Late in Thursday’s session of organized team activities, Russell Wilson dropped back and fired a strike to Doug Baldwin to convert on third down, common occurrences in a Seahawks practice or game since Wilson became Seattle’s starting quarterback in 2012.
But while Wilson-to-Baldwin for a first down is as familiar of a sight as there is in a Seahawks practice, what happened right after was not. Brian Schottenheimer, Seattle’s new offensive coordinator, was immediately next to Wilson to offer a fist bump of approval and a few observations about the play that had just unfolded.
For the first time since 2011, the Seahawks are heading into a season with a new offensive coordinator. With former coordinator Darrell Bevell gone, as well as offensive line coach Tom Cable, who was replaced by Mike Solari, the Seahawks offense will be going through some significant changes, though not a complete overhaul.
“It has been a change, obviously,” Baldwin said. “We’re excited about it though. There’s two ways you can go with the unknown: you can be fearful of it or you can be excited about it. With a lot of new faces, the young guys, a new system, a new, different energy, we’re excited about it. We’ve got an opportunity to put something special together again—I don’t want to say starting over—but kind of reloading if you will. It’s an exciting time for us.”
Wilson was quick to point out that he and the Seahawks did a lot of good things under Bevell and Cable, including winning Super Bowl XLVIII and returning to the Super Bowl a year later, but he is also embracing a new challenge in his seventh season in the NFL.
“For Schotty and I, it’s been great, just to be able to study a lot together,” Wilson said. “We talk a lot. He’s in the meeting room a bunch and on the field he’s passionate. He’s done a great job of putting everything that we know already and also adding some stuff that he knows in a high level and mixing it up and adding some new stuff. We’re staying on top of it. And the best thing is, more than anything, he’s a great teacher. Everybody else, all the players really understand what we’re trying to do and that’s great. That’s what we need. We need to be one play at a time, one moment at a time, one practice at a time and just see how far we can take it.
“I’ll say this about Coach Schottenheimer, he’s well-versed in all different types of offenses. Obviously his dad (longtime NFL coach Marty Schottenheimer) and learning from him, and he’s a great studier of the game. We’ve gone through tons of clips and studied a bunch of the things I’ve done really well, and also other players, and we’ll taking all that in and just trying to grow as much as we can. I’m embracing that growth. We’ve had a great start so far to our time here so far, and it’s been amazing. We just want to continue to grow and see how far we can take it.”
Wilson notes that the Seahawks aren’t making a “drastic change or anything like that” when it comes to the offense, but that Schottenheimer has added his own ideas to the playbook.
“It’s definitely some added stuff for sure, there’s definitely more on the plate,” Wilson said. “We’ve always had a lot of information, but it’s even more. But that’s OK. I’m ready for more and more and just continue to see how far we can take it. I think we’re going to have a great offense, I really do.”
As was the case when Pete Carroll first discussed hiring Schottenheimer earlier this offseason, the Seahawks coach again on Thursday pointed to a desire to challenge Wilson as one of the reasons for bringing in Schottenheimer, who has a background as both a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator.
“Schotty is a really impressive coach,” Carroll said. “He’s very hands-on, he’s very active, he’s in total command whether it’s installing the offense or he’s coaching the quarterback. He is very active, very energetic, so there is no space between something happening and Russell getting critiqued, and Russell has really responded to it. I think he enjoys the challenge of it. Schotty is challenging him to keep moving and keep growing as a 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.”
Another thing different this year is that Schottenheimer will be the one voice in charge of the offense, whereas in the past Bevell and Cable both had a big hand in leading the offense.
“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.”
The Seahawks started Phase 3 of their voluntary offseason workout program this week, hosting the third of 9 Organized Team Activities (OTAs) on Thursday, May 24 at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center.