When the first-down marker seems a mile away on every snap, when the chains appear to be paralyzed on every play, when third downs are futile, when explosive plays are rare, when the punt team becomes an inevitability — fingers are going to be pointed.
The initial blame might have headed Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s way. He was the one who completed just 11 of his 27 passes in Seattle’s 30-20 playoff loss to the Rams on Saturday. He was the one who took five sacks, threw a second-quarter pick-six and looked out of sorts for 60 minutes.
But what about the man tasked with calling the plays for Wilson? What role did offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer play in the Seahawks’ first-round ouster? Should fingers point his way, too?
Former Seahawks running back Robert Turbin took to Twitter on Saturday to do just that. Tweeted Wilson’s good friend: “Just gonna say this. Respectfully. For Seattle to have a bunch of dynamic players offensively, they sure do run an undynamic style offense. Predictable. Need to throw some sauce in that thang!”
Sports agent David Canter, meanwhile, weighed in early on in the game — focusing on receiver DK Metcalf. “Seattle should target DK 20 times a game. Hand offs, slot screens, bubble screens, toss sweeps, anything! It blows my mind that he has no touches yet.”
Comments such as Turbin’s and Canter’s are easy to make from the comfort of their homes. Second-guessing a coordinator is among football fans’ favorite pastimes, and to use Turbin’s word “predictable.” But is there something to it?
Let’s take a look at Metcalf. It’s true he didn’t get a touch for the first quarter and a half. And his anger was visible on the sideline. On two occasions, the Seahawks’ season record holder for receiving yards blew up, ostensibly frustrated by his lack of involvement.
Did this affect Schottenheimer’s decision-making? We can’t say for sure. But shortly after the second blow-up, the Seahawks seemingly forced a pass to Metcalf on an attempted screen, only to watch Darious Williams read the play perfectly, intercept the ball and take it to the end zone.
Screens are usually the safest throws in football. It’s easy to blame Wilson for the mishap, but it was the call — as well as Williams’ brilliant read — that cost the Seahawks there.
But was the rest of the game “undynamic,” as Turbin suggested?
Seattle was, after all, facing the NFL’s best defense. And the Rams’ strength, more than anything, lies in their passing defense, which was tops in the league in the regular season.
L.A. can make any offense look stagnant — even the most productive “O” in Seahawks history. Does this really fall on Schotty?
On Monday I asked Seahawks coach Pete Carroll what he thought about the play-calling Saturday.
“I just wish we would have gotten the ball out quicker. I wish Russ would have gotten the ball out quicker when he has opportunities. And when that wasn’t happening, I wish we would have given him more chances to force the ball out quicker,” Carroll said via Zoom. “That’s all. That was part of it. That’s a big second-guess watching the game.”
That didn’t sound like a condemnation of Schottenheimer, although it wasn’t a glowing review. And on 710 ESPN on Monday morning, Carroll noted he was “fighting the (play) call” on the fourth-and-one that resulted in a false start in the fourth quarter.
Does that speak of growing mistrust? The Seahawks’ offense did, after all, slow down significantly in the second half of the season.
Well, asked on his radio show whether Schottenheimer will be back next season, Carroll said, “Yes. We scored more points than any team in the history of the franchise.”
But that feat might have shone a better light on Schottenheimer had the Seahawks lit up the scoreboard in the second half of the season rather than the first. That would have demonstrated that the Seahawks had adjusted to defenses. The way this season played out, defenses adjusted to them.
We don’t know what Seattle’s offense is going to look like next season, but Carroll did offer a glimpse Monday. He said, frankly, that the team is going to run the ball more.
So barring a head-coaching offer, Schottenheimer will likely be back. His creative freedom, however, may not be.