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Gallant: There’s plenty of proof why Seahawks needed a change at OC

The Seahawks' pass-heavy strategy on offense didn't pay off in the second half of 2020. (Getty)

It was less than a month ago when Seahawks offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was being discussed as a potential head coaching candidate.

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“I’d love to be a head coach. Those things are flattering,” Schottenheimer said Dec. 17 when asked about those rumors. “To be mentioned in that is great. But really, what’s it about? It’s about how well we’re doing offensively.”

Now? He’s the Seahawks’ ex-offensive coordinator after a season where:

• Russell Wilson threw for a career-high 40 touchdowns.

• The Seahawks scored the most points in franchise history (459).

And that’s a good thing.

Could things have been any more optimistic for Schottenheimer heading into 2020? Wilson was coming off a career year in 2019. He felt he’d proven himself to be one of the league’s best quarterbacks, and it stood to reason that he’d be even better in 2020 given these goals that Schottenheimer laid out at an Aug. 25 press conference:

• To “own situational football,” specifically in the red zone and on third down.

• To get Russell Wilson more involved in the offense, specifically earlier in games.

• To start games faster.

“It doesn’t mean (Wilson) has to throw the ball 50 yards down the field to DK Metcalf to do that,” stated Schottenheimer. “It doesn’t mean he has to scramble around and run for his life to make plays. It could be him checking out of a bad play that I called.”

For a time, Schotty’s offense REALLY succeeded in doing those things. At least, until it didn’t for the final half of the season.

Sure, the Seahawks scored TDs on 73.68% of their red zone possessions. But Seattle struggled on third downs all season long, finishing with the 20th-highest conversion rate in the league.

Yeah, Wilson sure got involved earlier. In fact, the offense became Russ-centric. Over the last nine games, Seattle averaged 40.67 play calls a game that involved Russ (passing attempts, sacks and scrambles) to 21.11 a game that saw him hand it off to a runner.

Over the last seven games, Seattle scored averaged 2.29 points per opening quarter. Their only game in that stretch with a touchdown in the first quarter came against the then-winless Jets.

And in the end, it sure seemed like Russ was trying to throw the football 50 yards downfield a lot, scrambling around to make it happen instead of checking into plays that could beat the stingy defenses the Hawks faced down the stretch.

After the Seahawks’ season-ending loss last Saturday, I didn’t think there was any way to justify another year of Schotty and Russell Wilson. Their offensive decay from the first to second half of the season is one of the most disappointing things I’ve ever seen from a good football team. And worse, it seemed like Russ developed bad habits along the way.

Seattle is framing it as a mutual parting of ways over Pete Carroll and Schottenheimer having different philosophies. Mutual? I’m not sure I buy that. It was probably a firing. Do you really think that Brian Schottenheimer would voluntarily walk away from a job coaching one of the game’s best quarterbacks?

I don’t know what – or who – comes next. Hopefully it’s an offensive coordinator that can get Russ away from his love of big plays, and at the very least someone who can effectively dissect a cover two defense. Additionally it should be someone who can help the Hawks prioritize running the football in a creative way.

But after a move that needed to happen, I’ve been struck by the pessimism about what comes next for the Seahawks. Assumptions that Carroll is about to hire a “yes man” coordinator who’ll bring back the Wing-T offense. Anger about a quarterback making $35 million a year only to hand the football off.

Why?

Offensive balance isn’t a bad thing. Just ask Tom Brady about his Super Bowl teams in New England, or Aaron Rodgers about the Packers’ 26-6 regular season record the last two seasons.

Being able to run the football isn’t more important than having a great quarterback. But there’s only one QB in the NFL (Patrick Mahomes) who has proven that he didn’t need the help of a ground game to win a Super Bowl. The Seahawks strayed far away from that balance in the second half of the season. Shouldn’t you do things differently when it’s clear that an offense revolving around Russell Wilson’s arm – with nearly two passes for each handoff call – isn’t sustainable for a full year?

Doing things differently doesn’t mean reverting to old ways. At least not entirely. I don’t want to see the Seahawks running the ball for the sake of “establishing the run” or looking at the ground game like “body blows” or a battering ram. In fact, I’d still like to see them get Wilson involved early in games on early passing downs. Pete’s not so stubborn that he believes Seattle should abandon those 2020 developments altogether, right?

Maybe I’m naively optimistic. I’m definitely feeling way too sunshine-y after a season-ending loss, but I think a fresh offensive mind and a return to a more balanced offense could be great for the Seahawks in 2021. Because it’s hard to get worse than what we just saw over the past nine games.

Follow Paul Gallant on Twitter.

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