Seahawks coach Pete Carroll made significant changes to his coaching staff this offseason, including changes at both offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator, bringing in Brian Schottenheimer and Ken Norton Jr. to fill those roles. Schottenheimer and Norton Jr. met with the media Wednesday following Seattle's organized team activities, their first press conference in their new positions.
Here are five things we learned from Seattle's new coordinators:
1. Brian Schottenheimer is a quarterbacks coach at heart.
While Schottenheimer will oversee the entire offense, one of the biggest reasons Carroll hired him was that he has worked closely with quarterbacks throughout his career.
"I'm really probably most excited about his leadership directly through the quarterback," Carroll said. "I want Russ to be right in on everything that's going on from A to Z. Russell's ready to handle everything that there is. He's been through enough now. It takes a tremendous amount of time to get to that point but he is ready to really command the entire game and Schotty will do a great job to help him through that."
Schottenheimer, who most recently served as the quarterbacks coach of the Colts, is eager to get to work with Russell Wilson.
"I love coaching the quarterback position," Schottenheimer said. "I've always done it that way. It's just something that's my passion. I wasn't a very good quarterback, so I've learned that I'm better coaching them and showing them the way to do things rather than doing it. I've admired Russell – his playmaking ability, but yet the ability to throw the football and create plays when things break down. That's hard to teach. It's hard to teach a guy to run around and make people miss and find an open guy in the end zone. That was something that was really exciting for me, is to get here and to work with a guy like that who has done so well thus far. Just try to coach him up on some new fundamentals and techniques and see what he likes."
2. The running game will be a big part of Schottenheimer's offense.
One of Carroll's stated goals this offseason is to get his team's running game back on track, so it comes as no surprise that he hired a coordinator who sees a physical running game as a priority.
"I think the biggest thing with the running game is it starts with the guys up front," Schottenheimer said. "That physical mindset of 'Hey, we're going to control the line of scrimmage.' That's easier said than done. It's easy to have that mentality. I think a big part of it obviously is getting a guy like Mike Solari to come here and coach the offensive line. Lot of respect for Mike. He was with my father for a number of years. I coached with him for a year. The stable of backs we have here is exciting. But, when you emphasize things in coaching you normally get results. That's just something that we've talked about from the very beginning when I first started talking to Pete. That was something that you've got to have the ability to run the football when people know you are going to run the football. And when you lose that, you become one dimensional and that's hard. We're trying to find some different wrinkles. Find out who we are and different ways to attack people."
Asked later about the hallmarks of a Brian Schottenheimer offense, he again pointed to the running game first.
"Obviously the running game," he said. "Being physical. Play action pass. But here it always starts with protect the ball. The ball is number one. If you don't have that you are going to hurt your chances to win. But we've always been the best at places I've been when we were able to run the football when people knew we were going to run it. We could throw the football when people knew we were going to throw it. That just gives you that balance you need to be successful."
3. The offense will add some new wrinkles, but won't be totally overhauled.
While Schottenheimer will bring some of his own ideas to Seattle, he also understands that it wouldn't make sense for a team with an established quarterback and a history of offensive success to completely overhaul the offense. So while players will learn some new plays and terminology from Schottenheimer, he too is doing plenty of learning this offseason to get familiar with what the Seahawks already do.
"You come in here and see what Russell did last year and what they've done here historically—a big part of it has been myself and coach Solari learning some of the terminology and some of the things that they've done," he said. "If you put a number on it I'd say it's probably 70 percent of what they've done here and then maybe 30 percent of ideas from Mike and myself and some of the new guys. It'd be crazy to ask some of the guys to learn a completely new system. I've been working extremely hard trying to get up to speed with the way they've done things. They've had so much success here that was easy for me to do. I'm excited about some of the things that we've added both in the run and pass game. I think that'll be something that is noticeably different. It's a comprehensive approach. We're all in this thing together. It's been fun to really figure out who we are and ultimately right now we still don't know. We're still trying to figure that out. The more we practice and go up against a great defense we'll figure that out as we go."
4. Norton Jr. is glad to be back, but better for having left.
Norton, who played under Carroll when Carroll was the defensive coordinator of the 49ers, began his coaching career at USC under Carroll, then the two came to Seattle together in 2010. So until Norton went to Oakland to become the defensive coordinator of the Raiders in 2014, he had never coached under a head coach other than Carroll. So while Norton is thrilled to be back in Seattle and with Carroll, he also knows he is a better coach for having left.
"It's amazing," he said. "It's really good to be back. Seeing a lot of familiar faces and some unfamiliar faces so it's really good to be back where it all started.
"(I have grown) an awful lot. You go out into the world and you teach better, you learn better, you meet a lot of new people, you learn how to organize and get a group of people – a group of men – and teach them how to go get it and it's been a really big growing experience for me and I'm really excited to show how much I've grown."
5. Norton Jr. will lean on his veteran linebackers for leadership
While some of the Seahawks' veteran leaders have moved on this offseason, Seattle still has two experienced and talented linebackers to help lead the way, Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. Those two are not only two of the best in the league at what they do, but they're also players Norton Jr. knows very well having helped developed both as young players as Seattle's linebackers coach. That relationship between coach and veteran players will be important to this year's defense.
"You know, I rely on them a lot," Norton Jr. said. "I've taught them a lot, they've learned a lot, they've grown a lot and they're really, really good at what they do and I think everybody knows that. They can't wait to continue to show how good they are.
"Defensively there's a quarterback, and it's usually linebackers, so they have a good understanding of what the defense is, they have a good understanding of the down, the distance, the situation. And they're the signal-callers. They do a lot of the talking and communicating and making sure everybody's on the same page so it's important for them – the linebackers – to know that a lot of guys are relying on them to get lined up, to know the call, and to make a lot of plays. And I think they know their role."
Phase 3 of the Seahawks' voluntary offseason workout program continues this week, with Seattle holding the fifth of 9 Organized Team Activities (OTAs) on Wednesday, May 30 at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center.