With the 2018 season coming to an end over the weekend, Seahawks offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and densive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. made appearances on 710 ESPN Seattle Thursday morning to talk about a season in which the Seahawks went 10-6 to earn a Wild Card playoff berth.
Here are five things we learned from Schottenheimer’s interview on the Brock and Salk Show:
1. Russell Wilson was even better than he expected.
When the Seahawks made Schottenheimer their offensive coordinator last offseason, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll mentioned on a number of occasions that they hoped Schottenheimer could help Russell Wilson grow as a quarterback. Wilson and his new coordinator didn’t have much of a relationship before Schottenheimer came to Seattle, but he did come endorsed by Drew Brees, a player Wilson looks up to and who had Schottenheimer as a quarterbacks coach in San Diego. And sure enough, Wilson had arguably the best year of his career in 2018, posting career highs in touchdowns (35) passer rating (110.9), his second best completion percentage (65.6), while matching his career low in interceptions with seven. And while Schottenheimer, who has also coached the likes of Brett Favre, Philip Rivers and Andrew Luck, knew Wilson was a great player, he still was impressed after working with him for a year.
“It was great,” Schottenheimer said. “I didn’t know what to expect. Obviously I had followed Russ from afar being a guy who loves quarterback play, and I knew he was a terrific player. I think he’s got the reputation as a guy who is going to go out, he’s going to improvise and make plays and just run around to do that. I was blown away by his ability to throw the ball, his ability to throw the ball deep with accuracy, and then just the work ethic, the preparation. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever been around, and I’ve been blessed to be around some great ones. His professionalism throughout the course of the week, his discipline throughout the week of how he prepared, and not just himself, but how he prepared the unit, was top notch."
Wilson, who Schottenheimer described as “the ultimate competitor” also impressed his new coordinator with his willingness to make changes despite an already very impressive résumé that before this season included five Pro-Bowl nods and a Super Bowl victory.
“A lot of great players—and Russ is a great player—are a little bit standoffish to change,” Schottenheimer said. “He’s completely different, he was like, ‘Hey, teach me everything you know.’ So we started with the footwork and the fundamentals of stuff, how to climb the pocket and how to keep his base wide. Not everything he loved, he wasn’t comfortable with everything, but there were certainly things he was like, ‘Yeah, I love that, that makes me feel more in balance.’ And you don’t find that with most great players who have had the success—the 34 touchdown passes last year, all the different things he has done in his career, but he was so open to change.”
2. Pete Carroll was “unbelievable to work with.”
Two weeks into the season, the Seahawks offense was struggling, and when the team returned from a Monday night game in Chicago, the two sat down on a Tuesday to talk about the direction of the offense. Schottenheimer wasn’t sure how that meeting would play out, but came away very impressed with Carroll, and the offense took off not long after as the team found it’s identity.
“It was just a great meeting,” Schottenheimer said. “Pete is unbelievable to work with. We were just talking about different things, whatever was on our minds. We knew there were things that needed to change. There were things he wanted to say to me and things I wanted to say to him…He was awesome. We just came out of there saying, ‘Look we know who we are, we know who we want to be, we want to change the narrative, we want to change the mentality of this football team, let’s go do it.’”
3. For all it did well in 2018, the offense should only get better going forward.
Despite some early-season struggles, the Seahawks finished this season with the second most points in franchise history and they ranked sixth in the league in scoring. Over their last eight games, the Seahawks averaged 30.0 points per game, the second most in the NFL over that span behind the Chiefs, and their 73 explosive plays from Week 10 on were tied with the Chiefs for the most in the league. The Seahawks did all of that while committing just 11 turnovers, the fewest in franchise history and one more than the NFL record for fewest in a season.
Yet for all that the offense did well, Schottenheimer expects to see improvement next year now that he, the rest of the coaching staff and the players all know each other that much better.
“We did so many great things, we didn’t finish the way we wanted to finish, but give us this offseason to build and grow, and I’m really excited about where we can go,” he said. “… There are certainly things we need to get better. There are certainly things that, as I learn these players and we learn the staff, and we get into another offseason, there are certainly things we can do better. But I believe that the identity that we play with, the way that we played this year, was really cool because it was different. And it didn’t really slow us down. We didn’t get to where we want to go, but there’s still so much room for improvement. Again, you watch Russell grow, you watch Chris Carson’s development, you watch Tyler Lockett—what an unbelievable year he had. That’s the thing that as a coach you get excited about. And so we’re very comfortable with the way we play football—not that we don’t want to add things.”
4. Schottenheimer is open change.
As long as Carroll is the head coach of the Seahawks, he will always want an offense that is balanced, physical, explosive and that takes care of the ball, and Schottenheimer fully plans to have his offense be all of those things in 2019. But that doesn’t mean the offense will look exactly the same next year, not after an offseason in which he and the coaching staff can study this past season, identify what the team did well and what it didn’t, and tweak things accordingly.
“I think we’re always looking to grow,” he said. “Look, we’re always going to be physical. There’s no question about that. We’re always going to run the football. We were the best in the league at doing it this year. We’re always going to do that. We’re always going to emphasize taking care of the football. We were the best in the league at that this year, almost historical. We’re always going to find ways for explosives. But we’re always looking to grow. I know more about Russell today. He knows more about me. I know more about Pete, I know more about some of our skill players. So we’re going to go into this offseason excited, thrilled about the things that we did. ‘Hey what can we add?’ ‘You know, we really thought we were good at this, but in reality we really weren’t good at that, so let’s just take that out, and let’s add this in.’ You’ve got to evolve in this game. And that’s what we’re excited about. But again, to say that we’re disappointed with the way it worked out at the end, for sure. Are we satisfied? No. But you tell me after year one in our development, the process we’re going through, we’re really, really excited about where we’re going and what the future holds.”
5. Schottenheimer’s thoughts on what went wrong against the Cowboys.
As well as the Seahawks played on offense for most of the season, they struggled in some areas in Saturday’s loss, most notably in the running game and on third down.
“The biggest issue that we had—and it was kind of the issue for us throughout the course of the year when we struggled—was third down,” Schottenheimer said. “We weren’t able to convert on third downs, we weren’t able to get momentum going. We’re kind of an offense, because we run the ball and we throw the deep play passes, that when you’re struggling on third down it kind of hurts your ability to get started.
“There were certainly things that we wanted to do, there were certainly things we had on the call sheet where I’m like, ‘Golly I can’t believe we didn’t get that called.’ But it was our inability of converting the third downs—there were 13 third downs, I think four of them were 10 or more, seven of them were seven or more. We got behind the sticks. And so I think we’ve got to be better. Myself, OK, these are calls that can get us back on track, these are calls that can get us into third-and-3s and 4s, instead of third-and-9s and 10s. When we were playing really well this year, we were doing great on third down. That allowed us to sustain drives, and you give us extra plays, Chris Carson’s going to break out, or Tyler Lockett is going to get free deep. When I look back on the game, that was the biggest issue.”
Schottenheimer gave credit to Dallas’ defense for the way it played, but also said he can be better, “We didn’t get them all dialed up like we needed to, that starts with me, and again we didn’t execute perfectly.
“I have no problem being accountable to those things.”
Eye On The Hawks: Seahawks at Cowboys
Go behind the scenes with team photographer Rod Mar as he shares moments from the Seattle Seahawks Wild Card game against the Dallas Cowboys.