First-year Seahawks offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer scripts six runs and six passes to begin every game. Here is exactly what goes into those decisions.
Brian Schottenheimer doesn’t script plays, per se.
They’re more like strong suggestions.
Thursday, the Seahawks’ first-year offensive coordinator discussed his play-calling philosophy, which includes an ever-changing list of six runs and six passes Schottenheimer tentatively uses as a plan to open games.
And, yes, sometimes those plans change. But what are the benefits in following a loose offensive script?
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“There’s certainly things you want to look at from a formation (standpoint), personnel groupings, how the (defense is) going to treat certain players,” Schottenheimer said. “There’s a little bit of trying to get people involved. Some of it is as simple as trying to say, ‘Hey, we really liked this play during the week, and this is something we want to see.’ It really is different each week.
“But you’re not married to it. We’re not so married to the script that you say, ‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.’ I’ve done that before a long time ago. If you run for 9 yards on first down and then the second play is supposed to be a pass, you’re almost crazy if you do that.
“So we have opening thoughts, is what we would call them — top runs, top passes that we want to get to early in the game.”
Inevitably, those top runs and passes sometimes result in few yards or points. The Seahawks have gone three-and-out or committed a turnover in their opening drive six times this season (including four consecutive weeks), while they’ve scored on their opening drive just three times (all touchdowns).
Still, a scoring drive isn’t the only thing an opening script accomplishes.
“You obviously don’t want to go three-and-out, ever,” Schottenheimer acknowledged. “We have a philosophy here — and I’ve learned a lot from Pete (Carroll) — about how you can’t win the game in the first quarter. You’ve got to just play the game out. We’re in the business of solving problems and creating solutions as a staff.
“The game rarely goes exactly how you envision it. We all have a vision of how the game might go. I didn’t think that game would be 3-0 going into (the fourth quarter) last week. But you’re always gathering information.”
Of course, gathering information is a lot easier when you have a dominant running game to rely on. Behind running backs Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny and Mike Davis and a vastly improved offensive line, the Seahawks currently rank first in the NFL in rushing yards per game (153.8) and attempts per game (32.5), eighth in yards per carry (4.7) and ninth in runs of 20 yards or more (12).
The end goal for Schottenheimer and Co. is always to reach a combined number of 50 rushes and completed passes, no matter how they get there. Sometimes — as in Monday’s victory over Minnesota when the Seahawks rushed a whopping 42 times and quarterback Russell Wilson completed only 10 passes — you’ve got to ditch the script.
But the Seahawks’ running game allows Schottenheimer and Co. to quickly solve a lot of problems.
“It’s been very impactful,” Schottenheimer said of the rushing attack. “The Carolina game was the one time where we felt like somebody kind of slowed us up a little bit. It’s never easy to call a game, but when the run’s going like that it’s easier to call a game.
“You’re playing a great defense in Minnesota. It’s a back-and-forth game. The defense is playing awesome. You kind of just keep pounding at it, and at some point it’s going to unfold and you’re going to pop a big run — whether it’s Russell or Rashaad or Chris Carson.
“It simplifies the game. That’s the way that I look at it.”