Interview: “A Film for Marty” filmmakers discuss Schottenheimer’s impact and legacy

16 Jan 1994: Coach Marty Schottenheimer of the Kansas City Chiefs watches his players during a playoff game against the Houston Oilers. The Chiefs won the game 28-20.
16 Jan 1994: Coach Marty Schottenheimer of the Kansas City Chiefs watches his players during a playoff game against the Houston Oilers. The Chiefs won the game 28-20. /

Noah Gronniger and Clint Switzer are a filmmaking duo from Kansas City who fell in love with the Chiefs during the Marty Schottenheimer era. Those were boom years for the Chiefs in the ’90s, a time when K.C. ascended back toward the top of the AFC power structure and fans were filling Arrowhead each and every week.

Decades later, when news broke that Schottenheimer had contracted Alzheimer’s, the pair decided to apply their talents to pay tribute to a beloved figure in NFL history on a local and national level. One Play at a Time: A Film for Marty is the end result, a testimonial film featuring well over a dozen former Chiefs honoring their coach, friend and mentor.

We recently asked the filmmakers to tell us more about the project and what they learned about Marty in the process.

What was the genesis of the film? Was there a moment when someone approached someone else about making a film about Marty in the first place?

The concept was born from the news breaking about Marty’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. We each started watching the Chiefs in the early ’90s while Marty was turning the franchise around and bringing winning football back to K.C. Having interviewed many of his former players over the years on our podcast, we realized the special bond he had with so many of them.

Did it start with a short film idea or were you just wanting to pay tribute in some way and eventually came to think a short film would work best?

We definitely wanted to pay tribute and it was important for us to include as many former players of Marty’s in this project as possible. We weren’t sure what it would evolve in to as we were putting it together, but, luckily, the response from the players was overwhelming and 17 of them wound up contributing by sending in videos to share their memories and well-wishes for a man that was much more than a coach to many of them. As we began to construct the film, it was exciting to see it evolve in to a more thorough project.

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As you listen to testimonials, are there common threads about Marty that stand out as a coach?

Marty was extremely detailed with his preparation and had a hand in every position group whether it was practice, meetings, games, etc. He was also notorious for giving players opportunities. For instance, former Chiefs wide receiver J.J. Birden did not even believe that he could play in the NFL coming out of college, but Marty believed in him enough to first draft him in Cleveland, and then to bring him to Kansas City.

What about common threads as a person?

He imparted life lessons in many of his players that they still carry on today in their lives or with their children. He was a father figure, a mentor and helped mold each of these men into what they are today.

Have you been in touch with Marty himself about this film?

We have been in close contact with Pat, Marty’s wife, and she says Marty is very excited to see the film when we present it to him in North Carolina this Summer.

What is your overall hope for the film?

Our hope is that this means a lot to Marty and that he has something to look back on to recall the profound impact he’s had on so many people’s lives. We also hope to raise money through DVD/digital sales as a portion of all proceeds will go to assist in Alzheimer’s research.