Will Brian Schottenheimer help or hurt Dallas Cowboys offense?

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

I admit, I reacted a bit too harshly when I first received news the Dallas Cowboys had hired former Seattle Seahawks OC, Brian Schottenheimer, to be their pass-game coordinator. Schottenheimer, or “Schotty” to those who know him, was a fixture in Seattle from 2018-2020. As such, he was linked to both the good times and the bad times of that Seahawks dynasty that never was.

Why would Dallas employ the man who wasted Russell Wilson’s best years, I first thought to myself. The only team that ran a more outdated run-heavy offense than Dallas was Seattle after all. Explain to me why, exactly, we’re turning to him to help us with trends and game-planning?

A deeper dive indicates Brian Schottenheimer may not be completely terrible for the Dallas Cowboys.

The above sentence isn’t to say I’ve pulled a complete 180 here, but it seems a big reason Schotty was dismissed in Seattle was because he and HC Pete Carroll were at odds over what the offensive philosophy should be. And much of that run-heavy approach came from Carroll’s side and not Dallas’ newly minted pass-game coordinator.

If you remember, Brian Schottenheimer (a head coaching candidate just two months before) was dismissed from Seattle when the Seahawks offense cratered down the stretch. Midway through the 2020 season, defenses started dropping their coverage back significantly. Playing shells/umbrella primarily out of Cover-3 looks, they took away Seattle’s vertical attack.

And since Seattle’s porous offensive line was unable to maintain protection against simple four-man pass-rushes, defenses could maximize coverage and still get pressure on Russell Wilson. As a result, Seattle’s offense went from scoring over 34 points per game the first half of the season to just 22.6 the second half of the season.

Holy crap. Does that sound familiar?

The Dallas Cowboys encountered the exact same situation last season. Their offensive line couldn’t block a simple four-man pass rush. Defenses packed the secondary to take away the big plays keep windows tight. When WRs ran into walls, Dak didn’t have time to wait for new plays to develop. Dallas’s offense cratered and never figured out how to overcome.

The primary issue with both situations is the offensive line. Without protection, teams don’t have to blitz to create pressure. They can pack the secondary and force you to dink and dunk (might I interest Cowboys fans in another bubble screen?).

Based on Russell Wilson’s statements after Brian Schottenheimer’s dismissal, it doesn’t seem as if Schotty was the problem in Seattle. But since Seattle never figured out how to overcome in 2020, Schotty also isn’t the solution either.

What kind of offense does Schottenheimer run?

Stop me if you’ve heard of this before: Air Coryell. < I can see the Robert Downy Jr gif rolling his eyes from here > The Air Coryell offense (named after Don Coryell) is the same philosophy Jason Garrett discipled in Dallas. The legendary/maligned offense is a mix of vertical passing and power running.

It’s also an offense that relies on dominant offensive line play.

While we should all bemoan the idea of a power running attack, the idea of reverting back to some of those Air Coryell ideas downfield isn’t a total disaster of strategy. The Dallas Cowboys early play-calling notwithstanding, the Kellen-Garrett offense was much better than the Kellen-McCarthy offense.

According to Lucky Prophet the intended EPA on passes in 2019 (Kellen-Garrett) was 1.11 (the 90th percentile in the NFL). In the Kellen-McCarthy era, the intended EPA in 2020 was 0.97 (27th percentile) and in 2021 it sat at 1.03 (61st percentile).

Cowboys Stats and Graphics pointed out Dak’s average depth of target under Kellen-Garrett was 9.2 yards (7th in the NFL) while in the Kellen-McCarthy era Dak’s just 6.9 yards (29th in the NFL). That drop is inexcusable.

It’s also worth noting Schotty coached some pretty elite QBs in Wilson, Drew Brees, and Andrew Luck. And he played college ball in Steve Spurrier’s spread offense as well. He might not be the guy we think he is. Maybe…

As long as the early downs runs don’t increase, this has a shot at working provided the Dallas Cowboys somehow fix their offensive line.

All of this is moot if the Dallas Cowboys can’t fix the offensive line. They were abysmal the back half of last season and they just lost two starters without bringing in any replacements. The 2022 NFL Draft could help that situation but it can’t be expected to fix everything on that offensive line.

What we know is Pete Carroll is the run-heavy influence in Seattle. Schotty was a more creative play-caller who had a ultra-strong relationship with his QB. He also was regarded as one of the best red zone coordinators in the NFL.

The thing that pushed Schotty out of Seattle is the same thing that almost pushed Kellen Moore out of Dallas. Neither one has shown the ability to overcome without an improved offensive line. So we have pluses and we have minuses and neither should make us feel much of anything at this point.

I don’t hate this hire now as much as I did when I first heard it was in the works, but I still don’t love it either. But the McCarthy-Moore braintrust wasn’t working (Hahaha – a Mike McCarthy “not working” joke) and getting another smart mind next to Kellen certainly can’t hurt.

light. Must Read. Is the Cowboys offense better on or off script?

Next. Thank this man for getting Micah Parsons to Dallas. dark

As long as the early downs runs don’t increase, this has a shot at working provided the Dallas Cowboys somehow fix their offensive line.