Jan. 5, 2019. How did you feel about Brian Schottenheimer then? What did you think of the Seahawks offensive coordinator calling plays in that playoff loss to Dallas that fit the dictionary definition of conservative?
Fan or not, it was grueling to watch. Run after run after run as Russell Wilson’s arm was all but deactivated.
The headlines after that 24-22 defeat all centered on the offensive game plan. The Seahawks’ sizzling quarterback wasn’t even allowed in the kitchen.
So how did you feel about Schotty then? Probably a whole lot different than you do right now.
Three games into the 2020 season, the Seahawks offense is like a Ferrari on the Autobahn. Its 37 points per game are second only to Green Bay, and Wilson’s 139.0 passer rating is more than 14 points better than any other QB in the league.
Yes, the weapons are abundant — from Wilson, to receivers Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, to running back Chris Carson, to tight end Greg Olsen and the bulwark of an offensive line. But you also have to credit the OC, don’t you?
Take the red zone for starters. In 2017, the year before Schottenheimer joined the team, the Seahawks were 12th in the NFL in red-zone efficiency at 55.5%. The next year, they were seventh at 65.5%. The next year, they were fifth at 64.6%. And this year, they’re first at 100%.
Obviously, it helps to have an MVP-caliber quarterback playing as well as he ever has. But Wilson has to have free targets to throw to. And through three games, the play calls have given No. 3 the windows — however narrow at times — to produce 14 touchdowns.
“I think he has done an amazing job this year getting people open, allowing plays to happen, calling plays at the right time,” Lockett said of Schottenheimer. “We trust his play-calling. We understand he’s going to put us in the right positions. He’s been doing a great job.”
In terms of credit and blame, an offensive coordinator is a lot like a hitting coach in baseball. If slugging percentages are soaring, fans think he’s the man. If they’re plummeting, fans want him out.
Schottenheimer’s predecessor, Darrell Bevell, drew all kinds of scorn from the social-media crowd whenever Seattle’s O would hit a skid. So it wouldn’t be shocking if Schotty takes a shellacking should the Seahawks struggle over their next couple games. But as of now, there’s no real sign that’s going to happen.
It isn’t just the passing game, either. Yes, the Seahawks have seemingly unleashed Russell in a way they haven’t in previous years. But the team is still 16th in the NFL in rushing. That might not leap off the page the way Wilson’s, Lockett’s or Metcalf’s stats do, but it has provided a balance that has kept opposing defenses honest.
Schottenheimer insists the team’s philosophy hasn’t changed. Astonishing as Wilson’s numbers are, he said establishing the run is still a top priority for the Seahawks. We’ll see if that holds up. Because when you have the offensive menu that Schottenheimer does, the possibilities can seem infinite.
“Sometimes you’re up there calling plays and you’re literally like ‘wow’ this is a really special group,” said Schottenheimer, who also emphasized how close-knit the offense is. “I’m really excited about the unit in general.”
Notice the words “up there.” This is the first year with the Seahawks that Schottenheimer has been calling plays from the booth as opposed to the sideline. Whether that is having a concrete effect on the game can’t really be measured, but it does give him a perspective he didn’t previously have. More importantly, Schotty has been able to develop relationships with players who praise his work ethic. Wilson said one of the reasons he jells so well with his OC is because they both share a passion for the details of the game. And so the offense continues to improve — to the point that it may be the best in the league.
“It’s evolution, we just continue to evolve with all of the information that it takes to adjust and alter,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “As you can imagine, the longer you’re in a relationship the better you can communicate. He (Schottenheimer) and Russell are on the same page. And there are good players around Russ, that’s a big factor also.”
A big factor, no doubt. But Schottenheimer has earned any acclaim he’s receiving right now. Wilson has been cooking, but his OC has provided the ingredients.
Correction: This column has been corrected to show that the Seahawks-Cowboys playoff game was Jan. 5, 2019, not Jan. 5, 2018 as originally reported.