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A cruel playoff history

Marty Schottenheimer has never had a big problem getting his teams to the playoffs.

When they get there, bad things happen.

Yes, Schottenheimer is the winningest active coach with 177 regular-season wins in 18{ seasons with four franchises, including 12 with his surprising Chargers this year.

When the calendar changes to January, though, it isn't as pretty.

Schottenheimer is just 5-11 in the playoffs. He has been one-and-done seven times, including his last three trips. None of his 11 playoff teams have reached the Super Bowl.

His defeats have ranged from epic to mystifying.

Who could forget "The Drive" and "The Fumble," consecutive AFC championship games in which his Cleveland Browns came so close to a Super Bowl trip, only to be denied by John Elway and the Broncos?

When Schottenheimer moved to Kansas City, he made it back to the AFC title game once _ and lost. He also had two teams go 13-3 and lock up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, only to be stunned by wild-card teams in the divisional round.

Now the AFC West champion Chargers get to leave their imprint on Schottenheimer's postseason record, for good or bad. They're favored over the visiting Jets on Saturday night.

"My approach is, you can't hide from it," Schottenheimer said. "It is what it is. We have not been nearly as effective in the playoffs as I would like to have been, but there again, there's no re-do's. And we lost some tough ones, some close ones."

Schottenheimer says he never wonders why he has had such bad luck, "because then you have to go and look at the ones that went your way. You know they're single-elimination going in. Hell, we went six quarters against the Jets to win in that year of "The Drive.' "

Linebacker Donnie Edwardssaid Schottenheimer has eased up on the Chargers in practice, which could be a key Saturday night.

"I know in the past it wasn't like that at all," Edwards said. "We were in pads and we were banging. In that respect, it's totally changed. That's huge right there. He's taken them off us so we can be ready, set to go and fast on Saturday."

JETS: Defensive end John Abraham is unsure whether he will play against San Diego because of his sprained right knee.

Coach Herman Edwards said two days ago Abraham would go against the Chargers. But Abraham was limited in practice and said afterward he wanted to wait and see how he felt today before making a decision. He is listed as probable on the injury report.

Abraham has missed the last month with a sprained lateral collateral ligament.

"I have to weigh my options," Abraham said. "I don't want to put myself in a situation where I'm going to need surgery if I go out there and get hurt again. It's different when you put pads on. Right now I'm just trying to go through the motions."

Abraham is in a tough spot because of his contract situation. He can become a free agent in March if the Jets elect not to franchise him. If Abraham gets hurt again, it would damage his status.

"I want to be here for my team, but I'm in a catch-22 situation," Abraham said. "Either way whatever I do is going to factor in my life whether we move on or we lose. If I feel like I'm at the percentage I think I can play at, I'll play. If I don't, then I can't."

Abraham said he will play if he is at 80 percent or better. Edwards said Abraham moved around decently at practice, but conceded the decision is up to Abraham.

"The player always has to protect himself," Edwards said.

_ TIMES WIRES

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