The Cleveland Browns will celebrate the 30th anniversary of their 1986 team, champions of the now-defunct AFC Central division, Sunday against the New York Jets.
Among the honorees will be former head coach Marty Schottenheimer, 73, who was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease five years ago.
“He’s in the best of health. Sometimes he just doesn’t remember everything,” Schottenheimer's wife, Pat, said via ESPN.com. “He functions extremely well, plays golf several times a week. He’s got that memory lag where he’ll ask you the same question three or four times.
“He remembers people and faces, and he pulls out strange things that I’ve never heard, but he’s doing well. It’s going be a long road. We both know that.”
After four-and-a-half (mostly) successful years in Cleveland, Schottenheimer quit as Browns coach after the 1988 season following a power struggle with owner Art Modell. The team reached the playoffs in each of Schottenheimer's final four campaigns, a streak no other coach has matched in Cleveland during the Super Bowl era. He went 46-31, including playoffs, with the Browns.
Schottenheimer will join Browns fans during the “Dawg Pound Moment” in the first quarter of Sunday's game and will also be recognized at halftime.
“My time with him, I watched one of the most passionate football coaches I had ever been around,” current Cleveland coach Hue Jackson, who served on Schottenheimer's staff with the 2001 Washington Redskins, said of his former boss.
“I know everybody has the stories about Marty crying, and that is him because he is so passionate about what he does and how he does it. He taught me a ton about the running game, being tough, just what it meant to be a part of a team, because it was his way and that is how he did things. I think all the players respected him because he was a winner. He believed in doing things right. A lot of that has rubbed off on me.”
Schottenheimer served 21 seasons as an NFL head coach, also leading the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers. He finished 205-139-1 but never reached the Super Bowl and was often criticized for conservative play in postseason, where he was 5-13.
However the 1986 Browns beat the Jets in a memorable double-overtime contest during the divisional round of the playoffs. The following week, they lost to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game, when quarterback John Elway famously led "The Drive" to break hearts in Cleveland.
“The 1986 team to me was really about team,” former Browns tailback Earnest Byner, who organized the team reunion, told the club's website. “It was about togetherness. It was a brotherhood.”
Cleveland also fell to the Broncos in the subsequent season's AFC title game courtesy of "The Fumble" committed by Byner.
The Browns remain one of four teams to never reach the Super Bowl.