- Using Brian Schottenheimer's history as an offensive coordinator in the NFL, can we determine what the Seattle offense will look like this year?
Pete Carroll and Darrell Bevell worked hand-in-hand to orchestrate the Seahawks' offensive scheme from 2011 through last year. They hit their apex in 2014 and ‘15, finishing in the top 10 in total yards and points scored in each of those seasons. Over the previous two years, though, their offensive numbers waned, and the 2018 offseason saw Brian Schottenheimer replace Bevell as Seattle's offensive coordinator. After ranking in the top 10 in rushing rate from 2011 through ‘15, the Seahawks ranked outside the top half of the league in rush rate in both of the last two seasons. Their hope is that the addition of Schottenheimer will help the offense re-focus on the run game. The following will examine how Schottenheimer’s history as a playcaller fits Seattle’s goals.
A Snapshot of Brian Schottenheimer’s History
Dating back to 2006, Schottenheimer has been an offensive coordinator and primary playcaller for nine seasons in the NFL, serving under a head coach with a defensive background in each of those seasons (Eric Mangini, Rex Ryan, Jeff Fisher). His teams have ranked in the top 10 in scoring just once and he’s never led an offense that ranked in the top 10 in total yards.
First and foremost, it’s important to examine how a playcaller manages their offense in specific game scripts since player talent usually dictates who touches the ball the most.
*Neutral game script is when the score is within seven points. Negative game script is down by eight or more points. Positive game script is up by eight or more points.
The most obvious trend in Schottenheimer's history is his affinity for the run. His offenses have never ranked in the top 10 in passing rate and have finished in the top half of the league just twice. This trend toward the run has almost nothing to do with game script. Schottenheimer has coached just two teams that reached double-digit wins, and his offenses have consistently ranked outside the top 20 in passing rate in every game-script situation.
An audit of Schottenheimer’s quarterback history lends some insight into his playcalling habits. He’s had a quarterback finish the season ranked in the top 15 in adjusted yards per attempt just once—Chad Pennington ranked 14th in 2006. Inefficient quarterback play combined with ultra-conservative head coaches such as Rex Ryan and Jeff Fisher may have nudged Schottenheimer toward the run even more than he would have preferred himself.
Schottenheimer’s Running Backs
With so much emphasis on the run, it would be a fair assumption that Schottenheimer has coached some great fantasy backs, but he’s had a running back finish in the top 12 in PPR scoring just twice, and his backfields as a whole have finished in the top 12 only three times. A big contributing factor to this is the lack of scoring from teams he has coached, as mentioned in his coaching history, but he’s also run some of the slowest-paced offenses in the league.
|Year||Team||Seconds Per Play, Overall||Rank||Seconds Per Play, Situation Neutral||Rank|
Pace stats courtesy of FootballOutsiders.com.
Schottenheimer’s run-heavy tendencies combined with a slow pace of play has only added to the limited upside his running backs have had in low-scoring offenses.
While Schottenheimer has had a pass-catcher exceed 200 PPR points (approximate WR24 numbers) just three times, he has shown some discernible patterns in target share. His passing games have been fairly concentrated, giving two players roughly 18% of team targets six times. Just 10 teams saw two players exceed an 18% target share in 2017.
Schottenheimer also hasn’t shied away from using his tight ends. A tight end has led a Schottenheimer offense in target share three times and finished as a top-two target in two other seasons. Last year, only three tight ends led their teams in target share.
What it All Means for the Seahawks in 2018
There are few coaches in the league who have been as committed to the run as Schottenheimer, but Carroll insists that the change at OC was with an eye on challenging Russell Wilson. How that will manifest on the field is yet to be determined, but Schottenheimer’s presence—at least as a primary playcaller—hasn’t resulted in efficient quarterback play. What we do know is that Seattle spent first-round capital on Rashaad Penny and let their No. 2 and No. 3 pass-catchers from 2017 walk without adding any formidable replacements.
Russell Wilson is by far the best quarterback Schottenheimer will have had the chance to coach (in 2008, Brett Favre was using New York as a pit stop to Minnesota), but also the most unique. While Wilson has averaged 96 runs per season over the course of his career, Schottenheimer has never had a quarterback rush more than 38 times. Combine Schottenheimer’s run-heavy past with a lack of reliable targets and an unimproved offensive line, and Wilson could conceivably throw fewer than 500 times for the first time since 2015. His efficiency and scrambling ability still keep Wilson in the top tier of fantasy quarterbacks, but he’s a player I’m waiting to fall before I draft rather than one I’m aggressively targeting.
Immediately after the NFL Draft, Carroll hinted at his intentions for Penny, saying he “will be a nice fit and he’s really excited about being a three-down guy.” This lines up with Schottenheimer’s past, as he’s coached five running backs to a backfield touch share of 60% or more, and seven backs with at least 270 touches.
As noted earlier, Schottenheimer has generally run a concentrated passing attack and targets should be filtered toward Doug Baldwin this season. No other player on the roster saw more than 13% of Seattle’s targets last season, so it’s a near certainty Baldwin will set a career-high in target share With Schottenheimer’s scheme, howeer, that target share may not necessarily equate to a career-high in targets.
With Brandon Marshall already being discussed as a cut candidate, Tyler Lockett is the favorite to be the second target in Seattle. If he can approach the 18% target share that many of Schottenheimer’s No. 2 receivers have seen in the past, Lockett could approach top-35 wide receiver target numbers at a price outside the top 50 at his position.