Gregg Bell spoke with Kellen Clemens this past week. No NFL player has had Brian Schottenheimer more as an offensive coordinator as has Clemens. Seven of his 11 seasons have been in offenses Schottenheimer has coordinated, in New York and St. Louis.
SEATTLE — Apparently, Russell Wilson will refer to his new play caller as “Schotty.”
New Seahawks offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer isn’t necessarily a run-first guy–only when personnel and situation dictate run. The situation dictates that in 2018 in Seattle.
The 44-year-old former play caller for the New York Jets and St. Louis Rams is a detail freak. He’s known to rip into receivers during games, in film sessions and at practice for lining up so much as a foot too far inside or outside in a formation. Schottenheimer indeed comes off as intense – yeah, he yells. But the coach has also gained his players’ admiration and respect for gestures such as taking them out for dinner or hosting them at his house.
That’s the scouting report on Schottenheimer from the NFL player and quarterback who knows him better than any other.
Kellen Clemens has had Schottenheimer as his offensive coordinator for seven of the QB’s 11 years in the league.
“I have a lot of good things to say about him,” Clemens said over the telephone, a couple of weeks after he finished his fourth season as Philip Rivers’ backup with the Chargers.
“When I saw him get the job in Seattle (officially on Tuesday) I said, ‘That’s a good fit.’”
Why does Clemens say that?
“Brian understands how to get players in positions to make plays—and he’s got some play makers there in Seattle,” he said.
“It all starts with the trigger guy, Russell Wilson. He’ll try to maximize (Wilson’s) talents and what he does well.”
Like Darrell Bevell, the play caller Seahawks coach Pete Carroll fired this month as part of his largest Seattle coaching overhaul, Schottenheimer is a former college quarterback. He was a backup at Kansas then Florida in the mid-1990s. His last three college seasons he played for coach Steve Spurrier and was on the Gators’ 1996 national-championship team.
Clemens said that makes Schottenheimer, who just spent the last two seasons as the quarterbacks coach for the Indianapolis Colts, a QB-friendly coordinator.
It also makes him a stickler for details and fundamentals.
“Brian is very detailed-specific,” Clemens said. “One thing Brian does is he’s going to hold people accountable.”
Some have implied if not speculated Bevell was essentially too nice, ultimately not able to keep Wilson strictly adhering to fundamentals such as throwing on time at the end of his initial drop backs and keeping more within the structure of the offense. That line of thinking says Schottenheimer will be the opposite, an intense yeller who will ride Wilson much harder.
Two things on that.
First, Wilson’s improvisational, playground style of extending plays when pass protection breaks down, as it often has in Seattle in recent seasons, was seen as exquisite and perhaps his greatest and most unique asset when the Seahawks were making five consecutive postseasons including two Super Bowls. As recently as early last month, following the upset win over an Eagles team playing for the NFC championship this weekend that way had him an NFL MVP candidate. Now, after Seattle’s first non-playoff season in six years, some are saying suddenly that skill and habit of extending plays is Wilson’s biggest fault.
Second, Schottenheimer apparently isn’t the drill-sergeant screamer he’s been advertised to be. So says his long-time quarterback.
“Brian is a guy that is very, very passionate at what he does. He’s been known to raise his voice, when necessary,” Clemens said. “But he’s also done things like taking a guy out to dinner. I’ve heard guys in the locker room say, ‘Yeah, Schotty did this. And it really meant a lot to me. He had me over to his house.’
“Yeah, he yells. Find a coach that doesn’t. But he’s not that quintessential coach that he only thing he does is yell.”
Carroll fired Bevell following seven seasons as his play caller. He hired Schottenheimer to replace him days after the head man vowed to get Seattle’s offense back to Carroll’s run-first core in 2018.
Of the nine offenses Schottenheimer has coordinated, three have finished in the NFL’s top 10 in rushing for a season. Two have finished in the top five, as Carroll’s Seahawks did from 2012-15 while going to two Super Bowls.
Those two top-five rushing offenses Schottenheimer had were in 2009 and ‘10. His and Clemens’ Jets played in the AFC championship game each of those seasons, behind Thomas Jones’ 1,400 yards rushing in 2009 and Hall-of-Fame back LaDainian Tomlinson’s 914 yards with Shonn Greene’s 766 a year later. Schottenheimer’s offense ran it a whopping 607 times in 2009.
The only other NFL team in the last 31 years to run the ball 600 times in a season is the 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers (618 rushes).
The Seahawks have never in their 42 years of existence rushed 600 times in a season. Not even when “Ground” Chuck Knox was their coach in the 1980s. Seattle ran it 409 times in 2017 — 95 of those carries were by Wilson, for a team-leading 586 yards.
Schottenheimer’s starting quarterback in 2009 and ‘10 with the Jets? Mark Sanchez, with Clemens the backup. Sanchez was Carroll’s QB at USC from 2006-08.
So is he a run-first offensive coordinator?
“He’s a win-first offensive coordinator,” Clemens said. “He’s going to do what’s best for the team.
“Obviously, as a former quarterback, he likes to throw the ball. We had offenses that ran more because that’s the way we were built offensively.”
Clemens noted in 2013 when he and Schottenheimer were with the Rams, they lost former number one-overall pick Sam Bradford to a season-ending injury “and (when) I was in playing, we were run-first, obviously.” Nine of Clemens’ 21 career starts over 11 seasons came in that ‘13 season when Bradford was hurt for St. Louis.
So Carroll’s return to the run this year may come as much or more from new offensive line coach Mike Solari as from Schottenheimer. The play caller is going to do what his new boss tells him to do, of course.
Then-Jets coach Rex Ryan said upon firing Schottenheimer following the 2011 season that the coordinator’s terminology for formations and plays was too complicated for players. Schottenheimer has denied that.
So does the quarterback who’s used Schottenheimer’s terminology more than anyone else in the league.
“It’s one of the more understandable schemes I’ve been on,” said the 34-year-old Clemens, whose Chargers contract is expiring, setting him up for possible free agency or retirement.
“Brian is one of the better coordinators in just listening. … There have been times in the offense with plays that if the player doesn’t like it for whatever reason, it’s out. And I always appreciated it about him.”