SEATTLE – In a move that few could have foreseen when they began the season with one of the NFL’s most-prolific offenses, the Seahawks announced Tuesday they have parted ways with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
The Seahawks announced the move on Twitter: “Brian Schottenheimer is a fantastic person and coach and we thank him for the last three years. Citing philosophical differences, we have parted ways.”
Schottenheimer spent three seasons as Seattle’s offensive coordinator, hired after Darrell Bevell was fired following the 2017 season.
The Seahawks ranked in the top nine in the NFL in scoring all three seasons, and this year scored 459 points, the most in team history. They became the fifth team since the 1970 NFL merger to start a season 3-0 and score 35-plus points in each game.
But the offense sputtered down the stretch, as the Seahawks were held to 20 points or fewer in four of the final six games, including Saturday’s 30-20 loss to the Rams in a wild-card playoff game.
Coach Pete Carroll had somewhat sidestepped a question about changes on his coaching staff when he talked to the media Monday, saying it was not something he would discuss before adding, “I’m counting on everybody coming back.”
But ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported “after meeting (Monday night), it was evident there were philosophical differences between Schottenheimer” and Carroll and that “they decided a parting was in the best interests of both sides.”
Carroll also began his Monday news conference by volunteering the Seahawks must return to running the ball more in 2021. That may have foreshadowed Seattle wanting to go in a different direction with its offense.
While it’s unclear who will take over, the NFL Network reported one potential candidate is Shane Steichen, the current offensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Chargers. Steichen just concluded his first full season as coordinator with the Chargers, who were 18th in points and ninth in yards this season, after taking over midway through the 2019 season.
The Rams’ loss included a botched fourth-down play in the fourth quarter from Seattle’s own 34, after which Carroll admitted later that he essentially overruled the play call, which helped result in the team leaving the huddle late.
With the team hurrying to the line of scrimmage, keft guard Jordan Simmons was then called for illegal motion and Seattle, which was down 23-13 at the time, had to punt. The Rams used a fumbled punt by Seattle to then score to take a 30-13 lead and essentially end the game.
“We were talking it over and we discussed some plays and I kind of got in the middle of it,’’ Carroll said. “Then, we just got late. That’s why we wound up jumping; we screwed it up. It just wasn’t clear enough. That’s one play. We didn’t function the way we needed to right there and so we had to punt the football. Punting the football wasn’t a bad idea, either. Just to get them on down, and take them to the next couple sequences. But I would have really liked to have made that, and so that’s why we went ahead and tried to get the chance and then we just didn’t function cleanly like we needed to.
Carroll also acknowledged after the team lost three of four games at midseason – losing 10 turnovers in the three losses – he wanted the offense to become a bit more conservative and careful with the ball.
In what turned out to be his last session with Seattle media last Thursday, Schottenheimer noted the team’s increased emphasis on limiting turnovers as the year wore on, saying, “The thing I’m most proud of is the way we’ve taken care of the football.”
The Seahawks did that down the stretch, committing one or fewer turnovers in a four-game winning streak that clinched the NFC West title at 12-4.
But the Seahawks were held to 278 yards against the Rams, a season low as Seattle couldn’t reverse a late-season offensive nosedive.
Quarterback Russell Wilson threw for 28 touchdown passes in the first eight games of the season, on pace to break Peyton Manning’s NFL record of 55 in 2013, but had just 12 in the final eight games.
Seattle’s rate of explosive plays also dropped dramatically in the second half – after having 22 passes of 25 yards or longer in the first eight games of the year the Seahawks had just eight in the final eight games and two against the Rams on Saturday.Carroll said Monday he wanted to run the ball more to try to get defenses out of playing so much soft, two-deep zone, which he felt teams had used to stop Seattle’s explosive plays.
“We have to run the ball better,’’ Carroll said. “Not even better – we have to run it more. We have to dictate what’s going on with the people that we’re playing and that’s one of the ways to do that. And I know the fans aren’t really jacked about hearing that, but Russ knows it, too. We need to we need to be able to knock those guys into the scheme that we want to throw at and, which was happening more earlier in the season and we took full advantage of it.’’
Running more didn’t necessarily seem like it would go counter to Schottenheimer’s philosophy, When he was hired both Carroll and Schottenheimer pointed to Schottenheimer’s experience in run-heavy offenses as something that attracted them to each other.
Schottenheimer said in 2018 that when Carroll first approached him about the job – the two had been only known each other casually until then – Carroll emphasized wanting to get back to a powerful running game after a 2017 season when Seattle had only one rushing touchdown from someone other than Wilson.
During Schottenheimer’s time with the New York Jets the Jets had featured a run-heavy offense that twice got to the conference title game.
“He realizes the same importance from looking at it from a defensive standpoint,” Schottenheimer said then. “If you can’t stop the run, it’s a bad feeling on defense. Offensively, if you can’t run the ball, it’s a bad feeling. So that was a big part of our discussions of how we kind of envision ourselves being offensively with the running game and tying that into the play (action) pass.’’
Seattle did indeed get back to being a better running team the last few years, ranking first in rushing yards in 2018 and fourth in 2019.
But Seattle dipped to 12th this year at 123.2 per game (compared to 137.5 in 2019 and 160.0 in 2018, and somewhere along the way, the philosophy that Carroll and Schottenheimer once seemed to share so well became frayed.
Schottenheimer is the son of former longtime head coach Marty Schottenheimer, and this season decided to call games from the press box instead of from the field, something he credited as a successful move during the hot start of the offense during the first half of the season.
“He feels he is in great command of what’s going on,” Carroll said early in the season during a stretch when Wilson threw 14 TDs in the first three games. “He’s really comfortable with it and obviously it’s working out well. He and Russ are really hitting on all cylinders and so it’s a great start to that transition.”
But the limp to the finish line compelled Carroll to want to make a change, with the urgency greater than ever to maximize the career of Wilson, who is on a Hall of Fame track but who will turn 33 next November with Seattle not having advanced past the divisional round of the playoffs the last six years.
The new offensive coordinator will be the third of Wilson’s nine-year Seattle career with Carroll having hired Bevell in 2011 – the year before Wilson arrived – after Carroll fired Jeremy Bates following his first season as head coach in 2010.
The move came a few hours after the Seahawks announced general manager John Schneider has gotten a new contract through the 2027 draft, which came a few months after it was announced Carroll has a new deal through the 2025 season.
Seattle already will undergo some change on its offensive coaching staff with run game coordinator Brennan Carroll – Pete Carroll’s son – having accepted a job as offensive coordinator at Arizona.
Passing game coordinator Dave Canales has also been reported to have interviewed for an offensive coordinator’s job at Vanderbilt.
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