Just an FYI, Sunday's loss was the Chargers' ninth consecutive in games decided by four or fewer points. Skeptics say that stat means the team doesn't have that killer, closer instinct. The Korner recognizes it as a tribute to the coach, that in games most teams would be blown out in, his always manages to stay close. And in football, like strip clubs, being close is what it's all about. Do it enough times and the game-winning kick will eventually split the uprights.)

The Chargers will make the playoffs because Schottenheimer's not the same stodgy dictator he used to be. Case in point: his quarterback.

Old Schottenheimer wouldn't dare let Rivers average 40 passes a game in October. Hell, old Schottenheimer wouldn't let Rivers drive 40 mph. But new Schottenheimer understands that seeing what the kid has in the early part of the schedule is better than being unpleasantly surprised in December.

And look at how Rivers has responded. At the start of the season, if you had told people around the league that San Diego's record would be 4-2 after six games, there would have been a chorus of laughter. But now, Schottenheimer knows he has a kid he can rely on, and only two losses to show.

Think Dallas fans aren't dying to see how a Tony Romo-led team would be after six games? Ditto for Joe Gibbs' Redskins. Schottenheimer could have kicked and screamed for a veteran quarterback (please, pretty please get me Gus Frerotte, please, GM A.J. Smith?), but he went with youth.

And that uncharacteristic play is paying off better than my old New York fake ID. Now that Schottenheimer knows what he has under center, he'll bring back Martyball fundamentals. He'll run L.T. and Burner Turner crazy the rest of the season, but he won't abandon the elements that have brought his Chargers to their respectable start.

Just like we're seeing a neuvo Baldwin who can make us laugh just as easily as he can make us believe he's a Massachusetts State Police captain (see: The Departed), we're going to see a Chargers team that's the best of old and new Martyball.

Or shall we say, Martybaldwin. Weak! Won't happen again, sir.