Every day between now and the start of Seahawks training camp, Seahawks.com will take a look at some of the team's most intriguing storylines, position battles and players heading into the 2018 season. Today, we take a look at how much different the Seahawks will look with new faces at offensive and defensive coordinator, as well as at offensive line coach. Tomorrow, we look at the team's defensive end depth following the offseason departures of longtime Seahawks starters Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett.
It's been seven seasons since the Seahawks offense was under new leadership in the coaching ranks, and with Brian Schottenheimer taking over at offensive coordinator for Darrell Bevell and Mike Solari replacing Tom Cable as offensive line coach, Seattle's offense has gone through some significant changes this offseason, though not a complete reconstruction from the ground up.
When Pete Carroll discussed Schottenheimer's hiring earlier this offseason, the Seahawks head coach pointed to a desire to challenge quarterback Russell Wilson as one of the reasons for bringing Schottenheimer in. With Schottenheimer's background as both a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, Carroll feels Schottenheimer can help bring out the best of the 29-year-old Wilson, who of course has been no slouch through his first six NFL seasons, leading the Seahawks to back-to-back Super Bowls and pacing the league with 34 touchdown passes a season ago.
"Schotty is challenging him to keep moving and keep growing as a quarterback," Carroll said of his new offensive coordinator's relationship with Seattle's starting quarterback. "You look at all the years that he's been playing, but still there's always been more growth. There's always more to learn and understand, and Schotty has really kind of opened the door to that for Russell. Hopefully we're going to see the best version that he can put out there this time around because he's been challenged even more than ever. It's an exciting relationship that we're watching unfold."
Challenging Wilson to be his very best will be one visible part of Schottenheimer's impact, but when training camp begins later this week and preseason games get underway this August, fans will also start to notice some new wrinkles of a Schottenheimer-led offense, as well as of a Solari-coached offensive line.
"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," Schottenheimer said at the end of May. "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."
Carroll has also stated Schottenheimer will be the offense's singular voice when it comes to calling the Seahawks' plays, a shift from the Bevell-Cable dynamic that saw the coordinator commanding the pass plays while the line coach controlled the run game; an approach Seattle also found plenty of success with. As Carroll notes, however, having Schottenheimer in charge of the play calls will be an efficient way to cement Schottenheimer's presence.
"I've had systems before where we have had a couple of guys that share it with assistant head coaches and coordinators, and it's worked out fairly well; it did here, too," Carroll said. "But I think in the effort to make a little bit of a shift, that kind of direction and leadership coming from one voice, it was important to expedite it, facilitate the process, but also, to cut a guy loose like Schotty. He's got so much background and so much information to share and expertise, and to share that airtime and that time in front of the players I think would take away from that. I want his impact to be strong and really apparent, and this is the best way to do that."
Asked about the hallmarks of a Schottenheimer-led offense, the Seattle coordinator called out the running game — an area Carroll has repeatedly voiced he hopes to see improvement in this season — being physical, and the play-action pass, and protecting the football.
"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," Schottenheimer said. "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."
On the defensive side of the football, Ken Norton Jr. returns to Seattle to take over the coordinator role from Kris Richard, who also parted ways with the Seahawks this past year after eight seasons with the club, including the past three as defensive coordinator. Norton, who played linebacker under Carroll when Carroll was the defensive coordinator at the San Francisco 49ers, got his start in coaching at USC, also under Carroll. The two came to Seattle together in 2010 with Norton coaching the linebackers for four seasons (2010-14) before taking a defensive coordinator role with the Oakland Raiders for the past three years (2015-17).
"(I have grown) an awful lot," Norton said during his first press conference in his new position with the Seahawks. "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."
Much like Schottenheimer with Wilson, Carroll is hoping Norton, a natural motivator and true players' coach who helped Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright achieve the Pro Bowl-level play fans see out of them today, will work to get the most out of his defense, a unit that hasn't necessarily undergone massive scheme changes under new defensive coordinators through the years with Carroll — a defensive-minded head coach — at the helm.
"To me, he is one of my guys," Carroll said of Norton's addition. "I love having him back with us. I missed him when he wasn't here because of energy he stands for. He's tough, he's demanding, he's bright, he's articulate, he makes sense, he cares so much about his guys. Years ago, Kenny said to me when I talked him into coming into coaching, he said, 'OK, if I do this, what's important to me is I want to help guys experience what I had a chance to experience.' He didn't care about elevations or head coaching jobs or coordinator stuff or any of that. He just wanted to deal with the players and that caring – I have never forgotten how crucial and how valuable that is as it is conveyed to his players. When you talk to Bobby and K.J., these guys have been around him, they will do anything for him. He has made that kind of connection wherever he has been as a player and as a coach. We are very lucky to have him and have him be part of our program."
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